Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Modern families

A new milestone in legal recognition of alternative family structures has passed - a new baby in British Columbia was born with three legal parents on her birth certificate.  This isn't the first time more than two parents have ended up on a birth certificate but the others required legal battles and this was just a matter of jumping through administrative hoops.  It is interesting to consider how this may affect the legal status of polyamory and plural marriages in Canada.  Even though this particular case is a lesbian couple and a male friend it appears as though they could have put up to four people down as parents without any special restrictions.  The comments on the linked article are mostly very positive but there are a few folks who are horrified that a child might be raised by anyone other than one man and one woman who are their biological parents.

The bizarre thing about the fear and revulsion that some people seem to have towards this is that alternative family structures are nothing new.  Divorce may be up in the modern age but deaths in the 20-40 age range are way down and children being raised by people who are not their parents is a constant throughout history.  There may have been a brief blip in the middle of the last century where death rates were low and divorces were rare but the nuclear family being ubiquitous is not a constant but rather an historic aberration.  The power in our society rests very strongly with those who were young in the middle of the 1900s and who largely view that as a golden age but that will not last much longer.

We cannot stop people living in non nuclear relationship structures (and I can't see any reason why we would want to even if we could) so our only sensible recourse is to design government in such a way that it supports children as best it can.  That certainly involves legal recognition of the people that will be taking care of a child and not limiting it those people to the two whose genetic material combined to produce the child.  We all know that children end up raised by step parents, friends, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.  There is no reason to stop people who want to take responsibility for a child from doing so unless they have demonstrated some serious derangement or deficiency prior.

The argument was made to me that this may open the door to poly marriages because people will argue that if they can legally raise a child together they should be allowed to marry.  I certainly don't need any convincing that plural marriages should be legal and recognized but I do not think that people will be willing to accept that reasoning.  Being gay and wanting to have a family has pretty wide spread support but being poly and wanting to be married does not and I think that distinction will prevent that particular line of logic from working.  It is definitely a crack in the wall though and I firmly believe that progress is best made in such ways.  Small incremental improvements gradually change the world.

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