06 Apr 2009
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said the change removed some of the obstacles lesbian couples and single women faced when trying to get access to fertility treatment.
The law states that, for married couples, the husband is automatically recognised as the legal father and this will remain the case, but from today the same principle also applies to lesbian civil partners.
A HFEA spokesman said the new law, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, brought the UK's fertility law into line with equalities legislation by giving same-sex couples the same rights to parenthood as heterosexual couples when registering their child's birth.
Advice from the HFEA on the new rules said the father or second parent did not have to be the birth mother's partner.
Professor Lisa Jardine, HFEA chairwoman, said: "Society is changing and families are changing. People who previously had no hope of becoming parents now have that. We are now levelling the playing field.
"From now on, all parents regardless of their sexuality and status will now be named on their child's birth certificate."
But last month, Tory MP Ann Widdecombe criticised the legislation and said children needed to have a male parent in their life.
"Every child has got a right to a father and this bill for the first time quite deliberately creates a situation where children are born without a father," she said.
"A father plays a unique role in a child's life. The effect is quite simple. You're going to deprive a child from the outset."