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Topeka mothers support donor in child support battle with Kansas DCF

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Former partners say state forced name disclosure with threat of withholding health benefits

A lesbian couple who found a sperm donor on Craigslist three years ago never meant the man to be any more than just that, and they are supporting his fight against the state’s request he pay child support.

“We’re kind of at a loss,” Topekan Angela Bauer, 40, said Saturday, speaking on behalf of her and her former partner, Jennifer Schreiner. “We are going to support him in whatever action he wants to go forward with.”

The Kansas Department for Children and Families has filed a child support claim against Topekan William Marotta, who provided sperm used to artificially inseminate Schreiner.

Bauer and Schreiner, 34, placed an ad for a sperm donor on Craigslist in March 2009. Marotta responded, agreeing to relinquish all parental rights, including financial responsibility to the child.

After the couple filed for assistance earlier this year, the state welfare agency demanded they provide the donor’s name so it could collect child support. The state has that authority, court documents state, because the insemination wasn’t performed by a licensed physician, thus making the contract void.

Without the donor’s name, the department told the women, it wouldn’t provide health benefits to their now 3-year-old girl — something Bauer no longer can provide because a diagnosis has left her incapable of working and in and out of rehabilitation since March.

“This was a wonderful opportunity with a guy with an admirable, giving character who wanted nothing more than to help us have a child,” she said. “I feel like the state of Kansas has made a mess out of the situation.”

Bauer, who has sent Marotta updates on the 3-year-old girl, reached out to him Saturday but hadn’t heard back as of 7 p.m. Topeka Capital-Journal attempts to reach him also were unsuccessful.

At the time Bauer and Schreiner placed the ad, they had been together for eight years and already had adopted several other children. The couple split in December 2010, but continue to co-parent their eight children, who range in age from 3 months to 25 years.

In 2009, the pair also were financially stable, allowing Schreiner to stay home with the children while Bauer worked.

That all changed this past March, when Bauer was diagnosed with what she only would describe as “a significant illness” that prevents her from working.

Without an alternative, Schreiner went to the state to obtain health insurance for their daughter. The department demanded that Schreiner provide the sperm donor’s name, claiming if she didn’t it would deny any health benefits because she was withholding information. Bauer described her conversations with the state as “threatening.”

“One gentleman told me he wasn’t going to discuss anything with me because I’m not the parent or legal guardian,” Bauer said. “Therefore, I had no existence.”

On paper, that is true. The 3-year-old’s birth certificate lists no father, she said, naming only Schreiner as the mother.

It is the same for the rest of their children, Bauer said. Because the state of Kansas doesn’t recognize same-sex unions, the couple had to file each adoption as a single parent.

That law also prevents the state from collecting child support from same-sex partners, despite the fact that Bauer volunteered to assume financial responsibility for her daughter.

To collect child support from her would mean recognizing Bauer as a parent — opening the doors, she said, to increased legal rights for gays and lesbian parents.

Bauer couldn’t say whether the state’s lawsuit against Marotta was simply bureaucratic or had a political slant to it, but either way, she said, it has bigger implications outside of her situation.

“More and more gays and lesbians are adopting and reproducing, and this, to me, is a step backward,” Bauer said. “I think a lot of progressive movement is happening currently in the world as far as gays and lesbians go. Maybe this is Kansas’ stand against some of that.”

Regardless of what happens, Bauer said, she will forever be grateful to Marotta and his wife, and what their donation meant to her family.

“There are not enough words to describe what I feel for William (Marotta) as a person," she said, "because he gave us and allowed us to have this gift.”

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