Three-parents decision stands

But Children's Law Reform Act still needs work

On Sep 13 Supreme Court of Canada justice Louis LeBel ruled that the Alliance for Marriage and Family would not be granted party status in the “three-parent family” case. A Supreme Court of Ontario decision on the case issued in January allowed for the legal recognition of three parents — two moms and one dad. The rightwing umbrella group was seeking party status in order to appeal that decision.

Rachel Epstein, coordinator of the LGBT Parenting Network, says she’s pleased with LeBel’s ruling.

“It’s about time we stopped wasting the taxpayers’ money on these kinds of cases and just start recognizing what our families look like and start recognizing them in law,” she says.

The Alliance for Marriage and Family is composed of groups that support “traditional notions of family” — including Focus on the Family, Real Women of Canada, the Evangelical Fellowship, and the Christian Legal Fellowship.

In a 13-point judgment LeBel stated there was no interest in appealing by the Ontario government or any of the other parties. “This court has never allowed a private applicant… to revive litigation in which it had no personal interest,” wrote LeBel.

“The implications are significant,” responded Ruth Ross, executive director of the Christian Legal Fellowship, in a press release. “We cannot begin to imagine the impact this judgment will have on Canadian society. Not only will the intact, two-parent family diminish but so will the security of children. It is children that will suffer the most.”

In the three-parent case the appellant, known to the court as AA, applied in February 2001 for parental recognition with regard to her female partner’s child. Neither the child’s birth mother nor the biological father through artificial insemination, known as BB, opposed her application.

In 2003 Family Court justice David Aston ruled that he didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant AA’s application under the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA), which privileges the biological parents of a child. The case was appealed and, while that appeal was pending another court case, Rutherford versus the Registrar General of Ontario, allowed four lesbian couples to each have both mothers’ names on their children’s birth registrations.

In January 2007 the Ontario Court of Appeal heard the appeal. The Alliance for Marriage and Family was granted intervenor status at that time and provided with an opportunity to present its point of view.

In the end the panel of three justices — Roy McMurtry, Marc Rosenburg and Jean-Marc Labrosse — issued a unanimous decision allowing AA’s application. While the decision only applies to that specific case the ruling did note that the Children’s Law Reform Act needs updating.

“The Act does not deal with, nor contemplate, the disadvantages that a child born into a relationship of two mothers, two fathers or as in this case two mothers and one father might suffer,” Rosenburg stated in the decision.


LeBel’s ruling brings the three-parent case to a definite close but the larger questions around legal recognition of queer families remain.

“It’s a slow and expensive process and it would be great if someone would take some decisive move to make the changes that need to happen,” says Epstein. “At the same time I don’t think we should minimize these victories. It’s little bricks out of the law… and slowly we’re moving toward fuller recognition of our families.”

Epstein says the LGBT Parenting Network is working on a brochure to assist families with legalities such as birth registration but that it’s difficult to offer advice when “it’s all being played out in practice.” The brochure is expected out in November and will be available online at

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