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Ontario bill to alter definition of ‘parents’ to include gay couples moves to committee

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne

TORONTO, October 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The Ontario Liberal bill that will change the legal definition of parents to accommodate homosexual couples who have produced children through reproductive technologies is scheduled for public hearings before committee on October 17 and 18.

LGBTQ advocates joined with Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to praise Bill 28, or the All Families Are Equal Act, as “long overdue.” But Tory MPPs questioned whether the Liberals and NDP had considered the far-reaching and possibly negative consequences of the 66-page bill, which passed second reading debate Monday.

Despite Naqvi’s declaration that homosexual families are something that “society more broadly have not only come to accept but embrace,” pro-family advocates hold that children have a natural right to both a mother and a father, and that to deliberately deprive them of either is a form of abuse.  

Under Bill 28, which the Liberals hope to pass by Christmas, a non-biological parent will not have to go to court — as is the case now — to establish parenthood of a child conceived through IVF or through surrogacy.

And in the latter case, Bill 28 allows up to four people to be recognized as parents of the child without a court order providing all parties, one of which must be the birth parent, agree in writing before the conception of the child to be co-parents.

The sweeping legislation amends the Vital Statistics Act, the Children’s Law Reform Act and other bills, including mandating the substitution of the generic term “a parent” for “mother” or “father,” and “a person” for “its mother” in all existing legislation.

That’s to ensure “our forms reflect the reality of our families today. For that, it is extremely important that we use gender-neutral language,” Naqvi noted during Monday’s debate.

In fact, “We call all this debate — that’s the technical term — but I don’t think there’s any debate about this issue,” Naqvi asserted, adding he is “extremely proud” of the bill.

“There is no one way to start and raise a family,” he said. “Today we expect that members of the LGBTQ2+ community to enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual neighbors: the right to love and marry the person of their choosing, and the right to start and raise a family.”

Indeed, Bill 28 is the promised Liberal response to the constitutional challenge to provincial laws defining parents that Toronto lawyer Joanna Radbord launched in June on behalf of nine homosexual couples.

The court challenge was based on a 10-year-old Ontario Superior Court ruling that couples who use reproductive technologies to conceive a child should legally be recognized as equal to parents who conceive naturally.

With British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec having birth-registration legislation recognizing same-sex parents, Naqvi gave credit to NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) for lobbying for the same in Ontario.

DiNovo introduced a private member’s bill in November 2015, called Cy and Ruby’s law after the two children of lesbians Jennifer and Kirsti Mathers McHenry. It called for amendments to the Children’s Law Reform Act and the Vital Statistics Act, and was last seen heading to committee.

Kirsti Mather McHenry worked on that legislation and with the A-G’s office over the summer on Bill 28, according to the Toronto Star, which reported Radbord wants to be sure Bill 28 defines parent unambiguously and widely.

“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,” said Radbord, who has borne two sons who were subsequently adopted by her lesbian “spouse.”

There were also calls from the Opposition for more debate on the bill’s ramifications.

"It is a timely, costly and very messy situation when two parents have a family breakdown,” Conservative MPP Randy Hillier pointed out. "What happens now with four parents in a marital breakdown?"

He noted that the bill’s effect on the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) was unclear.

“The Family Responsibility Office is in many cases and for many of our constituents a dysfunctional and broken remedy,” Hillier noted. “There’s nothing in the bill that provides greater abilities to the Family Responsibility Office to address this expanded — I guess that is the best word — scope of jurisdictions that they’ll have to deal with.”

MPP Bill Walker echoed this. “What I find in my riding is that the people who are the most frustrated come into my office and want it clear, a black-and-white ‘What’s the answer to this?’ FRO is one of those examples. … That’s where I hear a lot of concerns.”

Meanwhile, Catholic psychiatrist Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons has described the “deliberate deprivation of a father or a mother” from a child as “state-sanctioned child abuse.”

Evidence overwhelmingly supports the “importance of both mothering and fathering for the healthy development of a child,” he pointed out in “Same-Sex Attractions in Youth and their Right to Informed Consent.”

“The rights and needs of children to a mother and a father ... should be protected by the state,” Fitzgibbons wrote.

And the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) stated in 2013 that current research shows “it is inappropriate, potentially hazardous to children, and dangerously irresponsible to change the age-old prohibition on homosexual parenting, whether by adoption, foster care, or by reproductive manipulation.”

The Standing Committee on Social Policy will hold public hearings on Bill 28 in Toronto on October 17 and 18. For more information, go here.

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