Louisa Wall strikes again – now we must consider having two mums named on a birth certificate

Haven’t had time to check out all the issues yet, but Alf is fascinated by the questions raised by one Rowen Sullivan, a lass who reckons she has two mums. According to a story about her at Stuff today, she wants to have them both recognised as her parents.

But for that to happen she will have to change the law.

Strictly speaking, for this to happen Parliament would have to change the law.

But our Parliament has become astonishingly liberal on these matters in recent years and she will find lots of sympathetic ears.

Actually, she has found one – as we will see further down in this post.

And she is following a process that may well put Alf in the position of having to vote on the matter, which is what prompted him to look at some of the issues.

He will be reaching for his Bible soon, but let’s start with the Stuff account.

The Upper Hutt 20-year-old was born in England, to her British birth mother Diane Sullivan and New Zealander Doreen Shields.

This raises a biological conundrum.

Being born to a British mother and her Kiwi partner, who happens to be another female, seems at first blush to be – well, impossible.

Divine intervention is one explanation.

But let’s got on with the story.

The family moved to New Zealand in 1999, but as a lesbian couple Ms Sullivan and Ms Shields were unable to fulfil their desire to marry.

Nope. At that time politicians like Alf were still struggling to accommodate the reality that sex between men had been decriminalised in 1986.

He has been struggling with shifts in societal attitudes ever since.

He was still struggling to grasp the implications of the 2005 legislation that permitted civil unions when the more recent legislation was introduced, legalising same-sex marriage effective from late August.

If Ms Sullivan’s two mothers had remained in Britain, of course, they would have been no better off.

Members of Britain’s House of Commons on Tuesday voted by 366 to 161 in favour of a same sex marriage bill.

But the Brits have had the good sense to have an upper house containing a contingent of old farts who must now consider the bill.

And the way Alf understands it, the old farts are likely to strongly oppose the bill when it debated in the House of Lords next month, especially from the 26 bishops holding seats in the assembly.

But back to the Sullivan story.

In 2006, Ms Sullivan was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, leading the couple to investigate the possibility of Ms Shields adopting their daughter as only Ms Sullivan was listed on Rowen’s birth certificate.

But because they were not married they could not jointly adopt and any order would have required the removal of Ms Sullivan’s name from Rowen’s birth certificate.

So Ms Shields applied for guardian status, but it expired six months after Ms Sullivan’s death in 2010 when Rowen turned 18.

The story at this point gets a tad confusing. Bad grammar is part of the problem.

Leaving her with one parent but legally orphaned, Rowen and her mother decided to go forward with the adoption process.

We must now be talking about the other mother – the Kiwi-born mother who isn’t actually the birth mother and who therefore isn’t named on the birth certificate, and who was spared the hard work of giving birth, although Alf may well be misunderstanding something critical.

Somehow the adoption process resulted in Ms Sullivan the daughter getting a new New Zealand birth certificate, but one that is missing Ms Sullivan the mother’s name.

This deeply wounds her.

She found having her dead mother struck off as one of her parents deeply upsetting, feeling both should be recognised as her parents just like in any other family.

“Struck off” is an interesting way of putting it.

That happens to naughty lawyers and doctors.

But not naughty bishops. They get defrocked.

Of course, Ms Sullivan is showing a woeful lack of regard for the poor bloody bureaucrats who who have had to grapple with the challenges of this case.

They would have heard her plead:

“My parents both raised me and they should have it shown, I didn’t come from a broken family . . . it wasn’t like I was a mistake, they chose to have me together.”

This brings us back to the biological stuff, and Alf is grateful to learn there was no divine intervention.

The intervention was scientific.

After Ms Sullivan and Ms Shields had been together about seven years, Rowen was conceived using in vitro fertilisation involving an anonymous male donor.

Ah! A male donor.

A father, in other words.

Praise be we blokes haven’t been entirely made redundant in this tale where blokes haven’t had much of a look-in.

What’s the opposite of misogynistic?

Ms Shields and her daughter have gone to the right place in contacting Labour MP Louisa Wall, whose marriage equality bill was voted into law last month.

As the Stuff article points out, under the legislation, the same situation will not occur in the future. But because Ms Sullivan died before its passing Rowen is exempt.

Ms Wall apparently suggested the pair lodge a private bill, a rare form of law-making that asks for a change to the law for the benefit of a single person or group.

The Sullivan Birth Certificate Bill will be supported through the House by Ms Wall, who said it was a unique piece of legislation that was simply about righting a wrong.

Ms Wall says:

“These two women did have Rowen together but the law at the time didn’t acknowledge that.

“How would we feel if one of our parents weren’t on our birth certificate?”

The word “parent” has two meanings, of course.

a : one that begets or brings forth offspring;

b : a person who brings up and cares for another.

We may suppose we have to concentrate on the second meaning for the purposes of the upcoming bill.

But Alf is a firm believer in a bit of begetting being the right way to go about things.

And that should require a bloke to play a more active role in the proceedings than jerking off into a test-tube.

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