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A lesbian couple has become the first gay parents in Britain to use a controversial new provision which allows same-sex couples to jointly sign a child’s birth certificate.
Natalie Woods and Betty Knowles countersigned the document after the birth of Lily-May Betty Woods. The father is not named. The biological mother is Miss Woods.
The couple were able to use a provision in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 which came into effect at the beginning of this month. The provision allows same sex couples to exclude one or other biological parent from the certificate.
However, the provision has been heavily criticised in both legal and pro-family circles.
Baroness Deech, the chairman of the Bar Standards Board, is an open critic of the rules about same sex couples signing birth certificates with no mention of the father.
She said such a move could undermine the child’s right to understand its identity.
“There is an issue of principle here, which is the truth,” she said last month.
“It puts the demands of the adults ahead of the rights of children to know and benefit from both sides of their genetic makeup.
“This is not a moral issue; it is about disguising true facts, and it is about confusing biological parenthood, legal and social parenthood.”
Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), said: “Birth certificates should reflect how a baby is generated.
“In a culture that is obsessed with genetics, it is strange that when it comes to birth certificates we are prepared to forget all that.
“As much as you try to play around with the terminology, the biology reflects what has happened and one day the child will ask about their father.”
Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, welcomed the change in the law and said it was a much needed “fairer” system for homosexuals.
Lily-May was born after Miss Woods, 38, from Brighton in East Sussex became pregnant via a sperm donor.
Under the previous legislation, Miss Woods would have been the only one able to list herself as a parent on the birth certificate, while Miss Knowles would have had to go to court to be recognised as a parent.
The couple has been together for 16 years and decided they wanted to become parents eight years ago.
Lily-May was born on March 31 after a 20 hour labour, weighing 7lbs 8oz.
Miss Woods, a therapy councillor, said her parents had stopped speaking to her after they found out she was a lesbian.
“We explored the issue of not having a father figure for Lily-May in counselling session and we’ve talked about how we will deal with it in the future,” she said.
“But ultimately there are more important things than having one father and one mother.
“A child needs unconditional love and that is what Betty and I offer Lily-May in spades.”