“I can’t imagine what it feels like,” I heard myself utter in quiet dismay. I watched from behind the news reporter and the camera as my clients were asked “Why? How does it feel? Why do you love your sons? How do your sons feel? Why fight this battle? What is next?” The big tv camera lens will soon morph to a microscopic lens as the court evaluates these women as parents and whether or not they should be treated the same as unwed opposite-sex parents.
The truth is that I can try to imagine it – I just don’t want to because it is the stuff nightmares are made from. I can pretend to stand in the shoes of these moms and imagine what it would feel like to have my parental relationship with my daughters hanging in a legal chasm of half parent/half stranger.
This is the reality our clients, Erin and Kristin, face. Both women a biological mom to one of their sons and a full parent in every other way to their non-biological sons. The state of Nebraska refuses to acknowledge the truth of their family to protect their children into adulthood.
They have done everything possible under the law to secure their familial rights. They have custody and support orders in place while their children are minors and the judge ordered them to secure their names on the children’s birth certificate to ensure full legal rights are afforded to protect their children well into the future.
The judge tasked with upholding the minor child’s best interests ordered these parents to place their names on the birth certificates, knowing that if they didn’t, recognition of the parent/child relationship could be at risk. But they couldn’t. The Department of Health and Human Services denied the requests to amend the birth certificates.
What if I was lying in the hospital and one of my daughters was barred from seeing me, or worse yet from having a voice in an important medical decision for me? What if when I die, one of my daughters inherits as my child at a 1% inheritance tax rate and my other daughter inherits as a stranger to me at an 18% inheritance tax rate – making their “equal” shares significantly unequal. What if one of my daughter’s birth certificates identified me as mom and my other’s child’s birth certificate did not.
What if Nebraska legally recognized my relationship with Anna but did not legally recognize my relationship with Sophia?
Beyond powerless and heartbroken, it would be near impossible to quell my rage. Most parents spend their entire parent lives working to ensure safety, fairness, happiness, and prosperity for their children. To be told that you will not be recognized by the very state you reside in is maddening at best. Further, to be told that a man in an identical situation as yours need only sign a document without lengthy court action, legal fees, and judicial scrutiny is the very definition of unjust discrimination.
This is why we fight. This is why I became a lawyer. This is why I represent Erin and Kristin zealously with everything I have. This is why.