Sperm Donors and Parental Rights: What’s the Deal?

Mr. Marotta speaking with the Topeka Capital-Journal in 2014

In January 2014, a Kansas court ruled that 47-year-old William Marotta must pay child support to a lesbian couple that he became a sperm donor for. A judge decided that Mr. Marotta is financially responsible for the child, a young girl now aged 7.

The lesbian couple found Mr. Marotta through Craigslist in 2009 and did not use a doctor in the process, instead they signed a contract with Mr. Marotta stating that he would not be held financially responsible for the child. But then in December 2010, the couple split and almost two years later, in October 2012, the Kansas Department for Families and Children filed a child support claim against Mr. Marotta, along with the figure of $1,625.92 in outstanding child support fees.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi said: “A parent may not terminate parental rights by contract even when the parties have consented”.

But fear not, because in late 2016, the decision was overturned by the same judge who had made the original decision, stating that Mr. Marotta was indeed not the child’s legal father. Mattivi declared that both women were obligated to support their child, not Mr. Marotta. Judge Mattivi gave 10 reasons why Mr. Marotta will not be considered the child’s legal father, one such reason being that one of the women, Ms. Angela Bauer, had a relationship with the child that she wished to maintain, whereas Mr. Marotta has met the child twice in 7 years.

Mr. Marotta after his 2016 victory (photograph: CJ Online)

This would be deemed common sense to most: that a contract between two consenting parties is enough in the eyes of the law. After all, that’s how humans have conducted business since the early days of civilisation, through the use of contracts and other legal documents. Why should things be changing now?

But with all this being said, what kind of precedent does the original 2014 decision set in place? Many have interpreted that decision to mean that a man can only be a sperm donor if he goes through a doctor, which has never been the case before. In fact, it is somewhat common to see advertisements such as the one the couple put up, posted by both same-sex couples and heterosexual couples who are otherwise unable to conceive.

In this age of unfortunate double standards, it is hard to remain unbiased. Would the same standards be applied to women in a similar situation? That is to say if a woman was an egg donor to a gay couple, would she have to pay child support? Unfortunately, I doubt this would be the case, but with Judge Mattivi’s decision, one can only hope that there are more people out there in the legal profession who will still follow the law to the letter and not try to bend it to fit the current trending social agenda.