If Maryland voters affirm the law, lawyers say raising children will become easier for same-sex couples who marry.
Both of the women in a lesbian marriage would become presumed parents if one gives birth to a child.
Same-sex couples would also have greater rights to act as legal guardians. And if gay couples break up, both may be able to retain legal rights to help raise a child. They would still need to adopt to ensure their parental rights when traveling to states where gay marriage isn’t recognized as legal.
But instead of dwelling on such details, proponents of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law have favored a campaign focusing on the broad themes of dignity, respect and equality. To that end, some have played down O’Malley’s focus on the rights of children.
While O’Malley’s message is important, said Marylanders for Marriage Equality spokesman Kevin Nix, “marriage is about much more than visitation rights and health benefits — it is about values.”
Still, it’s a reason cited by two Republican state lawmakers who voted for same-sex marriage in the spring, and O’Malley maintains that it is a persuasive argument.
“Children are the great convening place for people of good will when making these tough decisions,” he said.
Laying the legal groundwork
As with most births to gay couples in Maryland, Virginia and 32 other states where parental rights remain vague, Dabney, 45, and Rice, 41, had begun laying the legal groundwork for adoption even before the boys were embryos.
Rice, who manages a homeless shelter in the District, carefully documented their Shady Grove fertility clinic’s use of sperm from an anonymous donor so that no one could later claim fatherhood.
The two also made the decision to trek to Baltimore from their home in Cheverly to have their case heard in the state’s only jurisdiction that has declared itself friendly to gay adoptions.
Few have trusted courtrooms elsewhere in the state since a judge in Montgomery wrote in a 2000 opinion that he believed it was unclear under Maryland law whether he had the authority to approve an adoption to a same-sex couple.
The two even made a calculation that Rice should be the one to be impregnated in part because her family was more supportive of their relationship. Should tragedy strike, they believed that Rice’s mom would support Dabney’s quest for custody of the children.
Before Rice was due, the two also prepared documents giving Dabney medical power of attorney and temporary guardianship over the infants should anything happen to her during labor.
On the morning of July 18, 2011, Henry, who has turned out to be the rambunctious one, came out first, at 11:22 a.m. Griffin, the cuddler, three minutes later.