LGBTory congratulates the members of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly who unanimously passed Bill 28, the All Families Are Equal Act, on Third Reading on November 29. This legislation ensures that children of same-sex couples in Ontario are treated equally to children of opposite-sex couples under the law, and closes some loopholes that created legal obstacles for same-sex couples with children. We commend Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (OPCP) Leader Patrick Brown and the majority of the OPCP caucus for supporting this legislation. We believe that objections to this bill from social conservatives are overblown, but we recognize that MPPs with moral objections to the passage of the bill chose to be absent from the Legislature rather than vote against it. We consider this a reasonable compromise under the circumstances.
Bill 28 recognizes the legal status of all parents, whether they are LGBT or straight, and whether their children were conceived with or without assistance. The new law will:
- Provide greater clarity and certainty for parents who use assisted reproduction to conceive a child
- Provide a streamlined process for the legal recognition of parents who use a surrogate, together with requirements meant to protect the rights of all parties through independent legal advice and confirmation of the surrogate’s consent both before conception and after birth
- Reduce the need for parents who use assisted reproduction to have to go to court to have their parental status recognized in law.
- Replace gender specific terms like “mother” and “father” with gender-neutral language where possible to better reflect the nature of families raised by same-sex couples
- Provide a process for same-sex couples to be legally recognized as the parents of a child without having to go to court to adopt their own children
- Allow up to four people, including the birth parent, to be legally recognized as the parents of a child if they enter into a written contractual parenting agreement before conception (Ontario Newsroom).
Bill 28 represents the first time that parentage laws in Ontario have been updated since 1978. Since then, societal changes (including the legalization of same-sex marriage) have removed most of the moral and legal objections to the reality of same-sex couples raising children. Advances in fertility technology have made it much more common for couples (both same-sex and opposite-sex) to use methods like in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy to have children. The bill recognizes these changes and provides reasonable legal accommodations to people raising children in these circumstances without negatively impacting the family arrangements of traditional opposite-sex couples. Ultimately it protects the legal rights of children in these families and gives same-sex couples with children the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples.
Objections to the bill from social conservatives arise chiefly from the provisions replacing the words “mother” and “father” with the word “parent” in new legal documents, and from the change that now allows up to four individuals to contractually enter into a parenting agreement. The language changes are, in our opinion, long overdue and reflect the actual circumstances of many same-sex couples with children. The provision for up to four legal parents simply reflects the reality of many couples who use widely available assisted-reproduction technology. The objections of social conservatives to these provisions in the bill show a failure to recognize the reality of parenting for many couples in Ontario and represent an unacceptable attempt to limit the rights of same-sex couples and their children.
We thank Ontario PC Party Leader Patrick Brown for providing strong support for this bill and for the leadership he showed on this issue in the PC caucus. We would also like to thank the following OPCP MPPs who voted in favour of the bill: Ted Arnott (Wellington-Halton Hills), Steve Clark (Leeds-Grenville), Lorne Coe (Whitby-Oshawa), Vic Fedeli (Nipissing), Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington), Sylvia Jones (Dufferin-Caledon), Gila Martow (Thornhill), Jim McDonnell (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry), Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka), Julia Munro (York-Simcoe), Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock), Todd Smith (Prince Edward-Hastings), Lisa Thompson (Huron-Bruce), Bill Walker (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound), Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey) and John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke).
We are cognizant of the fact that some PC MPPs were absent from the vote on November 29 due to their personal moral or religious objections to the bill. While we recognize their right to hold these beliefs and exercise them in their own private lives, to the extent that they represent an infringement of the rights of LGBT citizens, we do not believe that they have any place in public policy. We accept that these MPPs chose to be absent from the vote rather than vote against the bill; we believe this represents a workable compromise between private morality and public policy in this case.
The passage of the All Families Are Equal Act represents a long-overdue recognition of the rights of same-sex parents and protects the rights of their children. We thank the Ontario Legislature, and Patrick Brown and the Ontario PC Party, for supporting it.