Kansas law governing artificial insemination is outdated and fails to recognize modern concepts of family, according to the attorney for a Topeka man being pursued to pay child support for a girl born to a lesbian couple as the result of his sperm donation.
Kansas law says a sperm donor is not the father of a child if a doctor handles the artificial insemination. But the law does not specifically address the donor's rights and obligations when no doctor was involved, as was the case in 2009 when William Marotta donated sperm to Jennifer Schreiner and then-partner Angela Bauer, and Schreiner became pregnant.
Lawyer Ben Swinnen argued Thursday that Marotta, 46, can't be declared the father of the now 3-year-old child, because the donor and moms had a written agreement that he had no parental rights or responsibilities. Swinnen also noted that nine states have laws saying a sperm or egg donor is not the parent of a child conceived through artificial reproduction.
"The state of Kansas is lagging behind in following the trend," he said. "It is a freeze, in my opinion, on artificial insemination and alternative family settings."
Swinnen also said that in pursuing the case against Marotta, the state is reinforcing the traditional view of a family as a married man and woman with children.
"Anything else is no good," he said. State officials have said the law aims to ensure that a biological father helps support a child.
The Associated Press left a phone message Thursday seeking comment at a number listed as Schreiner's in public records. Listings for Bauer were incorrect or were out of service.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families sued Marotta in October to force him to pay child support and reimburse the state for more than $6,000 in benefits that Schreiner obtained for the child after she split with Bauer in 2010. Marotta is trying to get the case dismissed, and a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court.
In a court filing Wednesday evening, the department said at least 10 other states require a doctor's involvement in artificial insemination for a sperm donor to be protected from having to pay child support, including California, Illinois and Missouri.
"The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination of a woman other than the donor's wife is treated in law as if he were not the birth father of a child thereby conceived, unless agreed to in writing by the donor and the woman," according to the Kansas Parentage Act of 1994.
Swinnen said Kansas' position is "short-sighted" and based on legal ideas dating from the early 1970s.
State officials have said that when a single mother seeks benefits for a child - as Schreiner did last year - the Department for Children and Families is legally obligated to find the biological father and to attempt to require him to pay child support, to lessen the potential cost to taxpayers.
In 2002, a nonpartisan group that periodically reviews laws and makes non-binding recommendations to state governments proposed amendments to the Kansas parentage law. The Chicago-based National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws suggested making the statute specifically state that "a donor is not a parent of a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction" and that no donor can be sued to support the resulting child.
While the proposed wording was not adopted in Kansas, the group's website says it has been enacted in Alabama, Delaware, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.