A Kansas man's decision to donate sperm to help a lesbian couple conceive a child in 2009 has landed him in a complicated legal case, as a state agency is now pursuing him for child support payments. William Marotta, 46, is asking a judge to dismiss the case, which has grabbed national attention.
Marotta's story has been big news in Topeka, where Capital-Journal reporter Tim Hrenchir has been following the case. And as he tells All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel, the state says it's targeting Marotta because the donation doesn't meet its legal requirements.
Marotta met the couple, Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer, after he answered a Craigslist ad in 2009. As part of their arrangement, he signed a document in which he relinquished any parental rights or responsibilities. He also refused the $50 payment the women offered.
But the couple used a syringe, not a medical facility, to accomplish the insemination and conceive their daughter. And that decision, paired with their eventual naming of Marotta as the donor, landed him in trouble.
"In 1994, the state of Kansas passed a law regulating sperm donorship that said a person was not responsible" as a parent, Hrenchir tells Robert, "as long as they had a medical doctor carry out the insemination. A medical doctor was not used for this particular insemination."
The state law is based on the idea that a doctor can certify that the donor is in fact not connected with the child's mother "and not, for example, a boyfriend who's posing as a sperm donor, but should actually be required to help support the child."
The issue came to the state's attention when Schreiner applied for Medicaid. She eventually gave the donor contract to a caseworker. The Kansas Department for Children and Families is now seeking to have him named the father of the child, and thus liable for child support.
As Marotta said in an interview on the Today show, "No good deed goes unpunished." His wife added, "This is not at all what we signed up for."
Marotta, as Hrenchir wrote in a recent article, "has no biological children but has cared for foster children with his wife, Kimberly."
Schreiner and Bauer, who are also the foster parents of several other children, are no longer a couple; as a recent Capital-Journal article notes, "Bauer and Schreiner split up in December 2010 but continue to co-parent their eight children, who range in age from 1 month to 25 years."
Their daughter whom Marotta helped conceive turned 3 in December.
Bauer, 40, recently said she is "forever grateful" to Marotta and his wife.