A judge's ruling that a sperm donor is legally a little girl's father under Kansas law has made national headlines, and the man at the center of the case plans to contest the ruling.
"They got it wrong. How could this be happening? I had a contract," William Marotta told CBS during an interview. "This really shouldn't be an issue."
He said the ruling was not fair, and he will continue to contest it. He said he is worried about the financial repercussions he faces.
Marotta made his comments after a Kansas judge ruled Wednesday that he is the girl's father because he didn't use a licensed doctor when he responded to an online ad and donated his sperm to a lesbian couple. The judge said he must pay child support.
Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi wrote Wednesday that because a licensed physician was not involved in the artificial insemination process, Marotta is more than a sperm donor and thus responsible for the child.
Marotta has been fighting the state's attempts to make him pay thousands of dollars in child support.
"Because I'm a sperm donor and I'm trying to be sued for parental rights and recovery of money for a parent. And I'm not. I'm a sperm donor," he said.
He said he would advise anyone considering donating sperm to talk to an attorney who is an expert in that area "to make sure you are free and clear and everything is going to work appropriately."
Marotta did not consult an attorney before he donated his sperm.
All parties agree that Marotta responded to an online ad by Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer in 2009. The couple paid $50 to Marotta, who did not seek legal advice. They signed a contract in which Marotta was not to be responsible for the child. Schreiner bore a daughter in December 2009.
However, the couple separated within the next year. According to legal documents, Schreiner sought financial aid from the state even before the child was born. In 2011, she sought food, cash and medical assistance for the child. She listed the child's father as a "donor."
But after determining that Marotta wasn't an anonymous donor, the Kansas Department for Children and Families filed the case in October 2012, demanding that Marotta pay child support and for the child's birth.
The two women contend they are the parents, but the judge found they did not follow state law saying donors only give up their rights when they use a physician for artificial insemination and sign certain documents.
Bauer who is raising the now 4-year-old girl told KCTV5 Friday that the state's decision undermines her role as a parent.
"Legally she has her mother, Jennifer, who gave birth to her. And now technically she has a father," she explained. "That's not what we intended. So my parentage was intact and now I feel like it's been severed legally."
The judge wrote Wednesday that the Kansas Supreme Court has found "mere ignorance of the law is no excuse for failing to abide by it."
Kansas is one of the few states that follow guidelines from 1973 rather than following guidelines from 2000 or 2002 that reflect the changing times and technology including in the area of artificial insemination. The judge said "for reasons known only to the legislature, Kansas is one of the states that remains in line" with the 1973 guidelines and thus she has to follow those guidelines rather than more recent ones.
Marotta agrees with the judge that the failure by Kansas to update its guidelines to include all artificial inseminations rather than physician-assisted ones is the crux of the issue.
"If Kansas had adopted the language that involved having a doctor, I might not be here today," he said. "If the two women had been allowed to be married and to put both of their names on the birth certificate, this wouldn't be an issue right now."
He said he appreciates the support that he has received, and maintains that Schreiner and Bauer are the girl's parents.
"The two mothers, Jennifer and Angie, are the ones responsible for the child. They are the parents," he said. "They are the family."
He said the state's position is "essentially" telling Schreiner, Bauer and their daughter that they are not a family. He said the state is trying to force him into the family and not allow them to raise their child as they see fit.
"I don't think it is correct because it screws with their family. It changes their definition of who they are as a family," he said. "But it also is attaching responsibilities to me that under the contract we signed, they said, 'No, you are not responsible for this,' and I said, 'You're right. I'm not responsible for this.' I won't lay claim to being a parent and they won't hold me to being a parent."
Bauer said the ruling doesn't change how her daughter views her.
"I'm her parent. She depends on me," she said. "We never intended for William to be a father."
She said she supports Marotta in his legal efforts and thanks him for the gift of her daughter.
"I am indebted to him for that," she said. "I support him in his appeal process. He didn't bring this upon himself."
She said if same-sex marriages were sanctioned then this wouldn't be an issue, but she said she regrets her actions that put Marotta in this position.
"He gave me a gift that is like no other. He gave me a beautiful daughter that I have the pleasure in raising and loving every single day," she said.
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