The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California’s Assembly has passed a bill allowing “more than two” individuals to have legally recognized claims to the parenthood of a child:

Lawmakers approved SB1476 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, on a party line vote, with Democrats supporting it. The legislation would allow judges to legally recognize multiple parents when it is in a child’s best interest to have more than two parental relationships.

“We live in a world today where courts are dealing with diverse circumstances that have reshaped California families,” Leno said in a statement. “This legislation gives courts the flexibility to protect the best interests of a child who is being supported financially and emotionally by those parents.”


This is an exasperating syllogism: the “world today” and “circumstances” (read: decades of our liberationist policies, like virtually uncapped IVF) have now resulted in unusual, problematic outcomes. Therefore we ought to formalize (i.e., empower a court to run) the show.

Because law has a didactic effect, this bill will of course reinforce and legitimize the “unfortunate” situation its authors imagined they were responding to by codifying the arrangement even as it claims to manage it. As Elizabeth Marquardt (Institute for American Values) and John Culhane (professor of law, Widener University) write in a  joint op-ed  against the bill:

The “rule of two” for assigning legal parenthood has rarely been breached, for good reason. Again, consider  In Re M.C. . Reunification is always challenging; here, it is unlikely to succeed with anyone except (possibly) the biological father. Is it really wise to deploy already-strained government resources toward three parents? And what if, in another case, reunification with all three parents were achieved?

The problems would then multiply. It is hard enough for even two parents to agree on how to raise a child. Three parents in conflict would be still worse. Constant judicial involvement in decision-making would be the unintended but entirely predictable consequence. If there were a custody battle, the child might end up being shuttled between all of them. In fact,  a Pennsylvania court  has ordered custody to be shared among three legal parents.

And why stop at three? Senator Leno’s bill places no limit on the number of possible parents. If three’s a crowd, four or more is a mob.


If for some reason you don’t accept the objection that a child having three or more legal “parents” is in some way “unnatural,” keep in mind that a result of this unconcern is almost always a larger bureaucracy and a more intrusive state. Who else has a universally regarded claim to manage the inevitably public outcome of unconstrained individual choice? Certainly not an “oppressive” religious group or lateral social network.

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