Proposed Ontario legislation would help LGBT parents move towards equality
On October 1, 2015, Provincial MPP Cheri DiNovo of the NDP introduced Bill 137, “an Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act, the Vital Statistics Act and other Acts with respect to parental recognition” in the provincial legislature. The bill, if passed, would change the rules surrounding parental rights for LGBTQ Ontarians.
The Bill has been nicknamed “Cy and Ruby’s Act,” after the children of Toronto lawyer Kirsti Mathers McHenry, who helped draft the bill and whose personal experiences had a direct influence on the proposed legislation.
Under current law when gay, lesbian and transgender couples who have children either through a surrogate mother or a sperm donor they know, the child must be legally adopted by the non-biological parent. This process can take months, during which time that parent has no legal right to the child. This scenario can have serious implications when it comes to the child’s healthcare, as McHenry discovered during complications in the birth of her first child. Neither she nor her wife – the birth mother – had been able to obtain a declaration of parentage.
“I faced not only the possibility that something could happen to my wife, but also the possibility that I might not be able to leave the hospital with our baby,” McHenry said. While both her wife and child recovered, the situation convinced her that a change to Ontario’s family law was needed. “I hated the process,” she said, according to Daily Xtra. “It made me feel lesser. Straight people don’t have to ask the courts if their wives give birth to have them recognized as parents. They just are.”
McHenry was also denied benefits after the birth of her second child, after which she and her wife reached out to Toronto Danforth MPP Pater Tabuns for help. They later connected with DiNovo, who sponsored the Bill.
Across the province, LGBT parents seem happy that action is being taken to put them on equal footing with their heterosexual counterparts. Kelly Perras of Sudbury told the CBC about LGBT friends who had endured “an emotional roller coaster” as they worked to ensure the child was theirs.
“If you’re still waiting those months till you’re the legal parent to the child, and you have to take the child to an emergency and sign a legal document stating that this child can receive medical treatment, you don’t have that right,” Perras explained. “And that’s your very own child. Imagine the unthinkable circumstance of a mother dying in child birth, and that other parent having no legal rights to that child. That’s a terrifying prospect should anything happen.”
DiNovo, for her part, believes that LGBT parents being forced to adopt their own children is fundamentally unfair. “This is costly,” she told the CBC. “It’s a lot of red tape for trying to just assert the obvious: that the child born is your child.”
In a statement released with the announcement of Cy and Ruby’s Act, DiNovo doubled down on earlier statements: “LGBTQ parents deserve the same parental right offered to straight parents. Let’s get rid of the red tape and give queer and trans parents the recognition they need to care for their children.”
The Bill has passed all readings thus far, and will now head to a final reading.