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Lesbian couple have sperm donor removed from birth certificate

22 August 2011

By Oliver Timmis

Appeared in BioNews 621

An Australian court has ruled that a lesbian couple can have the name of the sperm donor removed from their child's birth certificate.

The child was conceived using one of the women's eggs, and donated sperm, in 2001. Since then, the couple have separated. The case arose from the desire of both women to be named as legal parents on the birth certificate.

The donor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, explained: 'With the current [Australian] law, you can only have two legal parents'. This meant that for both women to be named on the birth certificate, the donor's name had to be removed.

Expressing sympathy for the donor, who had maintained contact with the child, Judge Stephen Walmsley explained that Australian law gives the birth mother's former partner the status of legal parent. Regardless of the donor's relationship with his daughter, there was no formal agreement for his name to be listed as her legal father.

According to the BBC, this is the first time a name has been forcibly removed from a birth certificate in Australia. The case has led to suggestions from both Judge Walmsley and the donor that the law should be rethought to allow for three parents to be listed on a birth certificate. Judge Walmsey said, 'the case highlights the inadequacy of laws dealing with multi-parent families'.

Changes to laws governing the use of names on a birth certificate have a precedent. In 2007, a Canadian court allowed the addition of a third name onto a five-year old boy's birth certificate to allow for the mother's new partner to have legal status as parent.

However, while the donor father in this case is said to be devastated at the decision of the New South Wales court, Janet Loughman, principal solicitor of Women's Legal Services in New South Wales, said 'not being listed on the birth certificate is not a barrier to known sperm donors having a relationship with a child'.

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