Welcome to the Gayby Boom, baby.

July 28, 2009, Huffington Post – By Johann Hari – Throughout the Nineties, there has been a surge of gay and lesbian couples deciding to settle down in the suburbs and have kids. En masse, gay people are slowly trading the Shadow Lounge for a baby-vomit-and-puke-filled lounge of their own.

This quiet trend has finally poked its way to public attention with the sight of Bruno – the crazed Austrian fashionista played by Sasha Baron Cohen – sitting with a little African baby on his lap, bragging that ever since Madonna went to Malawi, it’s the essential fashion accessory, dah-ling.

Of course, there have always been gay parents, but in the past, they were trapped in the loveless marriages of the closet. Now they are out in the open, and increasing. Many of my gay friends are going the same way as my straight friends as we all sag into our thirties. Gay celebs are just part of this trend: John Barrowman is planning to adopt, for one. I was recently sounded out by a lesbian couple I know and love as a possible gay daddy, and I was broodily tempted.

This is all part of a slow shift that is transforming gay culture. During the twentieth century, our battle was to find a place of our own where we could be safely different, and recover some shreds of self-esteem. After millennia of being told our difference was a sickness, we needed a moment to celebrate that difference.

But after that was achieved, our goal changed. We started to realise – once we had the space – that we are actually very similar to our straight siblings. We have the same desire for stability and home-building as everyone else. Our tune changed from “I Am What I Am” to “I Am What You Are.” We wanted enough basic equality to have everything straight people have. It started with demands for marriage – and the logical next step is children. We want the chance to show we are as dull and suburban as everybody else.

It used to be that whenever you came out, your mother would give you a hug, say she loved you, and offer a sad aside to her friends that she would never have grandchildren. That’s not the case any more. When I was a kid realising I was gay in the 1980s, it never occurred to me that I would grow up to create a family of my own; it was a bleak and alienating thought. But in the 1990s, when I saw so many gay people doing just that, I felt like I had the option to be part of the great human slipstream of procreation.

The children of gay couples are desperately and passionately wanted. They are, by definition, planned, with parents who have to go to a great deal of hassle and heart-searching before they are created. Compare that the number of kids idly conceived in a five-minute shag at a bus stop.

But obviously, every parent wants the best for their child – and many gay parents were inhibited by the idea that their child would be somehow disadvantaged. Would my son be picked on? Would my daughter be confused by having gay parents? It would not be worth repairing our self-esteem at the expense of damaging our children’s.

Now the evidence is in. There have been over a hundred scientific studies of the grown-up children of gay parents – and they overwhelmingly find the same thing. Professor Ellen C. Perrin, MD of Tufts University School of Medicine explains: “The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way.”

Some 90 percent of them grow up to be straight – just like in every family. They are no more or less like to be abused, depressed, or confused. And they love their parents, like we all do. “What is striking is that there are very consistent findings in these studies,” Perrin says.

Under the sheer concrete weight of this scientific evidence, anybody who continues to oppose gay parents is letting their prejudice cloud their judgment. When the Vatican calls gay parents “gravely immoral”, they condemn only themselves.

There is a new gay anthem in town (with apologies to the Shirelles): Gayby, It’s You.
Johann Hari writes for the Independent newspaper.

Maine court upholds IBM heir’s adoption of lover

(Portland, Maine) Maine’s highest court has given a legal victory to a woman who stands to stake a claim to a share of one of America’s premier business fortunes thanks to her adoption by her lesbian partner.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday overturned a 2008 lower court decision that annulled the adoption.

At issue was whether it was legal for a judge to allow Olive Watson to adopt Patricia Spado in 1991 in Knox County, where the longtime partners spent several weeks each summer on North Haven. Watson was the daughter of the late Thomas Watson Jr., who built IBM into a computer giant.

The relationship ended a year after the adoption. Thomas Watson’s heirs challenged the adoption in court in 2005.

Lawyers say the case now moves to a Connecticut probate court to determine if Spado is entitled to any of the family trust.

Florida governor shows signs of changing views on gay adoption ban



(Florida) While answering reporter questions in Tallahassee, Florida Governor Charlie Crist indicated that he might consider legislation to change a law that prevents same sex couples from adopting.

When questioned whether he would support changes to the law, Gov. Crist told reporters, “I’d have to think about it.”

Three hours later, however, Gov. Crist reaffirmed his support for “traditional families” only to adopt while speaking at an event in Jacksonville as a part of his statewide tour for “Explore Adoption Day.”

In 1977, Florida passed a law that made it the only state in the country to ban gay adaption. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently suing to have the law overturned. ACLU and other groups believe that preventing gay adoption prevents some children from being adopted.

