A judge in Miami-Dade County, Florida, has decided that a gay man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple has the right to be on the birth certificate of their 23-month-old daughter.
Massimiliano “Massimo” Gerina was asked to provide sperm by Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo, who married in Connecticut. After a successful conception the two women sent a contract to Mr Gerina seven months into the pregnancy asking him to give up parenting rights, but he decided not to sign.
Florida law states that artificial insemination sperm donors have no legal rights as parents, but Mr Gerina was able to file a paternity suit after the child, Emma, was born.
“My papers said I would have parental rights, a visitation schedule,” Mr Gerina said. “They hated it. They said this wasn’t what they wanted. I said, ‘Now that you’re already pregnant, you should have thought about that before.’
Despite opposing him in court for nearly two years the women did want him to be involved, says the couple’s attorney, Kenneth Kaplan: “As the child gets older, the child will want to know who her father is. They want to be an honest family and they’re not going to keep secrets from the child. He loves the child. That’s a beautiful thing. The more people who can love your child, the better it is.”
Mr Gerina said of his desire to be a father to Emma: “It’s nature — the same reason a woman wants to be a mother.”
A trial was set for 31 January, but the three managed to settle their dispute out of court a week beforehand.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Antonio Marin approved the settlement. Mrs Italiano, who gave birth to Emma, has sole parental responsibility; Mrs Filippazzo has legally adopted Emma; Mr Gerina is recognised as her father and has visiting rights.
“We’re creating entirely new concepts of families. If you have two women seeking to be listed as Parent One and Parent Two, that does not exclude listing a man as father,” said Mr Gerina’s lawyer Karyn J. Begin.
“People have to understand, the case is really a second-parent adoption, meaning that there are not three equal parents. There are three involved but there are two people who have sole parental responsibility,” said Mr Kaplan. “Under Florida law, they make all the decisions for the child. This is an adoption by two women, with him receiving certain rights.”
Earlier this month, it emerged that the Justice Ministry of the Netherlands is set to commission a report on the possibility of legally recognising families with three or more parents, and has noted the protective values of such a law for LGBT families.