A Kansas man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple three years ago is fighting the state’s demand that he pay child support.
The two women raising the 3-year-old girl say they support the man, who responded to an ad they posted on the Craigslist website in 2009, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
The issue of child support arose when the two women broke up, and the couple applied for state services. Workers at the Kansas Department for Children and Families demanded the donor’s name and then filed a child-support claim against him, the newspaper said.
Angela Bauer, one of the mothers, told the Capital-Journal that she and her former partner, Jennifer Schreiner, support the donor, William Marotta, “in whatever action he wants to go forward with” to fight the state's demand.
"This was a wonderful opportunity with a guy with an admirable, giving character who wanted nothing more than to help us have a child," the newspaper quoted Bauer, 40, as saying. "I feel like the state of Kansas has made a mess out of the situation."
When Bauer and Schreiner, the 34-year-old birth mother, reached a deal with Marotta that did not include any payment for his sperm donation, he signed a written agreement that relinquished all parental rights and held him harmless “for any child support payments demanded of him by any other person or entity, public or private ... regardless of the circumstances or said demand,” it said.
The state argued in court papers that because the insemination wasn’t performed by a licensed physician, the contract was null and void.
When the two women split in 2010, they had eight children, including some they adopted, whom they now co-parent.
Marotta, a 43-year-old mechanic, was dragged into the dispute when the couple filed for state assistance. The state insisted that they reveal the donor’s identity, saying that if they refused to do so, their daughter would no longer be eligible for health care coverage. The women reluctantly complied, the Capital-Journal reported.
The girl’s birth certificate does not include her biological father’s name, and the Capital-Journal said that he had no contact with the girl, other than receiving occasional email updates from Bauer. Both women adopted the girl, although they had to file for adoption separately because the state does not recognize same-sex unions, the newspaper said. This means that the state also cannot collect child support from same-sex parents.
"More and more gays and lesbians are adopting and reproducing, and this, to me, is a step backward," said Bauer, who formerly supported the family financially but is no longer able to work due to a "serious illness." "I think a lot of progressive movement is happening currently in the world as far as gays and lesbians go. Maybe this is Kansas' stand against some of that."
The Capital-Journal could not reach Marotta for comment and the Kansas Department for Children and Families declined to discuss the case, citing privacy laws.
This isn’t the first time states have demanded child support from sperm donors. But in most of those cases, the sperm donor was known to the birth family – usually a man who was friendly with a lesbian couple and who agreed to help them out.
Court rulings vary
Sperm donors who donate through a sperm bank are typically protected by state parenting shield laws. But in less straight-forward cases, courts have differed on whether the men should pay up.
A Massachusetts court ruled this year that a Nigerian immigrant had to pay child support for twins conceived through artificial insemination a year after he and his wife had separated, the Patriot Ledger reported.
And In Vermont, a man who donated sperm to a female friend was required to pay child support because he maintained a relationship with the children.
Explained one of the mothers to The Associated Press in 2007: "Part of the decision came down because he was so involved with them. It wasn't that he went to the (sperm) bank and that was it. They called him Papa."
In New York, a married doctor agreed to donate sperm to a young resident and her partner in the late 1980s, only to be asked 18 years later for child support, the New York Post reported.
His undoing was sending money and cards to the child, which he would sign, “Dad” or “Daddy.” The biological father’s name was also on the birth certificate.
But in Washington state, the Court of Appeals ruled in 2004 that a donor can’t be required to pay child support unless he and the mother have signed an explicit contract.
And in Texas, an appeals court ruled in favor of a former policeman who donated sperm to a woman he had been formerly connected with. He had paid thousands of dollars in child support for twins until the court ruled in his favor.
When the lawsuit was filed in 2008, the man told McClatchy: "I was totally blown away. I was already married and had moved on with my life."
NBC's Isolde Raftery and The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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