Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 11, 2006
Court will decide how many parents are enough
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"If a child can have three parents, why not four or six or a dozen?"
- first legal ruling
The judge who heard the original application rejected the claim that the partner should also be declared the mother of the child. He argued that to do so would involve stepping into a legislative role.
The judge also pointed out difficulties the change may pose to the welfare of other children.
"If a child can have three parents, why not four or six or a dozen?" he wrote. "What about all the adults in a commune or a religious organization or sect?
"Quite apart from social policy implications, the potential to create or exacerbate custody and access litigation should not be ignored," the judge wrote.
Landolt and Horgan said they see the case as one of the consequences of redefining marriage to include same-sex marriage, and they both admit that intervening in the three-parents case is somewhat after the fact.
"We are in a process of redefining all sorts of foundational norms and things that quite frankly didn't need redefining," said Horgan, "things like marriage, in this case parenting and perhaps even more directly mother and father."
"Soon we're going to be adding adjectives to all these various understandings, whether it is true or natural marriage or state-sanctioned or same-sex marriage or biological mother versus state-sanctioned mother, or natural parent versus court-ordered parent," he said.
The redefinition of marriage has already involved the changing of many statutes in federal and provincial legislation that replaced the words "mother" and "father" with terms like "legal parent." Those changes have family and children's rights advocates concerned.
Douglas Farrow, professor at Montreal's McGill University, has argued that there are totalitarian implications in these changes, which represent an intrusion of state power into the biological family.
He has said the state used to recognize the family as a pre-existing institution.
McGill ethicist Margaret Somerville has warned that same-sex marriage jeopardizes children's rights to be raised by and to know their biological parents.
Horgan said he hopes politicians might be persuaded to reopen the marriage debate when the issue is raised in the House of Commons this fall.
Peter Lauwers, a constitutional lawyer and a Catholic, said he does not share the same concerns as the Alliance for Marriage and Family about the three-parents case because the courts will consider the best interests of the child, and "context is everything."
"It is very difficult to argue that it's bad for the child to have three adults rather than two legally responsible for his or her interests," Lauwers said. "In some cases animosity might be a problem tending against that outcome, but if all the affected people are reasonable, a court would have trouble saying no.
"Security is one of the primary best interests of the child. The legal relationship enhances that security. It would take a lot of evidence to overcome that sense of things," he said.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.