Families fight for equal rights under MA parentage laws

BOSTON — This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and there’s a push on Beacon Hill to guarantee equal rights for all parents. This centers around Massachusetts parentage laws. That’s the legal parent-child relationship.

For some Massachusetts LGBTQ families, who utilize assisted reproductive treatments or surrogacy, there’s a grey area around their legal rights.

Stow mom, Lindsey White recalls the day her twins Ashton and Cameron were born in 2016.

“After the journey that we had, I was just, I couldn’t believe that they were actually here,” White told Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh.

The twins arrived after three and half years of failed fertility treatments and three painful miscarriages.

“I wasn’t prepared for the physical pain. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional pain. I wasn’t prepared for, how isolating it would feel.”

And after everything she went through just to have her children, she was not expecting a whole new battle to wage.

“In order for my wife, C and I to have the same parental rights, we were going to have to legally go through a second parent adoption, was actually mind blowing to me,” said White. “It makes you feel inferior.”

Lindsey and C had spent more than $30,000 on fertility treatments. She says then they were looking at close to $5,000 more in legal fees to adopt their own kids.

They would also need personal references stating they were qualified parents.

“I cannot explain how humiliating that piece of it was. My wife and I are beyond qualified, but we shouldn’t have to justify that to anybody,” White said.

“We want every child in Massachusetts to have the security of that legal protection. And unfortunately, Massachusetts parentage laws are 40 years out of date,” says Kate Weldon LeBlanc, executive director of AllPaths Family Building, an advocacy group for people struggling to grow their families.

AllPaths is a part of a coalition pushing to update Massachusetts parentage laws. The goal is to clarify how people who build their family through assisted reproduction and/or surrogacy can secure their legal parental rights.

“We’re going to stand up for LGBTQ families and all families across the commonwealth,” said state Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Barnstable) during a legislative hear in November 2023. During that hearing, no one spoke in opposition of the proposed legislative changes.

A group of bipartisan Massachusetts lawmakers say this law potentially impacts custody, health decisions, access to insurance and travel across state lines.

Parents, like White, say their families should be treated equally and fairly. White and her wife hope things change so they don’t have to adopt their newest baby girl, Dillon.

“I’m hoping that by sharing the story, it brings about change because we are so long overdue,” White said.

“It’s long overdue that we are making the laws reflect the diversity of families in the Commonwealth. And so we’re hoping it’s going to happen this session,” said Weldon LeBlanc.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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