SPRINGFIELD - Illinois family attorney Sharee Langenstein offered written testimony to the Senate Executive Committee on gay marriage legislation today. SB10 passed the Senate Exec. Committee in a 9 to 5 vote along party lines.
To the Senators of the Executive Committee:
Everyone who has testified to you regarding SB 10, the bill proposing to legalize same sex marriage, has done so from the viewpoint of an adult.
I come before you as a practicing family law attorney, certified Guardian Ad Litem (attorney for children) in the First Judicial Circuit, and mother of six, two of whom were adopted, to advocate on behalf of the children.
The law that would allow same sex marriage violates the rights of children, and for that reason you should oppose it.
This state has had a long history of advocating for the rights of children, particularly the right of children to know and have a relationship with their biological parents. We recently affirmed this right by opening up adoption records so that adoptees could have access to their original birth certificates, a law that affirms the fundamental right of each person to know who he is, and where he came from.
We further recognize this fundamental right through the Illinois Parentage Act, which establishes a legal presumption that children born to married couples are their biological offspring. The state thus recognizes parentage, rather than creating it. Recognizing natural parentage protects the rights of children to know and have a relationship with their biological parents.
The principle that biology is fundamental to parentage permeates every aspect of our laws, from the Putative Father Registry, which allows unmarried biological fathers to assert their parental rights, to a child’s right of inheritance from his or her natural parents. Changing the definition of marriage changes the definition of parenthood. Legal battles regarding custody and inheritance will dramatically multiply as a result of this law. What you propose to do will affect everything from birth certificates to financial aid applications.
Where natural parents are unwilling or unable to raise a child, we have formal legal proceedings in which a judge determines whether the state should allow biological parents to relinquish or forfeit their fundamental duty to raise the child. Separate legal proceedings then determine whether the relinquishment or forfeiture of parental rights is in the best interests of the child.
Same sex marriage places a legal barrier between children and their biological parents without ANY court hearing, and without any sort of determination as to what is in the best interests of the child.
The proposed law also diminishes fundamental parental rights. Under this law, a child born to two married women would legally be their child. The baby’s father would have no legal rights to parent a child that otherwise would, unquestionably, be his.
The public purpose of marriage has never been to unite two people who love each other. Churches have done that for centuries and, as we heard at the prior senate hearing on this subject, same sex couples are regularly united in religious marriage ceremonies; no couple is being denied the ability to enter into private marriage if they so choose.
Civil marriage, however, is different. The reason why civil marriage has been defined as one man and one woman has nothing to do with love, but it has everything to do with protecting children by legally connecting them to their biological parents.
No law can ever change the scientific fact that every child has one mother and one father. Civil marriage between one man and one woman is nothing more than recognition of reason, science, and the fundamental rights of children.
I implore you all to stand up for the children of this state and uphold the public purpose of marriage by upholding the longstanding definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.