La. Gay Dad Says He Has No Legal Right After Partner Flees to Wash. With Son

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday July 18, 2012

Dale Liuzza and his partner raised their son for nearly seven years in Louisiana but after the couple's relationship ended, Liuzza's partner took their son and fled to Washington State, ABC News reported.

The men conceived their son through a surrogate, a donor egg and a combination of sperm from both fathers, according to Liuzza, 31.

"We didn't know or care about the biology," he said. "I pretty much raised him. As far as I was concerned, I carried him."

Liuzza, who is a behavioral therapist for autistic children and works in New Orleans, says he is helpless in getting his son back as Louisiana does not recognize marriage equality or second-parent adoption, and he is left without having legal parental rights.

Child Welfare Information Gateway, a website by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, defines second-parent adoption as "the adoption of a child by a second parent in the home who is not married to the legal parent of the child. A second-parent adoption allows a second parent to adopt a child without the "first parent" losing any parental rights."

"I never imagined he would move out of state and I would have no say in the matter at all," he said. "I don't sleep at night thinking about [the child]," Liuzza said.

A report from the Securing Legal Ties for Children in LGBT Families claims that in more than 30 states children in LGBT families are "legal strangers to at least one of their parents," the article notes.

In Liuzza's case, he must be the biological parent or be legally married to his partner in order to have parenting rights.

In the United States, 69 percent of children live with married, straight parents, according to a 2011 report called "Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequities Hurt LGBT Families." It is estimated that 24 percent of female same-sex couples, 11 percent of male couples and 38 percent of transgender Americans are raising children. But inconsistent laws in states even make things difficult for families where marriage equality and second-parent adoption is legal.

"If a couple in Washington, a state with full parental recognition, goes on vacation jet skiing in Idaho and the kid gets hurt, one parent might not be recognized," Calla Rongerude, spokesman for the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT think tank, told ABC News. "If you are a New York family visiting Philadelphia, you better take everything you have and hope there is a sympathetic nurse when you have to go to the hospital," she said.

Liuzza says he never thought he would have his son taken away from him.

"I thought we were equal like everyone else," he said. After the couple separated Liuzza's partner received genetic testing. His partner then used his legal rights to take the boy away.

"I showed up at school one day to pick [the boy] up and he wasn't there," Liuzza said. "I called my ex and he was on a plane to Dallas. The school had no idea. My son had no idea. I had no idea."

Liuzza says he only sees his son once every two months and his ex allows 20 minutes phone calls twice a week.

"It's the hardest thing," he said. "And the only way I can get through it is knowing that when my son is 16 or 17, he can make the decision where he wants to live."

Liuzza has gone to great lengths in order to become the boy's legal parent but nothing has worked.

"I couldn't do it," he said. "I am virtually a stranger ... Frankly, biology in this state is more important than experience and caregiving."