The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on September 28, 2012 that a California same-sex domestic partnership is equivalent to a Massachusetts marriage. In making this ruling, the Court further held that children born after the parties entered into the domestic partnership are the legal children of both parties.
This ruling stems from the case of Miko Rose and Amy Hunter, two women who executed a declaration of domestic partnership, which they registered with the state of California while they were living there in October 2003. Under California law, a domestic partnership gave the parties rights identical to married parties in California.
Ms. Rose became pregnant using donor sperm in late 2006 and the parties then moved to Massachusetts. A baby girl, Jill, was born to Ms. Rose in August 2007. Then, in April 2008, Ms. Hunter conceived a child using the same donor sperm used in the conception of Jill. This would allow for the two children of Ms. Rose and Ms. Hunter to be biologically related. Before Ms. Hunter gave birth, the relationship between the parties deteriorated. Ms. Hunter gave birth to a daughter, Mia, in January 2009.
After the parties’ break-up, Ms. Rose tried to cut off contact between Ms. Hunter and Jill, despite the fact that Ms. Hunter had been Jill’s primary care-giving parent while the parties were living together as a family. Ms. Rose argued that because the parties were not married and because Ms. Hunter had not adopted Jill, Ms. Hunter had no parental rights. The Court disagreed.
The Massachusetts Court ruled that both Ms. Hunter and Ms. Rose are legal parents of both Jill and Mia because, under Massachusetts law, children born during a marriage are presumed to be the children of both spouses. And, any child born during a marriage as a result of artificial insemination with spousal consent is legally the child of the consenting spouse. Because under California law a same-sex domestic partnership has virtually all the rights of a marital relationship, the Massachusetts Court equated domestic partnership with marriage and thus extended parental rights to Ms. Hunter to Jill, the child born to Ms. Rose. The Court then gave Ms. Hunter physical custody of Jill. (Ms. Rose wanted nothing to do with Mia, the baby girl born to Ms. Hunter, but she was obligated to pay child support).
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court continues to pave the way to the rights of same-sex partners to parent the children born in relationships where the parties entered into legal relationships prior to the birth of the child.