Jerry Brown signs a California bill allowing a child to have more than two parents

10/04/2013 8:00 PM

10/05/2013 8:30 AM

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation allowing children to have more than two parents.

The announcement Friday comes a year after the Democratic governor vetoed a similar proposal, citing the potential for unintended consequences.

Senate Bill 274 authorizes a court to recognize more than two parents if endorsing fewer would be “detrimental” to the child. The bill that Brown vetoed last year would have provided judges the authority to identify multiple parents if doing so was “required in the best interest of the child.”

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, stressed that his measure applies only to families with more than two people who meet the state’s definition of a parent. It does not apply to stepparents, grandparents, girlfriends or caretakers. In an interview, Leno said he expected the law to be used sparingly, such as when a child could be at risk of unnecessarily entering the foster care system.

“The bill in its essence merely allows for greater judicial discretion,” Leno said. “It’s really about the child and in the best interest of the child.”

Last year’s version of the bill attracted attention after some critics argued it would make it possible for children to have six or even eight parents. Supporters countered that the proposal was intended when a child is at risk of having too few parents.

Leno’s measure grew out of an appellate court case involving a biological mother, her same-sex partner and a man who had an affair with the mother while she was temporarily separated from her female lover. In the 2011 case, the California Court of Appeal held that courts could not recognize more than two parents even if doing so would protect the child from harm.

Four other states and the District of Columbia have also recognized more than two parents.

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