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House Passes Parentage Act

Bill updates parentage laws to reflect modern-day families

JUNE 13, 2024

Yesterday, Representative Bill Driscoll Jr. (D-Milton) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing An Act to ensure legal parentage equality, which updates the Commonwealth’s parentage laws to reflect modern-day families, including those with children born to LGBTQ+ families, and through methods such as assisted reproduction and surrogacy.

“Ensuring that the Commonwealth’s laws reflect an evolving society, along with the implications of modern technology, is a key responsibility that we have as elected officials. By bolstering protections for children born through assisted reproduction, surrogacy, and to same-sex parents, we are doing just that,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “I want to thank Chairman Day and the lead sponsors of this legislation for their continued commitment to ensuring that modern-day families are protected here in Massachusetts, as well as all my colleagues in the House for recognizing the importance of updating our parentage laws.”

“Yesterday’s debate and unanimous vote leaves me optimistic about the future, despite much divisiveness that continues to exist in our society.” said Driscoll. “We’ve come a long way in these past two decades following the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2004, when similar conversations pertaining to parentage would have been surrounded by horrible homophobic rhetoric. I was proud to join such a supportive environment, listening to the several personal stories from my bipartisan colleagues prior to taking a final vote. The adoption of this legislation and the celebratory nature of the day gives me hope that we can work collaboratively on difficult or controversial issues. Although it takes time, the heartfelt speeches and our unanimous vote shows that the growth needed to create a safer and more inclusive future may be difficult, but is possible.”

"Today we acted to ensure that if you are a parent, whether a biological parent or not, the law will recognize you as a parent just as society does," said Representative Michael S. Day (D-Stoneham), House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. "This bill will remove one of the last vestiges of the law that treats same sex parents and parents who engaged in assisted reproduction differently from every other parent. It is a good day for all families in Massachusetts."

Parental rights and responsibilities are broad and include, for example, the ability to attend and make decisions during medical appointments, manage a child’s finances, participate in educational decisions, and provide authorizations for a child’s travel. While Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage 20 years ago, LGBTQ+ residents continue to face significant barriers in obtaining full legal recognition as a parent. This bill updates the Commonwealth’s laws so common paths to parentage may be utilized equally by all families, regardless of marital status. It also creates a new path to parentage for individuals who are “de facto” parents, and ensures that every child has the same rights and protections to parentage without regard to the marital status, gender identity or sexual orientation of their parents, or the circumstances of their birth.

“I want to thank Speaker Ron Mariano for his long-standing, ongoing, and true commitment to the LGBTQ community, and for bringing this legislation forward today,” said Representative Sarah K. Peake (D-Provincetown), Second Assistant Majority Leader and lead sponsor of the bill. “He has long been a friend of our community, and this is one more major step in ensuring that LGBTQ families and all families across the Commonwealth are protected and safer. I also want to extend my thanks to Chair Mike Day for his work on this legislation so that we were able to bring it to the floor today.”

“The Massachusetts Parentage Act is a critical piece of legislation for so many families in the Commonwealth, particularly LGBTQ+ families,” said Representative Hannah Kane (R- Shrewsbury), a lead sponsor of the bill. “By updating the Commonwealth's parentage laws, we will provide clarity, security, and equality in the matters of parentage, reflecting the evolving realities and complexities of assisted reproduction, surrogacy and LGBTQ+ parenthood that has to date left many families vulnerable. The House has taken an important step to ensuring equality for LGBTQ+ families, and I thank the Speaker and Chair Day for bringing this vital legislation forward, the advocates for their steadfast championing of this bill, and my colleagues who voted in support of the MPA today.”

Massachusetts leads the nation in easing the path for assisted reproduction, including surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization (IVF). However, current laws do not adequately outline rights, requirements, procedures and safeguards for parents, donors, surrogates, and others involved in the process. This bill establishes clear paths to parentage for individuals or couples utilizing assisted reproduction and surrogacy in order to provide legal recognition and status prior to the child’s birth.

“Today marks a major advancement in the reinforcement of equal rights for LGBTQ+ families in the Commonwealth, assuring that children born through assisted reproduction and surrogacy have a clear route to establish their legal parentage,” said Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton), a lead sponsor of the bill. “A child’s relationship to their parents is core to their overall stability and well-being, and it is from that relationship that so many rights and responsibilities flow. I am thankful to Speaker Mariano, as well as House Ways and Means Chairman Michlewitz, Second Assistant Majority Leader Sarah Peake, Minority Leader Hannah Kane, Representative Adam Scanlon, and House Chair of the Joint Committee of Judiciary, Mike Day, and his staff for meeting the moment this Pride Month and for pushing for legal and clear paths to parenthood for all families, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Finally, I feel honored to have worked with the fearless advocates of GLAD over the years to help make this effort a reality.

“Massachusetts has always been a great place to raise a family. All families deserve the same parentage rights as others, including LGBTQ+ families,” said Representative Adam Scanlon (D- North Attleborough), a lead sponsor of the bill. “In Massachusetts we recognize that ‘all means all’. LGBTQ+ families should not be put through additional hurdles and barriers in the adoption process. We want to keep all of our families together as well as welcome new neighbors that can enjoy these basic and essential rights.”

For many families, non-biological parents are their child’s parent in every way except being legally recognized as such. They provide consistent caregiving, financial, and emotional support, and they are recognized by the child as their parent. The bill legally recognizes the importance of these relationships and affords individuals who have been acting in a meaningful parental role for a significant amount of time the opportunity to seek full legal rights befitting their relationship. It also provides notice, and an opportunity to be heard, to existing parents. Lastly, the bill safeguards against abuse and protections for domestic violence survivors and military parents.

Having passed the House of Representatives 156-0, the bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.



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