DUBLIN, Ireland: A man who donated his sperm for a lesbian couple to have a child won a legal fight Thursday to keep his biological son in Ireland.(Story here.)
The Supreme Court judgment was a legal first in Ireland, a predominantly Roman Catholic country where gay unions are not recognized in family law. It meant that the couple, who were wed in a civil union ceremony in England, cannot resettle in Australia with their 14-month-old boy as they had hoped, but can only vacation there for a maximum six weeks.
Two judges, Justices Susan Denham and Joseph Finnegan, ruled that the toddler's best interests required him to stay in Ireland in proximity to his biological father. The third judge on Ireland's highest court, Justice Nial Fennelly, dissented, arguing that the man's legal team had offered no evidence that the boy's welfare would be harmed by leaving Ireland.
The verdict set the stage for a second unprecedented courtroom battle between the man and the couple — as to whether he should enjoy joint custody of the toddler. [emphasis mine]
The mothers complicated their legal situation greatly by using a friend to donate sperm, and signing a contract that recognized the donor's rights to visit the child, ensured the child knew his biological father, and stipulated that, if the birth mother died, the donor would have a say in the child's guardianship. They also gave the infant the biological father's name as a middle name, and initially let him visit the newborn regularly.
STILL. I would put money down that if we were dealing with a heterosexual, married couple who used a sperm donor and made all the same "mistakes", the courts would never stop the couple from leaving Ireland to settle in the home country of the husband. Moreover, from my understanding of law, the husband's relationship to the child would have been legally recognized--for they were married when the child was born--even though no biological connection exists, and would be seen to supercede the sperm donor's.
And can you imagine even suggesting the issue of joint custody?!!!
At the heart of this case, in my opinion, isn't simply a refusal to recognize the legitimacy of LGBT romantic relationships, but the belief that children--particularly boys--without males legally cemented into their households, are deprived. This myth stands despite much evidence to the contrary--including much evidence that males in households are responsible for incalculable amounts of harm to children.
You don't see me advocating banishing all men from families due to the latter, though, do you? Because I understand that a "one size fits all" approach does not work. Some fathers are wonderful--like my dad, the most influential person in my life. Others should be in prison. Still others, probably the majority, are average Joes.
The bottom line is, children can grow up fine in households without fathers. Yes, they may feel an absence--in large part as a result of this societal conviction that a family without a father is not a family. Therefore, it's a good idea for the remaining family members to actively address the absence of a father, rather than ignore it.
My heart goes out to these lesbian parents. The court, while ruling in the so-called "best interest of the child," has done anything but. The women and child are going to be at the mercy, possibly for the next 18 years, of a man who donated his sperm then thought better of it. Yes, I can feel some sympathy for him, but not at all for his actions. If his relationship with this child was so god awful important to him, he should have done everything he could to stay in the good graces of the mothers. For if we lived in a just world, his continued contact with the child would have depended solely on their willingness.
But we live in a patriarchy, a fact this man knows in his--I was going to say "bones", but let's be honest. This started with sperm, testicles are at the center of it: this man knew it in his balls. Fathers' rights trump women's and lesbians' rights each and every day.
And while we're at it, I can't help myself wondering if this man would have fought equally hard for custody of a daughter.
So now these women will suffer, in part because they tried to "be nice" and "do the right thing" by the sperm donor. I hope other lesbian couples will look on this case and learn. No good deed goes unpunished.