Don’t get me wrong — I love a party, and I love a good film. And so, I’ve been pleased to see the emerging popularization of same-sex weddings and parentage, best exemplified by the new on-line magazine EquallyWed and the engaging new film, The Kids Are All Right. Both of these deservedly-celebrated popular endeavors deal openly with same-sex love and romance and child-rearing, in positive and culturally nuanced ways. I’m thrilled that they are out there.
At the same time, I’m a bit troubled by the lack of attention paid to the legal aspects of these important new developments. It’s not about whether or not folks buy my book, really — it’s whether gay couples are willing to spend even a brief amount of time and a modicum of funds dealing with the legal aspects of what they are taking on. As for the weddings, I’m concerned about the number of couples who spend great amounts of time and money on their outfits, the invitations and the caterer, without devoting even an afternoon to discussing their finances, their debt liabilities, and their home ownership plans — let alone sitting down to scope out a pre-nuptial agreement. I want these relationships to last, and to not end up as nasty divorces, and it concerns me that there isn’t a bit more emphasis on the legal and practical aspects of the partnership. It’s brutally painful when part of the divorce dispute is who is going to pay the unpaid wedding bills! For most couples a few thoughtful hours and some variety of legal documentation can avoid enormous heartache — and equally big legal bills in the event of a break-up.
As for parentage, the positive apect of the new film is that the couple appears to have done things right — most likely they are both legal parents, and they’ve used an anonymous donor so he doesn’t have legal rights over the kids — though he certainly exercises a powerful emotional influence. But all too many couples aren’t bothering to take care of these tasks in a thoughtful way, leading to difficulties that are incredibly hard to resolve. This is especially so for couples that live in states that don’t allow the non-birth parent to do a second-parent adoption, or where the ramifications of a parentage presumption statute for same-sex couples is unclear. It isn’t always possible to resolve the legal complications, but it’s crucial that every couple make the effort to learn about their legal situation and resolve the problems as much as is possible.