Pam Rhodes' legislation undermines the security of Colorado children

Colorado General Assembly
Pam Rhodes
Straight Parents - Strong Families


Two-parent support works for children
Denver Post guest commentary -- March 24, 2002
Michael Brewer, CLIP Legal Director

Colorado's public policy confirms that children are best off when they have the support, care and love of two parents.

Some of our legislators disagree with that notion. Those legislators are the sponsors of Pam Rhodes' and Marilyn Musgrave's House Bill 1356, a measure that would deprive courts of the ability to order the placing of the names of two mothers on a birth certificate.

Over the last several years, women in committed partnerships who together plan to give birth to and raise a child, have asked Colorado courts to find that their child is entitled to have the names of both partners on that child's birth certificate. In certain circumstances, judges have interpreted Colorado's version of the Uniform Parentage Act to permit the names of both women to appear on the birth certificate.

A couple of years ago, the state Registrar of Vital Statistics challenged the right of judges to order the placement of names of same-sex partners on birth certificates. The court battle made headlines, and came to be known as "The Two Mommies" case. My organization was among those who successfully defended the judges' decisions.

Children who have two mothers listed on their birth certificates receive the benefits of having two legally recognized parents. They have:

  • Double the access to health-care coverage, Family Medical Leave Act benefits, parental employment and Social Security benefits.
  • The right to sue for wrongful death and have access to death benefits and mandatory pension proceeds.
  • The obligatory support of two adults enjoined by law to provide shelter, sustenance and education.

All of these benefits accrue to a child only through legally recognized parents, not by contract or other legal means.

The sponsors of HB 1356 propose to deny children these benefits because, they say, it is not "natural" for a child to have two mothers. The reality is that the sponsors propose this bill because they don't like the fact that same-sex couples plan and raise children.

Perhaps the sponsors believe that withholding legally recognized support will prevent these couples from having children. But same-sex couples have children regardless of statutory support and will continue to do so.

The so-called Birth Certificate Bill is a simply a wrong-headed attempt at social engineering that asks the question: Do we want our state's children to be pawns in a debate over the legitimacy of their parents' sexuality?

The law at issue, the Uniform Parentage Act, has been adopted throughout the nation to ensure that children enjoy the broadest possible legal, social and financial safety net. The law aims not only to protect children, but to protect the state from bearing the burden of supporting children when a parent cannot. The point of the law is not to draw conclusions about who a child's parent ought to be.

For example, the Uniform Parentage Act does not base a parent-child relationship on biology. In fact, in certain cases it presumes a man to be the natural father of a child regardless of biological relationship.

Those who say the bill is about producing accurate birth certificates misunderstand the issue. Colorado law does not require that parents be genetically related to children or be capable of procreating before being listed on a birth certificate.

Colorado law has always permitted listing as "parents" certain persons who are not genetically related to the child - whether their relationship is by adoption, artificial insemination or agreement.

The General Assembly passed the Uniform Parentage Act to ensure that adults in Colorado are legally obligated to provide for children. Judges have interpreted that law to accomplish its purpose. Now, some legislators want to pull the rug out from under them.

The 17 sponsors of HB 1356 are all conservative Republicans who claim to support "traditional" and "family" values. One would hope that those values include encouraging adults to assume financial and social responsibility for children they willingly and lovingly bring into the world. One would also hope those values reflect a commitment to see children born into the most secure environment possible.

It's a shame that "traditional" values don't seem to apply to all our children.

Michael Brewer is the legal director of The Center's Legal Initiatives Project (CLIP), which is a program of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Colorado (

Originally published as a Guest Opinion by the Denver Post (3-24-2002)  (e-mail) Contents -- March 25, 2002