Speaking of Women's Rights: 03/18

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New protections for LGBTQ parents in Washington!

By David Ward

For decades, Legal Voice has worked to ensure that our law recognizes families in all forms—including families formed by LGBTQ couples. We’re happy to report that yesterday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law Senate Bill 6037, which greatly improves the Washington law about how people are legally recognized as parents!  The new law takes effect on January 1, 2019.

Here are some of the key provisions of this update to the Uniform Parentage Act:
  • It allows people who are presumed to be a child’s parent under Washington law (including married same-sex couples who have children) or who are intended parents through the use of assisted reproduction to sign what is called a “voluntary acknowledgement of parentage.” Under federal law, we believe every state in the country should be required to recognize a voluntary acknowledgement of parentage as proof that a person is a child’s legal parent. This provides a way for LGBTQ parents to help protect their rights in every state in the country, without having to go to court. However, parents are still advised to consult with family law lawyers experienced in LGBTQ rights in order to decide what steps to take to ensure that their parental rights are protected.
  • It establishes clearer and simpler rules for courts to issue judgments that recognize a person as a legal parent of a child. Some LGBTQ parents in Washington have sought such “parentage judgments” in order to obtain a court order that recognizes them as a legal parent of a child.  This bill should make that process clearer for parents who may wish to pursue this option.
  • It creates a regulated system that allows compensated surrogacy in Washington State, while protecting the health, well-being, and autonomy of women acting as surrogates. Legal Voice worked with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, to ensure that the bill provides strong protections for women acting as surrogates—protections that will help balance the power between intended parents and surrogates, ensuring that such arrangements are entered into knowingly, with care, and subject to legal oversight.
  • It preserves the protections we gained last year that provide a way for people who become pregnant as a result of rape to prevent the rapist from being recognized as a parent of the child.

In the coming months, Legal Voice’s Self Help Committee will work to develop materials that explain the changes made by this law and what they mean for you.

David Ward is Senior Attorney at Legal Voice, where his work focuses on gender violence, family law, and LGBT rights.