Sperm donor pines for his bundle of joy
Sep 8, 2011, 4:06 GMT
Sydney - By any measure, John Smith is a good father. He was present at the birth of his 10-year-old daughter, takes every opportunity to spend time with her, and pays not just maintenance but school fees as well.
Despite all this, Smith (a pseudonym) is not legally recognized as having any connection to the child he helped bring into the world through the donation of sperm. An Australian court has ordered that his name be scrubbed from the birth certificate and be replaced with that of the same-sex partner of the biological mother. The couple subsequently broke up.
'My position as the biological father is not worth anything,' he said after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling. 'The piece of paper tells the child who her father is. If I were to drop dead tomorrow, or disappear, my daughter wouldn't know who she was.'
Smith told national broadcaster ABC that he was upset at the decision, but not despondent. 'I know one day she'll come looking for me. She knows where I live. She knows where I hide the key to the house. I know she loves me.'
The dilemma for Judge Stephen Walmsley was that the law only allows for a mummy and a daddy, or their surrogates, on the birth certificate. There is no room for complexity.
Smith would like to see the man who donates sperm to a lesbian couple appear on the birth certificate of any offspring - so long as that man wanted to be there. 'I think there should be three parents: the two mothers and the father and if the father wants to have involvement he should also be in the picture,' he said.
Walmsley, in his judgement, expressed sympathy with Smith. 'He has done what he considers his very best for the child,' he wrote. 'There is, I think, justification for his view that it is too late for him to start again.'
Smith, 58, had advertised in a gay paper for a couple who would have his child and came to an arrangement with the lesbian couple. But nothing was written down and when the friendship turned sour the lesbian couple availed themselves of their new legal right to change the birth certificate.
'Since the new law came in in 2008 I knew they were planning legal action to have me eliminated,' Smith said.
It might have been different if the sperm-donor agreement had been set out in black and white. But Smith does not think so, saying the 'sperm donor doesn't have any legal rights at all even if you have an agreement.'
He does not regret that decision, 11 years ago, to advertise for someone to help him have a son or daughter. And while his name has been erased from the birth certificate, he has visiting rights he won in an action in the Family Court.