Emily Reese, a Reno activist who died in 2018 after years of battling colon cancer, had one wish — that her ex-husband Devon’s new husband, Felipe, adopt her three children.
“Unfortunately while she was living, this was not an option for us,” Devon Reese, an attorney and Reno City Councilman told members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee Friday. “We may have been a family with one mom and two dads but we were a family.”
“Today, Emily’s children have two dads — me and Felipe,” Reese says of the adoption ceremony that took place a year after his ex-wife’s passing.
Now, a measure before state lawmakers would allow more than two individuals to be legal parents. Proponents say the bill acknowledges the changing face of families as social diversity takes deeper root and more people use technology to reproduce.
Adoption, informal parenting, and the increased use of reproductive technologies have rendered traditional definitions of families obsolete, say advocates. Gay couples who engage a friend to donate sperm or an egg sometimes want all three parties named as parents. Straight couples who create an embryo but have their fetus carried by a surrogate mother have also added the surrogate to certificates.
Nevada is one of 11 states with a higher percentage of same sex couples than the national average, according to Andre Wade, executive director of Silver State Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.
Advocates suggest the measure affords children access to more financial and emotional support and reduces the chance of entering the child welfare system.
In 2013, California passed SB 274, which recognizes three or more individuals as parents.
The law says multiple parentage may be awarded sparingly, applying “only in the rare case where a child truly has more than two parents, and a finding… is necessary to protect the child from the detriment of being separated from one of his or her parents.”
A patchwork of state laws leaves families vulnerable when they move to states that do not recognize more than two parents.
The bill would require consent from existing legal parents for an additional person to be recognized as a parent.
Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner, a Republican, asked what would happen in the event two same sex couples wanted to parent a child, and ten years later “hate each other. Is the kid now going to four different houses?”
“Assemblywoman Krasner, I think your questions are getting a little far down the line,” Assemblyman Steve Yeager, who chairs the committee, interrupted. “I want to stick to the substance of the bill rather than getting too far down the road.”
“It doesn’t happen in other states,” responded Cathy Sakimura of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Multiparent families have more experience with cooperation.”