Unwed Fathers' Rights, Adoption, and Sex Equality: Gender-Neutrality and the Perpetuation of Patriarchy.

Journal Name
Columbia Law Review
Journal Volume
Page Count
Year Published
Author (Individual)
Shanley, M. L.
Resource Type
Journal Article
This article addresses the issue of the basis and nature of an unwed biological father's right to block or reverse an adoption decision of an unwed mother. The author begins by reviewing the historical development of the legal status of unwed fathers under common law and United States constitutional law and discussing State statutory and case law concerning unwed fathers and adoption. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has found that unwed fathers who have established and maintained a relationship with their children have some protection under the Constitution, there is great variation among State laws concerning the rights of unwed fathers with regard to adoption. The author continues by analyzing different perspectives on parent rights, focusing on the arguments of advocates for an unwed biological father's right to block or reverse the adoption of his child and those who support an unwed mother's right to decisional autonomy. She then presents the standards that should define the extent of an unwed father's right to consent to the adoption of his child and suggests that courts should assess an unwed biological father's intention to take responsibility for and act as a parent to his child. She examines the different provisions of three adoption bills submitted to the New York legislature and demonstrates how each conforms to or departs from the position that parental rights should be based on a combination of biological ties, assumption of parental responsibility, and provision of care. In addition, she uses the cases of Baby Girl Clausen and Baby Boy Janikova to test the adequacy of the principles previously set forth about parental rights and adoption. She asserts that these cases could have resolved more quickly if the provisions she advocates had been incorporated in Iowa and Illinois adoption statutes. The author concludes by considering the implications of her views on parental rights for liberal political and legal theory. Numerous references.

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