California, which pioneered such innovations in personal relationships as no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage, is about to consider another novel twist in defining the family. Last week, SB1476 (Mark Leno, D-San Francisco) passed the Senate and now awaits deliberation by the Assembly.
If the bill is passed and signed by the governor, a child in California could have more than two parents, legally. Leno sees this legislation as being necessary because of surrogacy arrangements, reproductive techniques that involve multiple individuals, and same-sex marriages.
Back in the days of Ozzie and Harriet or Ward and June Cleaver, things were simpler. Kids were born — theoretically and legally — to two biological parents. In the case of the death of a mother or father, the children would live with the surviving parent. If that parent remarried, the new spouse could become the second living parent. In the case of divorce, custody could be shared, or one parent might get custody but the non-custodial parent would still — legally — be the child’s second parent.
Of course, since historical times, a child could have just one surviving parent. In colonial America, this was more common than we imagine because of the dangerous nature of the times, the spread of contagious disease, and the pioneering spirit that often caused a father to set off to the wilderness to find his fortune, hoping to relocate his family...