Five years ago, Raquel Grand had to adopt her wife’s newborn daughter — running up $5,000 in lawyer’s fees — to legally become a parent.
That won’t happen anymore under legislation introduced Thursday to give same-sex parents in Ontario who aren’t biologically related to their children the same legal rights as heterosexual moms and dads.
Nor will people who are not legally considered parents have to live in fear they cannot make medical and other decisions about their children if a spouse becomes incapacitated.
That almost happened when Grand’s wife Deanna Djos was hemorrhaging dangerously after giving birth to their girl, Thora.
“At that time I wasn’t legally the mother of my child. Those were added stresses,” Grand said Thursday after Attorney General Yasir Naqvi tabled the bill in the legislature.
“It’s quite an experience, parenthood. To add a bunch of legal stuff on top of that is a burden parents don’t need.”
Naqvi acknowledged the legislation — which he hopes will pass by Christmas and take effect in January — is “long overdue.”
It has been 10 years since an Ontario Superior Court ruling that couples who use sperm donors and other reproductive technologies should enjoy the same parental rights as people who conceive naturally.
The province’s failure to act sooner on that ruling prompted a constitutional challenge of parentage laws that was settled in June with a promise to bring this bill forward, allowing same-sex parents to register births in the same was as male-female couples.
Naqvi said the money and energy LGBTQ families were expending on paperwork and worrying should be going toward diapers and play time.
“They should be focusing on their new baby,” the married father of two young children told reporters.
He credited New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) for her private members’ bill to grant equal rights to all parents, which inspired the government legislation.
“The government was under the gun to get something done . . . it’s a victory for queer families,” said DiNovo, lamenting the years of delay.
“We’re all in a hurry to get this done because babies are being born as we speak.”
Kathleen Wynne, the province’s first openly gay premier, signalled last May that the government would introduce legislation this fall.
“It’s disappointing, of course, that it has taken this long,” said Grand, standing with Djos outside the legislature. They now have a second daughter, Aloe.
“But we’re happy that it’s being done. It’s a huge step. Hopefully, families after this won’t have that same burden.”
Toronto family lawyer Joanna Radbord, who represented nine families in the court challenge, said her priority now is to make sure the definition of parent in the 66-page bill is clear enough and broad enough.
“The intention is to eliminate all doubts around parentage. I want to make sure that we know with certainty that the co-parent is the parent and shall be declared the parent . . . in the same way as biological fathers.”
Kirsti Mathers McHenry, a lesbian mother who worked with Naqvi’s ministry over the summer as the legislation was drafted, said “if we get this bill right there will be no second-class parents anymore.”
“We’re making sure the kids are protected. Most of all it’s about the kids.”
She also ran into a medical emergency when her wife was in childbirth.
“You’re faced with a situation wondering if your wife is going to be OK and also thinking, ‘oh shoot, what happens if my wife dies or she’s incapacitated, can I take care of this baby?”