By: Heather Somaini
Yes, you read that correctly. I adopted my own genetically biological children.
As same sex marriage continues to evolve in our great state of California and across the country, you might think that just having children and then getting your name put on their birth certificate would be everything a parent would need to do. But funny enough, same sex parents and their children fall into a legal grey area that sometimes feels like the Wild, Wild West to me. No one truly knows what “should” be done until a case is presented that tests the laws that exist.
But back in 2007 when our little guys were born, it was even more vague and grey. Before we got pregnant, Tere and I had completed and submitted all the appropriate paperwork for a Domestic Partnership in the state of California. A domestic partnership provides to same sex couples most, if not all, of the same rights, protections, and benefits that straight couples have. That sounds great, right? I agree.
What it doesn’t do, is require any other state to also grant those same rights and protections. What that means is that even though our family is protected in California, if we were ever to travel outside of, or move to, another state, we can’t be guaranteed those same rights. In fact, those rights are actually stripped away in other states every day.
We knew we had to protect ourselves and our children as much as we could and our lawyer highly recommended a Step-Parent Adoption which would legally define me as the twins’ second parent. Even though we used my eggs (and an anonymous sperm donor) and the babies were genetically mine, no one really pays attention to it. Instead, the birth mother (in this case, Tere) is considered the only true, legal parent. So we petitioned the court to legally recognize my kids as mine and subject me to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under the law of any other parent.
The process of adopting for us was not as stringent as a standard adoption. There was no home visit or psychological profile that needed to occur. Instead, the four of us had to trudge down to a social worker’s office and spend a few hours telling our entire life story, from how we met all the way through our extended journey through baby-making.
I know a number of other people were really upset by the whole process and even having to go through with it but I sort of felt like it was a learning experience just like any other. It made me really think about what it meant to be a parent to these two little creatures that I rushed to come home to, the ones that woke us up in the middle of the night, the munchkins that were putting me through the paces every day. They were mine and no one could say otherwise but this legal document would make it official.
A number of months later, we all went before a judge in Monterey Park. He asked some very serious questions. I answered them all in the affirmative. He pounded his gavel and made it official. That was it. The babies each got a stuffed animal. I know it will probably never really come up for the kids because it would be difficult for them to even understand family law until they’re much older and by then I’m sure it will have all been hashed out but hopefully they will know that we did everything we could to make sure we were all “covered” as a family.
For a brief moment in time, the state of California allowed same sex couples to marry. Almost a year after the finalization of the adoption, Tere and I were legally married by our friend Zach. Once again, we’re in a grey zone since same sex marriages soon after that were suspended and it’s all slowly making its way through the court system.
We have one of everything – a Domestic Partnership Certificate, a Marriage Certificate, and a Legal Step-parent Adoption – and we’ll wait and see how lots of people decide how to define what we already know. We’re a family and nothing they do in Sacramento or Washington DC or Tuscaloosa for that matter is ever going to change that.