In case you haven’t heard, there’s another guy trying to dodge child support payments, and the state of Kansas is going after him with everything they’ve got. Of course, this one’s a little different. Turns out there’s three parents involved, and according to him, he’s not one of them. Unfortunately for him and the other two parents, Kansas doesn’t recognize gay marriage, so the government has decided he’s on the hook.
Here’s the story: a lesbian couple advertised for a sperm donor, a man answered the ad, and nine months later a baby was born (I’ll assume you can fill in the details). There was a contract between the three of them stipulating he had no parental rights or responsibilities. However, there was also no doctor involved. Later the couple in question split up, and the custodial parent (according to Kansas, the only parent) applied for state benefits. In accordance with state law, the state of Kansas went after the non-custodial parent for child support, including back payments. But wait, were you paying attention earlier? Kansas doesn’t recognize same-sex unions in any way, so there is no non-custodial parent, right?
According to Kansas law, because there was no doctor involved, the sperm donor wasn’t legally a sperm donor, he was the daddy. Never mind he had a contract stating otherwise that all three were a party to.
To add to the fun of all this, the government of Kansas is sending mixed messages. According to an interview on NPR, “[i]n 2007, we had a case involved where a guy who had been a sperm donor donated sperm for a woman to become pregnant and then decided afterwards that he wanted to be considered the father, wanted to have parental rights and responsibilities. That case went clear to the Kansas Supreme Court and they said that he doesn’t get the parental rights and responsibilities.” What’s the difference? Well, there’s one I know for sure, and one I can guess. The one I know for sure is there was a doctor involved in the 2007 case. I’m also guessing the woman wasn’t in a lesbian relationship.
So what we have is the State of Kansas making two different arguments: you don’t get to be the father of a child unless we say you are the father of the child, and the only time we will say you are the father of the child is when it benefits us to say you are. Clearly that would be when there’s money on the line, but there’s also an insidious whiff of anti-homosexual backdoor lawmaking going on here. After all, if we can scare enough people into not helping homosexuals have children, we can make sure no homosexuals have children, right?
There’s three problems I see here. The first is that this is a clear case of violation of private contract. This isn’t one party to the contract saying the contract is unfair or invalid, nor is it a case of the state having a serious vested interest in stepping in to prevent one person from being taken advantage of. Three adults entered into a mutual, legal contract, and the state simply didn’t like the contract they entered. The fact there is a third adult party willing to play the role of non-custodial parent if she were legally allowed to only strengthens that point.
The second issue is that this is clearly a case of inconsistent law enforcement. If the state does not want sperm donors to have parental rights once they have signed a contract as such, then they need to enforce that consistently. The presence of a doctor does not change anything (although if they wanted to require a lawyer, notary, or other witness that is consistent with legal proceeding that might be different). Either the case in 2007 was wrong, or this one is. While I have my preference as to which is the correct answer, at least a consistent ruling makes for sound governance. Doing otherwise is simply making up the rules as they go along, picking and choosing whatever is most convenient at the moment, and the word for that is “dictatorship”.
Finally, I have no idea who they think they’re helping. This doesn’t make either of the mothers better off; the sperm donor is certainly no better off; the child in this case is no better off; and the people of the state of Kansas are made to look like backward fools because of their politicians. At this point the best possible outcome would be an outright dismissal of the case with a strong admonishment from the bench for the foolish notion that the state can simply pick which contracts it will or will not enforce based on its own twisted ideas of what’s right or, worse, its own convenience.