By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Kan., Jan 23 (Reuters) - A Kansas man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple so they could have a child plans to appeal a judge's ruling that he is the legal father of the girl and must pay child support, his lawyer said on Thursday.
William Marotta, 47, was financially responsible for the child because under state law sperm for artificial insemination must be donated through a physician, a judge ruled on Wednesday, siding with the state of Kansas.
The couple, Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer, had found Marotta by advertising on Craigslist and did not use a physician in the donation process, according to court records. They signed a contract agreeing that Marotta would have no financial responsibility to the child.
When the couple encountered money difficulties and one sought state benefits, the state petitioned to have Marotta declared the child's father and financially responsible.
"A parent may not terminate parental rights by contract ... even when the parties have consented," Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi ruled.
Marotta's lawyer, Ben Swinnen, said his client would appeal the ruling, which raised the question of whether a man could only be considered a sperm donor in Kansas if he goes through a physician.
"It takes a very sweeping reading of the statute," he said.
Swinnen said Marotta and his wife have no children of their own but have fostered a daughter, adding he was simply trying to help a couple who wanted a child.
Cathy Sakimura, family law director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Kansas is among numerous states with laws that require physicians to be involved with artificial insemination, but other states have found legal ways to protect the father from financial obligations.
"Certainly there is a concern that someone who wants to be a donor to help a family may not want to do that now," Sakimura said. (Reporting By Kevin Murphy; Editing by Ken Wills)