California children can now have more than two legal parents

Big news in California: Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Friday that will allow children to have more than two legal parents.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said he authored the measure to address the changes in family structure in California, including situations in which same-sex couples have a child with an opposite-sex biological parent.

The law will allow the courts to recognize three or more legal parents so that custody and financial responsibility can be shared by all those involved in raising a child, Leno said.

“Courts need the ability to recognize these changes so children are supported by the adults that play a central role in loving and caring for them,” Leno said. “It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents so that no child has to endure separation from one of the adults he or she has always known as a parent.”

The bill was partially a reaction to a 2011 court decision involving a lesbian couple that briefly ended their relationship, according to Leno’s office. One of the women was impregnated by a man before the women resumed their relationship. A fight broke out, putting one of the women in the hospital and the other in jail, but the daughter was sent to foster care because her biological father did not have parental rights.

This is a big win for California families. One of the many issues with centering the gay rights movement on marriage is that the institution only benefits one family model. There are many kinds of families out there, many different set ups in which people raise children. It’s a problem that we normalize only one model to such an extent that it’s the only kind of family recognized under the law. Gay marriage isn’t actually a major overthrow of the social order – it’s just including one other type of two person couple in an existing institution. We need all sorts of families to be able to access the same rights, including poly families and queer families with multiple parents. This decision goes a long way towards recognizing more diverse families that legally.

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