Sen. Lisa Brown discusses an amendment with Sen. Mark Schoesler during debate on the domestic partnership surrogacy bill.
OLYMPIA – A proposal to make clear who has legal custody for a children in a domestic partnership cleared a sharply divided Senate Tuesday, but a provision to allow parents to pay a surrogate mother did not.
Supporters said state law needs to recognize a greater variety of family structures exist now than a generation ago.
“Ozzie and Harriet don’t live here any more,” Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said. “That’s a make-believe world.”
Opponents said domestic partners could go to court and use existing laws to adopt children if they aren’t the biological parent. “If there is a relationship involved, let those persons solve it in a legal way,” Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said.
n its current form, HB 1267 says a person in a domestic partnership is presumed to be the parent of a child born to his or her partner. Both partners are presumed to be parents if one of them conceives a child with a surrogate mother. An adult who is present from birth through age 2 in the same home, and has “openly held out the child as his or her own” is also presumed to be the parent.
“There’s nothing magic about zero to age 2…that’s not the only thing that makes you a father,” Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, argued.
Maybe not magical, but anyone who’s been through that period with a child deserves consideration, countered Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. “If you’re not a biological parent, you’re certainly an emotional parent.”
An earlier version of the bill allowed couples seeking a surrogate to pay the surrogate mother, something currently illegal in Washington but legal in other states like Oregon and California. The amended version that passed the Senate Tuesday, however, stripped out that provision.
“It’s illegal to sell organs,” Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam. Paying surrogate mothers could lead to problems with that system just as paying for sex leads to prostitution, he said.
The bill does have some protections for surrogate mothers. They most be at least 21, had a previous pregnancy and undergo a mental health review.
But the issue of paying for surrogacy will come back, Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, said because of the growing number of relationships that make up the modern family.
“This is the best we’re able to do” this year, Pridemore said.
After more than an hour of debate, HB 1267 passed on a 27-21 vote and was sent back to the House, which must agree to the amendments approved Tuesday.