Ian Jenkins, 45, faced death threats after coming out as gay while at university in Virginia. At that time, he could hardly foresee a day when he could live as an openly gay man with one partner, let alone two. But today, he shares a home in San Diego with his two partners, Alan, 43, and Jeremy, 37, (who are using their first names only for privacy), and their two children, ages three and one. All three men are the children’s legal fathers, their names on both birth certificates.
Jenkins and his first partner, Alan, both doctors, had discussed the possibility of a more open relationship for years, before meeting Jeremy in 2012. Though Jeremy, a zookeeper who works to save endangered species, wasn’t initially interested in polyamory, he got to know the couple as friends and “everyone sort of became comfortable with the idea – there was just good chemistry”, says Jenkins.
They became a family, but when they made the decision to have children, obstacles arose. Besides the fact that each man had to have his own attorney involved in both the surrogacy and egg donor contracts with their first child (separate women served as surrogate and donor), they then had to convince a judge that all three should be legally defined as the child’s parents.
Jenkins says the judge who heard their case “was understanding of the situation and wanted to help us”, but as a lower court judge “she wasn’t allowed to set precedent”.
No men in three-way relationships had ever been granted joint parenting rights to a child before in California, or possibly anywhere in the US. But the men made their case, each explaining “why it was so important and necessary for us to have [our names on] the birth certificate”, says Jenkins. The judge ended up granting all three parenting rights to their first child, born in 2017, and Jenkins ended up writing a book about their journey, Three Dads and a Baby: Adventures in Modern Parenting, which was published on 9 March in the US.