“Excluding a class of people is harmful to children, particularly those in our state who have had gay foster parents,” ACLU spokesman Larry Spalding told The Associated Press.

Law Extends Parental Rights for Gays

Washington Post – D.C. WIRE

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lesbians in the District no longer will need the written consent of their partners to adopt children born to their partners through artificial insemination, under a new law that took effect Saturday.

The name of a consenting spouse or unmarried partner will appear on the child’s birth certificate as the legal parent, a status that previously had to be obtained by same-sex parents through a complicated adoption process.

The Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination Parentage Act of 2009 puts the city out front when it comes to children born of same-sex parents, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA) and American University law professor Nancy Polikoff.

“With the enactment of this measure, the District has become the first jurisdiction in the country to enact a statute specifically providing children born through artificial insemination with two legal parents from the beginning even when those parents are a same-sex or different-sex unmarried couple. A similar law goes into effect January 1, 2010, in New Mexico,” according to a news release the groups issued today.

“A mother should not have to adopt her own child,” said Polikoff, who helped draft the legislation that was shepherded by D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large). “When a heterosexual married couple uses artificial insemination to have a child, the husband does not have to adopt the child born to his wife. He is the child’s legal parent automatically. Now the child of a lesbian couple will have the same economic and emotional security accorded the children of heterosexual married couples who use artificial insemination.”

The enactment of the law follows a new law that recognizes same-sex couples married elsewhere as legally married in the District. The D.C. Council is expected to legalize gay marriage in the city later this year after legislation is introduced.

— Nikita Stewart

Much Has Changed in Surrogate Pregnancies

New York Times,  July 21, 2009
Personal Health

With the birth last month of twin girls for Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, surrogate pregnancy once again assumed center stage. After years of infertility following the birth of their son in 2002, the couple chose to have another woman gestate the embryos they created.

Much has changed in surrogacy in the two decades since the high-profile Baby M case, in which the surrogate was the baby’s biological mother and unsuccessfully sought custody after the birth.

The legal proceedings in that case helped affirm the validity of surrogacy contracts, which are now standard. Some states have laws that protect the commissioning parents in surrogate pregnancies. And in a vast majority of surrogate pregnancies today, the surrogate has no genetic link to the baby.

Still, surrogate pregnancy is illegal in some states, including New York, and it remains fraught with controversy despite the fact that thousands of American couples — most of them not celebrities or especially wealthy — are happily bringing up children they could not produce on their own.

Emotional Strain

Joan Fleischer Thamen and her husband, Frank, of Miami Beach are among them. They married when she was 38 and immediately began trying to start a family, “but nothing happened,” Ms. Thamen said in an interview. They nearly exhausted their savings with fertility treatments and seven attempts at pregnancy through in vitro fertilization.

“After the seventh failure I was emotionally worn out,” Ms. Thamen said. “Then someone told me a friend had found a surrogate through the Internet. That’s how we found Cathy, who said ‘I really want to do this for you.’ We offered her what we thought was a fair amount — $12,000 — and said we’d hire an attorney to draw up a contract and we’d pay for her medical insurance.”

Three embryos left from the Thamens’ attempts at in vitro were implanted in Cathy’s womb. Ten days later they learned that one was viable. When Cathy was in her fourth month, Ms. Thamen discovered to her amazement that she, too, was pregnant and that their due dates were identical.

The Thamens are now the delighted parents of 5-year-old boys, David and Jonathan, born 23 days apart and “being raised as twins cooked in different ovens,” as Ms. Thamen says she explained to the boys. Cathy and her husband and son remain good friends with the Thamens; the families visit often and the Thamen boys consider Cathy an aunt.

Altruistic Motives

Surrogate pregnancies don’t always blossom into lasting friendships, of course, and many people consider the process repugnant. It has been called a violation of natural law, a form of prostitution or baby selling, an exploitation of poor women, and a privilege of the rich and famous who may not want to disrupt their careers or their figures by giving birth to their own children.

Reputable agencies and lawyers who specialize in surrogacy guard against the exploitation of women who serve as surrogates and against spurious reasons for seeking a surrogate pregnancy. In virtually every case they process, the intended parents, like the Thamens, cannot produce their own children, yet want children biologically related to them or choose not to wait the years it can take to adopt.

People may choose to have a gestational carrier bear their children if the woman lacks a uterus or has a malformed uterus; must take medication incompatible with pregnancy; or has had repeated miscarriages or failures at in vitro pregnancies. Or, in the case of a male couple or single male, if there is no woman involved.

As for charges of exploitation and baby selling, Pamela MacPhee, who was a surrogate for her cousin and his wife, says most surrogates do it for altruistic reasons. In her new book about her experience with surrogacy, “Delivering Hope” (HeartSet Inc.), she says the payment most women receive — typically $15,000 to $20,000 — “is for the services, time and sacrifice of the surrogate, not for the child directly.” And the amount paid is well below minimum wage when factored over nine months of pregnancy and the hormonal preparations that usually precede implantation of viable embryos.

