Really, Kansas? Sperm donors aren’t fathers

You may have heard about this wacky case in Kansas where the state is suing a sperm donor for child support. William Marotta responded to an ad on Craigslist in which a lesbian couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, sought a sperm donor so that they could experience the joy of “pregnancy and birth together.” Marotta agreed, the parties signed a contract terminating his parental rights and relieving him of any financial obligations toward the child, who is now three years old.


Photos from Getty

This is where things get weird. OK, if I am being honest, everything about this case is wacky, but we’ll try not to get bogged down in the weirdness. Bauer and Schreiner broke up in 2010 but have continued to co-parent their eight kids. Until recently Bauer provided financial support while Schreiner stayed at home with their kids. When Bauer became medically unable to work, Schreiner, who is the sole legal parent to all eight kids (Kansas doesn’t allow two women to adopt), applied for Medicaid for the three year old.

When she applied, the state required her to disclose who the “father” was, and Schreiner informed them that Marotta was the sperm donor. The state then turned around and sued Marotta in a paternity suit for child support. What? But didn’t he terminate his parental rights? Well he sure thought he did but no, apparently since the ladies didn’t go to a doctor for their insemination his rights weren’t properly terminated. Thank you Kansas for determining the precise manner in which a woman must be inseminated. Do you also require the missionary position?

Oh brother. Now, many of the articles on this story tend to focus on the chilling effect this type of case might have on sperm donors in the future. This is a worry except for the fact that many sperm donors are college guys who think getting paid a couple hundred bucks to jerk off is a great way to make beer money. Trust me, we read a lot of profiles before we picked a winner. Some sperm donors will always be willing to participate. But yes, the worry is there that if this case continues as woman could, under Kansas law, buy internet sperm, inseminate herself and bango! sue Mister Anonymous for child support.

While many of the articles lament Mr. Marotta’s plight, which I am not ignoring, because he is getting a heck of a raw deal for doing a good deed with his seed, the lesbians are completely shunted to the background.

Excuse me for the next wonky interlude. Back when I was in law school my constitutional law professor taught a case in which a man who was having an affair with a married lady and then sued her to be declared the father of the woman’s child. The court shut his ass down because there was a state law in place that made it an un-rebuttable presumption that any child born into a marriage was the child of both parties. It didn’t care whether the husband lost his member in a boating accident, was impotent, or hadn’t had sex with his wife in 42 years. You’re married, the kid is yours and no interloper, regardless of how virile or how many DNA test she had proving his actual paternity, could get in the middle. Families are so important to the state that they win automatically, no matter the final score.

What does that have to do with anything? Bauer and Schreiner were never married. Hell, Bauer isn’t even the legal parent of any of the kids because while the state of Kansas is thrilled that these women want to care for these kids they won’t actually allow two women to legally adopt them. These women, if married, might have been able to avail themselves of the law that presumes any child born into the union is a child of both parties. Yes, I realize that would be a fiction because biology doesn’t work that way, but the state is happy to ignore that fact for an impotent man or a man who hasn’t had sex with his wife in years.

But this is precisely why marriage and adoption matter. If both Bauer and Schreiner were allowed to have their names on the birth certificate the state has no reason to ask about a father. The child would legally have two parents already identified. Do you think the state is going after Marotta if there are already two names on that kid’s birth certificate? I don’t think so. By denying Bauer as a parent and seeking support from Marotta the state is relegating this family to second class status. This is a family that was good enough for the state when it had children that needed foster homes, or adoptive homes but now requires a man to be complete.

This shit scares the crap out of me. My wife and I each gave birth to one of our kids using sperm from a sperm bank. My wife, intrepid med student that she was at the time, did my insemination at home. A doctor did hers because no lawyer has any business attempting such a feat and the thought reduced me to whining “I don’t wanna.” Under this absurd set of circumstances, the state could sue our anonymous sperm donor for child support for Kid A but not Kid B? That’s ludicrous and completely denies the existence of our family.

When we decided to create a family we needed the help of a sperm donor and we are forever grateful to him, whoever he may be. He gave us a gift that is priceless, he gave us our kids. But that doesn’t make him their father and it doesn’t make our kids his responsibility. We are their family, we care for them, feed them, clothe them, wipe their noses, wipe their butts for that matter, and we are the ones who are there when they skin their knees, wake up with a nightmare, or just need love. We would no more seek child support from our donor than these women would from Marotta. It is truly terrifying to think that the state might step in and try to shoehorn a man into our family simply because he donated sperm.

Our family is complete without a “father” and so is the family in this case. We don’t need a man to pay our bills, and frankly, neither do the women in this case. Asking the state to provide a benefit to your child for which she qualifies should not end in this insane game of Who’s Your Daddy? Beyond the disrespect to two mom families, it smacks of a state trying to weasel out of paying for medical care for a child who needs it. Conservatives are so much more interested in protecting the rights of a fetus than they are in protecting a kid once she is born, aren’t they?

Raising kids is scary enough without having to worry that the state you live in is suddenly going to decide to butt in and screw everything up. Family values is an easy go-to slogan at campaign time but in Kansas, at least, it is a bunch of bullshit.

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