New law simplifies adoption process for children born through assisted reproduction

Law helps protect LGBTQ parents’ rights in other states


STATE HOUSE – A new law sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Rebecca Kislak will streamline the adoption process for children born through assisted reproduction.

The new law (2023-H 5226A, 2023-S 0121A), which Gov. Dan McKee signed June 19, is intended to assist families who have had children through assisted reproduction and pursue adoption as a means to better protect the rights of the parent who is not biologically related to the child. The bill has significant impacts in protecting the rights of LGBTQ parents, many of whom have children through assisted reproduction.

Rhode Island made major progress in protecting the rights of LGBTQ parents and others who use assisted reproduction in 2020 with the passage of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act. That act (2020-H 7541Aaa2020-S 2136Baa) updated the state’s 40-year-old parentage laws, providing procedures establishing parentage, and governing genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

But many parents of children born in this manner still find themselves in need of adoption, because it is the means by which they can protect their rights if they travel or move to jurisdictions outside Rhode Island.

Parents who have experienced that process say it is needlessly long, convoluted, expensive and invasive, subjecting parents to a six-month waiting period, multiple court dates, home inspections, financial checks and other requirements.

The new law will eliminate those barriers for parents of children born through assisted reproduction, once they have already established parentage through the Uniform Parentage Act, unless a court finds good cause to require them in a particular case.

“Here in Rhode Island, we fortunately recognize and celebrate that families come in all shapes and are created so many ways. We made huge progress in legally recognizing that fact when we passed the Uniform Parentage Act, which positively affected the lives of so many families in our state,” said Representative Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence), who experienced the adoption process with her own two sons and spouse. “This law is one additional step we need to take to fully protect families. It will make the process much easier, and give them peace of mind when they travel to another state where their rights aren’t as secure. It shouldn’t be an arduous process for people to adopt their own children, whom they have loved and parented since birth. This law will eliminate obstacles so all kinds of families will have access to the legal protections they deserve.”

Said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport Jamestown, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard the bill, “Particularly given the attacks on LGBTQ rights going on around the nation and the uncertainty about the continued recognition of marriage equality with a Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade, there is a justified concern among LGBTQ parents about the security of their family rights when they travel to other states. Adoption is the one protection that is recognized by every state. It shouldn’t take years, thousands of dollars, humiliating inspections and many court dates to get an adoption decree that merely confirms an already legally recognized, loving family. We are so happy to make this process far easier, so families can access the protection they need.”

Under the new law, parents of children born through assisted reproduction whose parentage has already been established through the Uniform Parentage Act need only submit to the court a petition signed by both parties that includes the child’s birth certificate, their marriage certificate if applicable, and a declaration signed by both explaining the circumstances of the child’s birth through assisted reproduction, attesting to their consent to assisted reproduction, and attesting that no competing claims of parentage exist.

The court shall grant the adoption within 30 days of finding that either the parent who gave birth and the spouse were married at the time of the child’s birth and the child was born through assisted reproduction; or for non-marital parents, that the person who gave birth and the non-marital parent consented to the assisted reproduction; and that no competing parental claims exist.

These changes to the adoption process apply only to children born through assisted reproduction whose parents seek adoption for confirmation of parentage that has already been legally established under the provisions of the Parentage Act.

“Today’s final passage of H 5226/S 0121 is a powerful demonstration of Rhode Island’s commitment to protecting children and families and ensuring equality for LGBTQ+ people. I’m grateful to Representative Kislak and Senator Euer for their leadership, to Speaker Shekarchi and Senate President Ruggerio, and to each of the legislators who understood the importance of removing needless barriers to adoption for LGBTQ+ people who seek to confirm their parentage,” said Polly Crozier, Director of Family Advocacy at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “In the current state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people across the country, parents are more worried than ever about the safety of their children. An adoption decree provides additional security for children, particularly if families travel or move outside Rhode Island.”