Summersgill testifies on parentage bill
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Testimony by Bob Summersgill on the

“Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination of Parentage Act of 2008,” Bill 17-727

Before the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary
Friday, July 11, 2008

Good morning Chairman Mendelson. My name is Bob Summersgill. I am a DC resident and have been the leading advocate to expand the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners under D.C. law.

I would once again like to thank you for your continued leadership in this area. With the recent passage of the Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2008, thanks largely to you, we have achieved almost legal parity with marriage under D.C. law. With the two bills before us today, we will complete this effort.

I defer to Nancy Polikoff on the technical changes that she recommends in her testimony. She is one of the leading experts in the country on parenting law, so we are privileged to have the benefits of her advice; and the experience of Michele Zavos’ many years as a practicing attorney in this field.

I would like to offer a broad view of the direction of the changes that we are making with this bill. I believe that Professor Polikoff’s suggestions reflect these points.

First, domestic partners and married couples need to be treated equally under the law; and unmarried couples of must be treated in the same manner without regard to their genders.

Second, the law needs to be gender neutral. We still have §7-205(e)(2) in the Code:

(e) For the purposes of preparation and filing a birth certificate the following rules apply:  

  (2) If the mother was married at the time of either conception or birth, or between conception and birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child, unless parentage has been determined otherwise by the Court pursuant to § 16-909;

In a very short time, a mother my have a spouse of either gender. This section should be amended to change “husband” to “spouse” and “father” to “parent” as Professor Polikoff recommends, as well as the instances of gender specific language that she discusses in her testimony.

Third, we don’t want to take away existing rights. We may be doing that with the definition of “parent” in section 6(a) of the bill. There are many ways that one can become a parent, and we shouldn’t foreclose the many possibilities and strip people of their parenting rights by defining it here.

Two years ago, I testified before this committee on the Domestic Partnership Adoption Equality Act of 2006 in favor of allowing judges to waive a home study in instances where the unmarried partner of a child’s parent petitions to adopt the child. The Code should be amended to make explicit that judges may waive home studies in adoptions where the child is already living with both adults, one of whom is the child’s legal parent, and will continue to do so. This allows the parent to decide what is best for their own child. It will also significantly reduce the time and expense involved in second parent adoptions. Judges would still be allowed to have home studies if they feel that it is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. I therefore support the changes to the bill recommended by Professor Polikoff.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this legislation.