The steps same gender parents take to be legally recognized

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Ryan Henderson and Jessica Wheeler are overjoyed that they'll soon become parents and they're excited for all the things that go along with it.

Something these first time parents keep in the back of their mind is the realization that when Ryan gives birth to their baby girl, only one parent will be legally recognized.

"We both want to be protected and have the protection of the child that we are her parents," said mom to be Jessica.

Warren Redman-Gress, who is the Executive Director of the Alliance For Full Acceptance, is familiar with the issue.

Redman-Gress adopted 13-year-old son Christopher when he was 8 months old, but his partner Jim only gained his legal rights as a parent after going through the process to gain a second adoption.

Redman-Gress says typically only one parent can provide social security benefits, health insurance and even make medical decisions even though both parents are raising the child with equal responsibility.

Otherwise, same sex parents have to obtain consent to treatment forms or medical power of attorney.

Couples can even take it a step further and gain co-guardianship says Redman-Gress through a family court which offers more protection but is still not the same as being a legal parent. Redman-Gress says only by gaining a second parent adoption through the court will the other partner insure all rights as a parent.

Currently there are 18 states where 2nd parent adoptions is a statute statewide says Redman-Gress and South Carolina is not one of them so he advises couples go through a family court attorney for more advice.

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