Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
Chrissy LaBrecque and her longtime partner Andrea Roehl just spent their first Christmas with their new 5-month-old baby, Camden, in North Park. Like many new parents, they quickly found out that he was mostly interested in the packaging of the presents under the tree rather than the toys, but they enjoyed the holiday spending time together with Camden and their family for the holiday.
However, the past five months have not been easy for the couple as they have had to traverse through California law to get LaBrecque, Camden’s biological mother, on Camden’s birth certificate.
Camden was born through reciprocal in-vitro fertilization (IVF), an arduous and expensive procedure. LaBrecque is the biological mother, and Roehl carried Camden and gave birth to him. It wasn’t until they were released from the hospital that they both found out that current California law does not allow same sex couples on the birth certificate for only one reason: They are not married or registered as domestic partners. So they left the hospital with only Roehl listed on Camden’s birth certificate.
They are enjoying their life as new mothers, but it is riddled with a barrage of new legal complications that have been confusing, time consuming, and ultimately another high-cost expense.
With LaBrecque not listed on the birth certificate, she has been denied paid family leave and other benefits that are available for working parents under California law.
“The hospital knew that we were doing the reciprocal IVF,” LaBrecque said. “I’m 40 years old so the pregnancy had to be treated as a geriatric pregnancy. Andrea is almost 30, so the whole time the doctors knew it was my egg and nobody ever mentioned anything about the birth certificate and who would be able to sign and who wouldn’t.”
Roehl said it was interesting because they received a large packet of paperwork before he was born, which included the birth certificate form. They completed the package with both of their information, so as far as they were concerned, everything was prepared in advance.
“If they would have let us know that there was a difference for same sex couples that are not married we would have done what we would have had to do,” Roehl said. “But no one told us that it would be different because we were unmarried. So we didn’t look further into that and it wasn’t explained to us. Even when we delivered, everyone knew that Chrissy was my partner, so there was no surprise and they didn’t ask us if we were married. They didn’t ask if we were married until we were about to leave the hospital.”
Roehl said that many people have said that they should just get married, but that is not the issue.
“This issue is that we shouldn’t have to get married because a heterosexual couple doesn’t have to get married to be on the birth certificate, even if it is not biologically the father’s son or child,” Roehl said. “That is what is frustrating to me. So I don’t want to tell other gay couples that they should be married first because that is your choice if you don’t want to be married.”
Roehl said they decided they wanted to have a baby before they got married, and it is not because they couldn’t afford a marriage license or that they wanted to wait for a big, expensive wedding.
“The priority for us is that we wanted to plan on having our child first and we’ll get married when we are ready,” Roehl continued. “We have every intention of staying together, but it is just because you are a same sex couple that you have to [be married], but if you are a heterosexual couple you don’t have to. You should do what you feel is right for your family. The fact [is] that he is biologically Chrissy’s. She’s the mother through DNA and I am the mother through birth and we are absolutely both his mother. That’s why it’s harder, too. We are not just a couple where I birthed him with my DNA and she is just my partner, she is actually related to this child. The fact that they wouldn’t let her be on the birth certificate is just crazy to us because he is of her own DNA.”
LaBrecque said it was nearly impossible to find direction from anyone when they started going to the courts when Camden was only a few days old.
“It seemed like nobody knew or had been put in this situation before to have any solid answer for us,” LaBrecque said. “People were even sending us to go for me to adopt him, but when we went down to the adoption agency, they said it couldn’t be a second parent adoption, again, because we were unmarried, and we are not in a domestic partnership and that I would have to go through an independent adoption. They said that could take up to two years and then cost thousands of dollars.”
LaBrecque said she has no intention of adopting her own son. They only want to both be allowed on the birth certificate. She said this is something they are both in agreement on but that it is unfair that they have to go through another expensive process through the court to make this happen.
“Petitioning the courts seems like our only option at this point unless we get married to file the paperwork for parentage,” LaBrecque said. “We have to show up [before a judge], there are the filing fees that are $500 or so, and other expenses.”
LaBrecque works for NBC 7, who interviewed Family Law Attorney Leigh Kretzschmar, who practices out of Bankers Hill. Kretzschmar told NBC 7 that this is one area of law “that has not evolved as quickly as others [laws] with respect to unmarried unregistered same-gender couples.”
Although Kaiser Permanente, where Camden was born, followed current law, Kretzschmar said it is the law that is the problem. She added that this is unfair because heterosexual parents can establish paternity in the hospital after the baby is born, but unmarried, same-sex couples do not have that option.
“Same gender couples are forced to get a court order,” Kretzschmar told NBC 7. “They’re forced to go through an expensive process. It can easily be a $3,000 to $5,000 extra step that they have to undergo, whereas opposite gender couples don’t have to do that.”
LaBrecque and Roehl both believe this current law is discriminatory. Governor Jerry Brown signed state law AB-2684 Parent and child relationship on Sept. 28, 2018 (bit.ly/2F42U3V), which will allow unmarried gay and lesbian couples to be listed on their child’s birth certificate without going to court. However, this new law goes into effect in 2020 so it is not helping this couple in their problematic journey.
LaBrecque said their experience with the court has been nothing short of confusing and arduous, but going before a judge to have paternity declared is what is necessary for them at this point. She was told that this process could take four months or more before they could stand before a judge to hear their case.
Roehl said that the entire scenario has been nothing but frustrating.
“When we talked to anyone in the offices nobody gave us a straight forward answer that it was a California law, and nobody knew that,” Roehl said. “They kept saying the hospital should have had you sign this form, so we kept thinking the hospital didn’t give us the right form. Nobody ever told us it was California law. We weren’t even sure if it was a Kaiser thing, a hospital policy or if it was California law. Nobody could explain to us why she couldn’t be on the birth certificate. They never said it was because we were unmarried. So it left us in the dark, not sure where to go or who to talk to about how to rectify this in the easiest way.”
—Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Editor’s note: Mari Payton from NBC 7 published “San Diego Couple Fight to Both Be Named on Their Baby’s Birth Certificate” on Dec. 19, 2018. Excerpts of this article are derived from Payton’s interview with Family Law Attorney Leigh Kretzschmar. Read the entire story here: bit.ly/2TlvznS]
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.