Jason Patric, an actor best known for his role in 'The Lost Boys', has appeared before California lawmakers in support of a bill that would allow sperm donors to apply for parental rights if they can demonstrate an involvement in the child's life.
Patric conceived a child with his ex-girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber, using IVF. Since separating, Schreiber and Patric have been involved in a dispute over the custody of their biological son, now three years old.
In February 2013, a judge ruled against Patric, finding that he was a sperm donor and not a 'parent', for the purposes of the relevant law, and denied him visitation rights. The judge assessed that, as a sperm donor, he had no standing to sue and therefore evidence relating to the merits of the case could not be brought.
Patric, who said he was speaking on behalf of other men in similar situations, contested that although he was not named on the child's birth certificate, he had been involved in the child's life until Schreiber had decided to cut contact.
'We raised these children, we loved these children, but when these relationships fell apart we were shockingly hit with briefs that deemed us "sperm donors": a word that was never, ever mentioned in my house', Patric said.
Schreiber told Today on NBC, however, that Patric had 'never changed a single diaper'. The case is currently being appealed.
Since the initial ruling, California state senator Jerry Hill has introduced a bill, SB115, to allow men who have provided sperm for IVF treatment to sue for parental rights if they are able to demonstrate an involvement in the child's life. The bill met no opposition in the senate but has recently been the subject of lobbying from various interested parties.
In an oral testimony, Patric told the Assembly Judiciary Committee, who ultimately voted five to two to hold the bill for further discussion, that he had gone to 'great lengths', including surgery, to become a father. He has also claimed that he donated sperm out of affection for Schreiber. Although the couple had not signed a parental agreement, Patric told the committee that he is in possession of an 'intended parent' agreement. He claims that the current law prevented him from bringing this document as evidence to the initial hearing.
'It's not just my loss of that little boy in my lap, it's him thinking about - with his furrowed little brow - wondering what happened to his dad 25 weeks ago', Patric said. 'I don't know what the threshold here is for how many children have to be in this situation... to make this an urgent clause'.
Supporters of the bill include Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which say the bill strikes the right balance by requiring a donor seeking parental rights to have lived with the child.
However, groups such as National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, and the Academy of California Adoption Lawyers say the measure is too broad and could unintentionally affect the rights of single mothers or same-sex couples who use sperm donors.
Hill commented after the hearing that he will continue to work with various parties to reach agreement on the legislation. He asked the Committee to reconsider an amended version of the bill before this year's session concludes.
Patric expressed frustration with the Committee's decision to hold the bill. He told the Associated Press that the Committee 'doesn't care about children in the middle of something and fixing it'.