It was announced on Thursday September 29, 2016 that the Ontario Government will be putting in place the All Families Are Equal Act. What this means is that same sex couples will not have to go to court and pay legal fees to be legally recognized as the parents of their children. This is HUGE news for LGBTQ+ families here in Ontario.
In 2006, Justice Paul Rivard of Ontario Superior Court made a ruling that “couples who use sperm donors and other reproductive technologies should enjoy the same parental rights as people who conceive naturally”. It took 10 years before the Wynne government announced legislation to recognize LGBTQ+ parents in the same way as heterosexual parents are automatically recognized. The Act was announced thanks to the private members’ bill brought forth by New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo and the nine families who filed the constitutional challenge of Ontario’s definition of parents as one man and one woman in 2015.
When Milo was born two years ago, we had to go through DNA testing to determine that Milo was not biologically related to our surrogate Kathy, that the fertility clinic did not make a mistake with embryos, and that Milo was biologically related to either one of us. It was an interesting process to say the least, having someone come to your house and swab you for DNA. We felt like we were in an episode of SVU. (Although we wouldn’t mind if Detective Stabler came over and asked us for our specimen!) Once the DNA test came back, our lawyer went before a judge and filed a Declaration of Parentage. We all had to sign affidavits. BJ and I declared we were Milo’s parents, and Kathy and her husband Kris signed the affidavit declaring they were not. It was a stressful time for us as we were not legally Milo’s dads. It took over a month to get a date in front of the the judge but on July 30th, 2014, BJ and I were legally Milo’s parents. Yes we did our happy dance!
We were not able to make decisions about Milo’s health after he was born, as Kathy was considered his birth mother until the courts said otherwise, and we could not take Milo home from the hospital until Kathy signed to have him released. Although the declaration was quite painless (our lawyer did everything for us) it did cost us $3,200. This was money that we could have put away for Milo’s education, buy diapers, formula, or new Pradas (just kidding)…
Once the Declaration of Parentage was official, we had to file Milo’s Statement of Live Birth and Request for Birth Certificates. As a gay couple, we couldn’t do online birth registration because the Ontario birth registration website required a mother’s name. We were frustrated to find out that forms were not ‘male’ same sex friendly, and that we had to manually cross out all reference(s) to ‘mother’ and handwrite ‘father’ in its place on both forms. These forms were changed last year and same sex male parents can now register the births of their children by themselves. We had our lawyer help us with these forms, as we wanted to make sure we did everything correct the first time.
We are very happy that the Ontario Government has finally updated the laws and created the All Families Are Equal Act. This will make life a lot easier going forward, and give same sex families the same rights as heterosexual families. We hope that all Canadian Provinces and Territories will follow suit.
We have come a long way with inclusivity and equal rights, but there is still a ways to go. The summer camp we sent Milo to last year, and even the fertility clinic we used for our surrogacy all had forms that say “Mother” and “Father”. We have advocated for our rights and had them changed, but we still don’t understand why companies are not more inclusive of their customers. It’s a little thing but it means a lot. Everyone should know by now that a mom or dad doesn’t make a family, because family is about love!
Main photo credit: Kevin Brewer