STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Parentage Act sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata was signed into law today, repealing archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replacing it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

The legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa, 2020-S 2136Baa) repeals previous state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

Until now, Rhode Island’s parentage laws had not been updated in over 40 years.

“Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect and be responsible for their children. These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society. The legislation is also supremely beneficial to the children who are born through these processes because it allows them to officially have two loving and supportive parents from the moment they are born. This bill is specifically about one thing - equality and fairness, especially for the loving parents and their children in this state,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), “The Judiciary Committee heard heart-wrenching testimony about the ways in which our outdated laws are impacting parents and children. As our laws stand right now, a couple who have a child via a sperm donor may have to hire a lawyer or advertise to determine parentage in order to terminate the parental rights of an anonymous sperm donor. Parents may be unable to make medical decisions for their child when they’re incapacitated due to complications. This is simply unfair. Rhode Island law needs to be updated so that the state no longer puts up unnecessary obstacles to loving parents simply because they are not heterosexual or have not conceived through traditional reproduction methods.”

Governor Raimondo signed the bill standing by the sponsors and advocates in a ceremony outside the State House today.

“Love is love — it’s as simple as that,” said Governor Raimondo. “No parent should have to jump through hoops to receive legal recognition because of their sexual orientation or the circumstances of their child's birth. The Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act enshrines into law our belief in the validity of all paths to parenthood.”

The bill provides for the following paths to legal parentage in Rhode Island: birth, adoption, acknowledgement, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage and presumptions. It also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.

“The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent. We thank the members of the House and Senate, including all of the bill’s sponsors, for recognizing that what’s best for Rhode Island and best for families is to ensure that all parents have the ability to protect their children through a secure legal relationship as soon after birth as possible,” said Wendy Becker, advocate and organizer with Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality and LGBTQ Action RI.

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