California lawmakers are preparing to "modernize" the family. A new bill, passed by the state assembly a few weeks ago, allows gay fathers and mothers to choose whether they want to identify themselves as "father," "mother," or just "parent" on a child's birth certificate. The bill is currently on its way to the state Senate.
"The definition of a family needs to be more flexible, and same-sex parents should not be discriminated against when filling out a birth certificate," Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat and the bill's sponsor, said in a press release.
But this move towards "flexibility" likely will mean more confusion and instability, said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute and an attorney who defends parental rights and religious liberties.
"It creates greater confusion with regards to the identity to a mother and a father and the role that they play," he said. "Studies show that children need stability and an action of men recording themselves mothers or two mothers or women recording themselves as a father or two fathers creates confusion as to what is a mother what is a father."
While it is tempting for the gay-rights lobby to want to redefine those roles, he said, it will "prove, undoubtedly, to be a huge disservice to the healthy development of children."
Gomez and other supporters of the bill argue that it will allow homosexual parents to identify themselves "accurately" on the child's documents.
Dacus disagrees, saying that definition turns accuracy "on its head."
"The love of a mother is distinctly different than the love of a father, and the role that they play in the development of a child," he said. "This legislation specifically allows individuals to redefine who they are with regards to their gender and their relationship to the child."
The legislation also puts no limit on how many parents children can have on their birth certificates, making California what Dacus calls a "polygaparenthood" state: "That alone is very confusing and will create more conflict and discourse in family courts."
It could prove especially problematic when it comes to issues of support and expectations following a breakup, already a complex issue.
Dacus said the bill is the first of its kind and, like other pro-gay laws in California, is likely to begin permeating into other states beginning with those that have recognized same-sex marriage.