A Kansas sperm donor who answered a lesbian couple’s Craiglist ad is appealing a judge’s decision that he is the legal father of the child and must pay child support.
William Marotta answered an ad placed in 2009 by Angela Bauer and her then-partner, Jennifer Schreiner. The couple, who had been together for eight years at the time, sought a sperm donor, but couldn’t afford to go through their doctor because their insurance didn’t cover artificial insemination. Before using a home insemination kit purchased online, the couple had Marotta sign an agreement that all parties believed severed his parental rights.
However, Bauer and Schreiner later separated, and although they share custody of the child, Schreiner has struggled financially since sustaining an injury that has left her unable to work. When she petitioned the state for financial assistance, the Kansas Department for Children and Families demanded that Marotta pay child support. The department insists that it routinely seeks out the father when a single mother petitions the state for assistance, but one of Marotta’s attorneys, Ben Swinnen, believes that this case is anything but routine.
Swinnen believes that the state — which passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2005 — is pursuing this case in order to bulwark the idea that traditional marriage is between a man and a woman. “It is a freeze,” he said, “on artificial insemination and alternative family settings.”
Although neither Bauer nor Schreiner have requested support from Marotta, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi ruled that “[a] parent may not terminate parental rights by contract…even when the parties have consented.” Judge Mattivi claims that the contract into which Marotta entered with the couple is invalid because of a state law that specifies that a “donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination…is treated in law as if he were not the birth father.” Because the couple could not afford to have the artificial insemination performed by “a licensed physician,” Judge Mattivi argues, Marotta must be treated as if he is the birth father.
Colleagues of Judge Mattivi, who was appointed to the bench by conservative Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, have praised her, saying that her “sense of fairness, justice and strong work ethic will serve her well as she makes a positive difference in the lives of families.” If the question in this case is how to define “family,” Judge Mattivi has answered that what matters is the presence of “a licensed physician” at the moment of conception.
Watch a CBS News Report on the case below.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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