In Ontario, the law still treats same-sex couples differently than heterosexual couples when it comes to parenting. If a same-sex couple uses a sperm donor whose identity is known, the same-sex partner of the person giving birth isn’t automatically considered a parent.
Same-sex marriage was officially recognized by the federal government in Canada on July 20, 2005 and adoption of children by same-sex couples was legalized in Ontario even earlier, back in 1999. Yet despite this, Ontario still lags behind other provinces when it comes to officially acknowledging same-sex partners as legal parents. Ontario’s birth-registration legislation, which dates back to 1990, presumes that a baby is only ever born to two parents – a man and a woman. Even when the male parent is a sperm-donor who signed away his parental rights willingly in a legal contract, the law still reverts to naming him as a legal parent even if he has no interest in being a part of the child’s life. By comparison, when a heterosexual woman gives birth to a child, her husband or common-law partner is presumed to be the father of the child, regardless of whether his sperm was used to conceive that child. Couples, lesbian or otherwise, who use an anonymous donor, are able to register as the child’s parents at birth. For same sex-partners who conceive a child through a known sperm donor, Ontario’s outdated legislation forces the non-birthing parent to go through a time-consuming and expensive process to adopt their own child.
In October, however, a private-member’s bill titled ‘Cy and Ruby’s Law’, was introduced in the Ontario legislature. The law seeks to overturn the existing birth-registration legislation and would make it possible for families that don’t conform to traditional definitions to be recognized from the moment their child is born. Ontario would not be the first province to introduce such legislation: it is already law in Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. The Ontario bill also calls for more inclusive birth forms that would allow trans men who give birth to list themselves as a parent or father, and not a mother by default.
The Ontario government is known for being unafraid to embrace equitable lawmaking. These laws are not radical by any means. Couples and their lawyers have been demanding better legislation for years. What’s the hold up?
If you have questions about a parental recognition, please contact experienced family lawyer Jason P. Howie, online or at 519.973.1500.