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Youth
 
Quebec Couple Ecstatic Over Dual Mom Recognition
Two out of three government administrations on the ball with new rights

A Quebec lesbian couple who recently had a baby boy is ecstatic about both of them being recognized officially as the child's moms.

Julie, 35, and Rachel, 29, live in 'the outaouais' (western Quebec) and have been together as a couple for over seven years.  About three months ago Rachel gave birth to a baby boy.  Julie was concerned about whether she herself would be recognized legally as a parent.

Turns out that, in spite of a bit of difficulty and work, the concern wasn't warranted.

"[Rachel's] chin almost dropped to the floor when all the woman [from the federal family allowance department] had to say was "Ma'am, since you have two children together, is it all right that we label the cheque to one of you only, as we only send one cheque per family?" Julie said in an e-mail interview.

"Rachel gladly said 'Sure!'," continued Julie.  "We were ecstatic!"

The new mom, who works at Health Canada and will soon be a lawyer, explained that her partner Rachel had feared the woman at the other end of the phone would bear bad news, and had expected to hear "I'm sorry, the child can only have one mother ... blah, blah, blah."

But the effects of the new federal equality law for same sex couples, C-23, are showing.  As are those in Ontario and Quebec.

A "very nice woman" from the Quebec family allowance department informed Rachel that "the federal government had a new legislation against discrimination of sexual identity and, therefore, the Quebec government is following the example."

Actually, the new rights and obligations under Quebec's laws came into effect in June, 1999 and under Ontario's in October.  The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the spring of last year that treating same sex cohabiting relationships differently than their opposite sex common law counterparts' was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

But Julie and Rachel chose to be somewhat strategic, anyway, in ensuring Julie would also be granted legal recognition as the boy's mom.

Julie explained:  "I had, before the birth, asked the question of my chances of being recognized as his mother (to our doctor and the province of Quebec).  I had been quite discouraged by the answers."

Rachel, who is a member of a federal minister's office staff - a political assistant - urged her to act like the new lawyer she is.

We chose to give birth in Ontario because they knew very well how to administer their new legislation.
 
 
"As it turned out, I was right," continued Julie.  "What was difficult was to find the easiest way to go about it while not relying on the court honouring my right," she said.  "We then decided to give birth in Ontario and then simply transfer to Quebec."

The lawyer explained that she had been told by more than one clerk in the Quebec government that officials could "have played the 8-ball and made things more difficult for us to claim my parenthood."

Stated Julie, "I also want to add that it's one thing to create legislation, however, it is another thing to know how to administer it.  We chose to give birth in Ontario because they knew very well how to administer their new legislation.  Quebec is just now starting to get it all organized."

Hospital clerks had explained to the couple that the key to having Julie recognized was in the Ontario government registering her last name as well on the child's birth certificate.  The clerk was very helpful, added Julie.

That registration arrived about 2-weeks ago.  In the paperwork the women completed after the birth they insisted that the baby be registered under both family names and that Julie be acknowledged as his second mother.
 

And baby makes four

Julie and Rachel's family actually has four members now.  Julie's 12-year-old daughter from a previous relationship - before she came out - lives with them.  She calls Rachel "Mom" and uses her last name.

But the girl's father retains parental authority so Rachel has been unable to 'be there' in the sense of signing medical forms, school registrations, etc.  Julie's witnessing of the frustrations of this limitation motivated her to obtain legal status as parent of the new baby.

"I want to sign registrations, too!" exclaimed Julie.  "It's also about legal matters, ie. inheritance, and a sense of belonging," she continued.

"It is very important that the different administrations of this country know that I am responsible intellectually, financially, legally and emotionally towards this wonderful boy.  I especially do not want anyone, or any form of body, telling me that 'he's not your son, you are not recognized as his parent'."

Julie explained that although the most important thing for her in being a mother is not pieces of paper, the legal recognition has had a profound effect.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to have it all ... two wonderful, healthy children and a strong soulmate.
 
 
"From the second our son was born I considered him 'my son' with all the implications," she stated.  "Before ... I felt that we were a family, but had to hide it as if we were an illegal family ... [a] very powerful aura.  For example, it was as if I was going to receive a ticket for doing or living an illegal situation.  But now, I have recognized legal rights."

Rachel will be called 'maman' and her, 'mami,' Julie said.  "[The baby] does not suffer from nipple confusion but from mother confusion!" she jokes.

The two women have received visible support from the people in their lives.  Julie's co-workers celebrated her partner's giving birth with a beautiful gift, and Rachel's brother's family sent a bouquet of flowers after being informed that the four were an 'official' family.

The question of the child's possible baptism is coming up, though, for the Roman Catholic women.

Described Julie of the situation, "Some [family] members still do not understand all the fuss about my recognition as parent for the baptism.  I tell those people that if I am not recognized by the Church as our son's mother as well, then we do not want our son to join a Church that does not want our entire family or accept us for who we really are."

The happy partner and new mom was asked to comment on her family's situation and if she had any words for other Canadian women.

"We consider ourselves very fortunate to have it all ... two wonderful, healthy children and a strong soulmate.

"A child is the most wonderful addition to ANY family.  It changes your whole perspective on the world.  We truly believe that no matter what your marital status or gender is, if you want a child and have all the love in the world to give, then nothing, absolutely nothing, should stop you from having one.

"New laws will never change who we are or what we want, however, they certainly do make it easier!"