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California lawmakers debate paternity for sperm donors

Lawmakers in Sacramento are considering a new father’s rights bill aimed at modifying California’s paternity laws when an unmarried woman has a child through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization involving donated sperm. Paternity issues are generally a matter of state law. A state senator from San Mateo says the measure would clarify when a sperm donor could seek paternity in California courts.

Establishing paternity through the courts is important for some California men who are the biological father of a child, but who are not recognized as the legal father of the child. A father can gain important rights through a paternity action—rights to custody, visitation or child support are all issues that may rely upon a determination of paternity.

Many people in California rely upon fertility clinics and medical procedures to conceive a child. But, if the male donor is not married to the woman, the father may be denied paternity under case law. The San Mateo state senator says that the measure essentially clarifies a separate measure that he carried two years ago to protect lesbian parents from paternity actions brought by sperm donors.

He says that the current bill closes a loophole from earlier legislation that has barred certain sperm donors who are devoted to a child conceived through a medical procedure from establishing paternity.

The current bill reportedly passed through the senate earlier this year without much friction—in fact the measure passed without any opposing votes. Yet, friction has erupted as the measure is being considered in the Assembly. Opponents apparently claim that the measure could allow sperm donors to obtain parental rights against the wishes of the legal parents.

A state assemblyman from San Francisco who opposes the measure reportedly wrote a letter to the chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee recently arguing that the measure should not be considered since the issue is under review in the court system.

He also questions how the bill will mesh with a separate bill under consideration that would allow a child to have more than two legal parents under California law. The judiciary committee reportedly has delayed a hearing on the sperm donor bill until August.

Source: Sacramento Bee, “Sperm donor or dad? California lawmakers consider the question,” Laurel Rosenhall, June 30, 2013