California governor vetoes bill to protect children with more than two parents

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California Gov. Jerry Brown over the weekend vetoed a bill that would have protected children who have more than two parents.

In his veto message, Governor Brown explained that he was sympathetic to the need to protect children in these families but wanted more time to consider the issue. Authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, Senate Bill 1476 was co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Children’s Advocacy Institute and the University of San Diego School of Law.

This bill would have corrected a recent California Court of Appeal decision, In re M.C., which ruled that courts can never find that a child has more than two parents, regardless of the situation and even if it would protect the child from harm. The court recognized that there could be cases where recognizing more than two parents would protect a child’s best interests and called upon the legislature to address this issue.

"SB 1476 would have helped ensure that children are not unnecessarily put in the foster care system by allowing judges to recognize the fact that some young people are raised by more than two parents," Leno said.

"I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Brown and my colleagues in the Legislature so we can ensure that California law reflects the reality of modern families and protects the best interests of all children, including those who are raised in rare situations where they have more than two parents who love and care for them."

Said NCLR Family Protection Project Director Cathy Sakimura: “We appreciate that the Governor recognized that the needs of children with more than two parents should be addressed by the legislature, but we are disappointed that he vetoed this important bill, which we believe provides a thoughtful, well-considered approach for courts to protect these children. We look forward to co-sponsoring this bill again next year and working with the Governor’s office and other stakeholders to ensure that the children in these families do not continue to go unprotected and that California law recognizes and protects all families.”

Added Ed Howard, Senior Counsel at the Children’s Advocacy Institute, University of San Diego School of Law: “Until this law gets changed, judges in California will be forced to issue rulings they know will hurt children by bluntly ordering an end to their real relationships with their real parents. This is wrong and it should not endure.”

SB 1476 would have restored courts’ ability to protect children in these families. Legislatures and courts in a number of other states have recognized that children in these families benefit greatly when the law recognizes the reality of their families, providing them with greater stability, more economic support, and a decreased likelihood of ending up in foster care if one or more parents are unable to care for them. Other states that protect children in these families include the District of Columbia, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine and Pennsylvania.

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