This chapter examines benefits and challenges of today’s scope for atypical family formations provided by social acceptance of both same-sex relationships and human-assisted reproduction (HAR), which now gives same-sex parents genetically related children alongside the social connections possible through formal or informal adoption.
Documenting formal legal changes, whether statutory or through reported cases,1 is straightforward, unlike pinpointing the impact of acceptance of social change, identified by Maine2 as always the precursor of reform rather than a consequence. How then to identify such acceptance as a driver of norms, which in turn potentially generate reform? In developed societies, this is invariably through the arts: literature,3 journalism, drama, music and other media, nowadays probably films, television and radio – favoured contemporary media appear to be largely electronic.
It often surprises that English law had no formal adoption before 1926,4 thus all supposed ‘adoptions’ in Victorian novels, where a parent of either sex had no genetic children, were merely social relationships, despite a limited concept of guardianship. Today’s changes are especially striking compared with the relatively recent nuclear family (based on the long-established model of two opposite-sex parents and their natural or adopted children) which was ‘the family.’5 The pace of change has also been so swift, despite initial resistance to dropping traditions, that the perception of the now multi-faceted family has itself been overtaken by newer perspectives than those begun in 2002–2004 by recognition of transpersons for all purposes, same-sex relationships6, HAR,7 same-sex marriage8 and now the intersex debate.9 Sadly these radical changes of perspective have themselves impacted on the crucial role of surrogacy in assisting male same-sex couples to have genetically related progeny.