In about fifteen minutes, while Nico farted away in my arms, an Iowa judge vested me with, in his words, the “legal, economic, moral and emotional obligations” of a parent. I said thanks and then told him I’d already taken them on anyway.
We had a small audience of supporters, including two of my friends who went through the same hearing after their daughter’s birth two years ago, and afterwards the judge, an awkward man who pronounced Marta’s second last name Teck-a-door, and our very granola lawyer stood with us in some congratulatory pictures.
I like to think the clerk in the background in that second picture is crying, but I think she actually just has something in her eye.
The hearing was short and sweet because, as the judge himself acknowledged, it shouldn’t have been necessary:
They asked us both if the information we’d submitted was true and we said yes.
They made a cursory check in the hallway to see if the donor had suddenly showed up to claim his parental rights. This was perhaps my favorite part because it required the appearance of a new participant, the bailiff, who stepped into the chambers just long enough to say his lines (No, no one had answered to the donor’s name when it was called out in the hallway) and then he stepped off stage. A beautifully wrought performance.
Then the judge asked if I was, indeed, willing to accept all those parental responsibilities listed above. I raised my right hand as high as I could, a bit difficult considering I was holding Nico, and said yes.
It’s not the way everyone becomes a parent, but then again who wants to be the same as everyone else?
Also I got some good news about the finances of all this. It seems that there is one way in which being denied your rights works to your advantage: in taxes. Apparently I can write off all of the costs of this adoption on my taxes next year. If Marta and I were married…er, I mean, if the federal government acknowledged that we were married, I wouldn’t be able to do this. Because in that case I would be considered a step-parent and the tax write-off is less generous. But, as is, at a federal level Marta and I legally are complete strangers. Which means, legally speaking, I adopted Nico as if I had just bumped in to Marta on the street one day and said, “What a cute baby! Can I adopt her?” Which means–for some odd tax reason–that I get to write off all my expenses.
Thanks federal government! And thank you, too, homophobia!