Kansas Tries To Get Child Support From Sperm Donor Because Lesbians Aren’t Real Parents

Just when you thought the New Year was off to a good start, here’s a sad tale from the Midwest: A state in America has once again tried to fuck things up for a same-sex couple! But there’s a twist: this time, Kansas is also fucking things up for a straight cisgender white male! How dare you, Kansas!

Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauervia {a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/kansas-sperm-donor-pay-child-support/story?id=18102778#.UOScZ4njk5Q">ABC News

Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer
via {ABC News}

Here’s what happened. A lesbian couple put up a Craigslist ad requesting a sperm donor in 2009. William Marotta replied to the ad. The lesbian couple and Marotta made a contract that ensured Marotta would give up all parental and financial responsibilities. The lesbian couple gave birth to the daughter, conceived from Marotta’s sperm. This is where it gets tricky. Kansas state law wouldn’t let both mothers have their names on the birth certificates. Only the biological mother, Jennifer Schreiner, is listed on the birth certificate. Schreiner and her partner, Angela Bauer, have eight children together. Schreiner has had to file as a single parent for adoptions, because although Kansas state law does not explicitly prohibit joint adoption for same-sex couples, there have been no cases of joint adoption to date.

Schreiner and Bauer parted ways in 2010. Bauer, who has been supporting Schreiner and their children, was recently diagnosed with a disabling illness and can no longer work. The couple applied for state services, namely health benefits for their children. That’s when the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) decided that two women couldn’t make a full family unit, and therefore couldn’t figure out a workable support agreement either. Because Schreiner was the sole parent for their child under Kansas law, the state decided not to collect child support from Bauer and instead request the name of their sperm donor.

Without the donor’s name, the state refused to provide health benefits to Schreiner and Bauer’s now three-year-old daughter. The state accused Schreiner of “withholding information” if she did not give them Marotta’s name. Bauer described conversations with the DCF as threatening and said, “One gentleman told me he wasn’t going to discuss anything with me because I’m not the parent or legal guardian… Therefore, I had no existence.”

Marotta told the Topeka Capital-Journal,

“It’s my understanding that (Bauer) told the department of child services right off the bat, ‘I will be financially responsible for this’ and they in essence told her, ‘No, get lost. You’re not part of this.’ And when somebody’s willing to say ‘Hold it a minute, I’m the one who’s responsible for this’ and another agency says ‘No, get lost,’ whether it’s bureaucratic politics or something more than that — it’s a Republican state, yeah, I think it’s politics.”

The state welfare agency has now requested Marotta to pay child support for a child who is nothing more than biologically his. But what about the contract they signed? The state alleges the contract is null and void because the artificial insemination was not performed by a licensed physician. Under Kansas statute 23-2208(f), Schreiner had to have a licensed physician perform the artificial insemination. If you turn same-sex parents having babies into a medical procedure and not, you know, a very intimate act between two persons with the intention of having a family together, it’s way easier to pinpoint the parental rights, correct? Is that how this works?

William Marottavia {Topeka Capital-Journal

William Marotta
via {Topeka Capital-Journal}

The Kansas DCF spokesperson Angela de Rocha said the department is proceeding with the case only in the way that state law requires,

Speaking generally, all individuals who apply for taxpayer-funded benefits through DCF are asked to cooperate with child support enforcement efforts. If a sperm donor makes his ‘contribution’ through a licensed physician and a child is conceived, the donor is held harmless under state statue. In cases where the parties do not go through a physician or a clinic, there remains the question of who actually is the father of a child or children. DCF is required by statute to establish paternity and then pursue child support from the noncustodial parent.

The Kansas state department would rather not pay for health benefits for a three-year-old girl and is instead making a political statement by refusing to recognize Bauer as a legal parent of her own children. If they did acknowledge Bauer as the legal parent of her eight children, it would set a precedent for same-sex custody in Kansas and would piss off a lot of conservatives who refuse to recognize marriage equality.

This situation is just another infuriating example of exactly why America needs to make federal laws that include same-sex parents, so that rights are equal across the board and gaps in the system can’t be exploited. Marotta is a victim here because he did a good deed, giving a lesbian couple the chance to have a child together. Schreiner and Bauer are also victims because the Kansas DCF is telling them that they aren’t really this child’s (and their other childrens’) parents. Despite the fact that Schreiner and Bauer seem to be genuinely working together to try to make sure their children are supported, which is something many couples, both gay and straight, can’t say, they are being actively thwarted by the department that should be helping them. Kansas is assuming that naturally, only a male sperm cell and a female ovum ensure parentage, and in doing so, they’re hurting their parents, Marotta, and most importantly, the children.

Hopefully, Marotta will have the case against him dismissed. Schreiner and Bauer are supporting him, disgusted by the way the state is handling the case. Bauer said, “This was a wonderful opportunity with a guy with an admirable, giving character who wanted nothing more than to help us have a child… I feel like the state of Kansas has made a mess out of the situation.”

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Hansen is the DIY & Food Editor of Autostraddle.com and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Colorado State University in her free time.

Hansen has written 184 articles for us.

14 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    This is horrible. And all over the news here in KC (which I see as a good sign?).

    However, my best friends have adopted 2 kids in 2 separate joint adoptions in Kansas so it must be judge dependent or something and has certainly happened.

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    What infuriates me even more is the certain knowledge that these bureaucrats are the kind of people who will talk endlessly about needing to protect the unborn child, but don’t give a damn about healthcare for a three year old.

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    This is super fucked up and upsetting AND the whole social support system is very problematic in the way it treats women in general, pretty much telling them that they need to be supported by a man.

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    William Marotta should sue the couple for breach of contract. The agreement called for Bauer and Schreiner to hold Marotta harmless “for any child support payments demanded of him by any other person or entity, public or private, including any district attorney’s office or other state or county agency, regardless of the circumstances or said demand.”

    Therefore, because Bauer, the mother, is seeking financial help from the state knowing that the state would demand child support payments and demand Morotta be financially responsible, Bauer is in breach of her contract/ agreement with Marotta. Marotta should sue for all his attorney’s fees and court costs. And the court should grant him such. That would stop people from filing frivolous lawsuits.

    But you have to remember, the Judges and the attorney’s make their living off of these frivolous lawsuits. Without these kinds of lawsuits the Judges and attorney’s would not have a job… Just saying. :)

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      I’m sorry, but did we read the same article here?

      First: The couple isn’t to blame. They are supporting him in his case against the state.

      Second: Even if they were at odds, the state has already deemed that contract null and void, so I’m not sure they can be in breach of contract if there is no valid contract.

      Third: Why in the name of Lesbian Jesus would he turn in them? They aren’t at fault here. Bauer is trying to claim financial responsibility but us being dismissed by the state as not having any legal involvement. He said himself that this is a case of politics in a Republican state.

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    I read some of the linked articles, but I’m still confused. I feel bad for them, but if they used a lawyer to establish the agreement that he was not responsible for the child, then the lawyer could have told them this had to be done by a physician. Because, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they then also leave themselves open to him actually being able to demand access/custodial rights to the girl (since the state doesn’t recognize their signed agreement and is defining him as responsible for the child)? I agree with Hansen that the state needs a different definition of conceiving a child, but don’t people need to be aware of current laws and cover their bases? I’m not blaming them, because how could they have predicted all this. But isn’t the bottom line that their contract or agreement was never actually legal?

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      I agree. They should have researched the current laws before ever considering a child let alone eight. Conservative states won’t provide care for a child when the care can be provided elsewhere. Applying for state health insurance seems unwise. I wouldn’t be surprised if the state ended up taking custody.

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