Mrs. MacPhee, a married mother of three, volunteered to be a surrogate when cancer treatments left her cousin’s wife infertile.

“I couldn’t imagine my cousin and his wife not being able to have a family, and I wanted to help them,” Mrs. MacPhee said in an interview. She received no payments beyond a life insurance policy and medical expenses, as well as some luxurious gifts from the grateful parents-to-be, like a weekend at a spa.

But the two families were anything but casual about the matter. A psychologist evaluated the women and their husbands to make sure everyone was emotionally healthy, realistic and in agreement with the arrangement. A lawyer drew up a contract that guaranteed the baby would belong to the intended parents. Mrs. MacPhee said that Hope, now an 8-year-old with her parents’ genes, is thrilled about the special circumstances of her birth.

A Cautionary Tale

Arrangements for surrogate pregnancies don’t always go smoothly or have happy endings, especially if they are undertaken without psychological screening and legal guidance. Care must be taken to protect both the surrogate and the intended parents and to ensure that the parents’ names — and not the surrogate’s — will appear on the child’s birth certificate.

Melissa B. Brisman, a lawyer in Park Ridge, N.J., whose three children were birthed by surrogates, specializes in such arrangements, helping to secure about 300 surrogates a year for people who cannot conceive or carry a child. The intended parents may provide their own eggs and sperm or those of a donor. In addition to heterosexual couples, her clients include gay male couples, single men and single women.

Surrogate qualifications differ slightly by agency, but Ms. Brisman’s criteria are typical: The carrier must be between the ages of 21 and 44, must be a nonsmoker, must live in the United States and must have given birth to at least one child. She said that laws prohibit acceptance of surrogates from Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Ohio, where the Parker-Broderick twins were born, is “a very popular state for gestational carriers,” Ms. Brisman said in an interview. “In Ohio, you can get the commissioning couple on the birth certificate even if a donor egg was used.

“People don’t become gestational carriers as a way of making money,” she continued. “Rather, their motives are altruistic.” Furthermore, she has written, “most carriers enjoy being pregnant and are emotionally rewarded by the experience of helping an infertile couple realize their dreams of becoming parents.”

Mrs. MacPhee said that for her, surrogacy was a transformative and fulfilling experience that “has had a profound effect on how I view myself as a person and has resulted in a closer relationship with my children and my husband as well. It has helped me realize what is most meaningful in life.”

Senate Votes to Expand Federal Hate Crimes Laws

New York Times,
July 17, 2009

Filed at 7:43 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — People attacked because of their sexual orientation or gender would receive federal protections under a Senate-approved measure that significantly expands the reach of hate crimes law.

The Senate bill also would make it easier for federal prosecutors to step in when state or local authorities are unable or unwilling to pursue hate crimes.

”The Senate made a strong statement this evening that hate crimes have no place in America,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the chamber voted Thursday to attach the legislation as an amendment to a $680 billion defense spending bill expected to be completed next week.

The House in April approved a similar bill and President Barack Obama has urged Congress to send him hate crimes legislation, presenting the best scenario for the measure to become law since Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., first introduced it more than a decade ago.

Republicans will have the opportunity to propose several more changes to the hate crimes bill on Monday, but that will not change its status as part of the must-pass defense bill.

Passage of the bill would effect the most significant extension of hate crimes law since Congress first acted in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The 1968 law defines hate crimes as those carried out on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. It also limits federal involvement to when the victim is engaged in a narrow range of activities, including attending a public school, serving as a juror or participating in an event administered by a state or local government.

The proposed legislation expands federal hate crimes to include those perpetrated against people because of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It also removes restrictions on federally protected activities.

”There is no room in our society for these acts of prejudice,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. ”Hate crimes fragment and isolate our communities. They tear at our collective spirit.”

Some 45 states have hate crime statutes, and investigations and prosecutions would remain mainly in state and local hands. But the bill provides federal grants to help state and local officials with the costs of prosecuting hate crimes and funds programs to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles. The federal government can step in after the Justice Department certifies that a state does not have jurisdiction or is unable to carry out justice.

Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights group, said it ”will provide police and sheriff’s departments with the tools and resources they need to ensure that entire communities are not terrorized by hate violence.”

The Senate approved the measure by voice vote after a 63-28 procedural vote was needed to allow its consideration as part of the defense bill. The 28 no votes were all Republicans. Five Republicans voted for it, giving supporters the 60 votes they needed.

Opponents of the bill, including conservative religious groups, argued that it infringes on states’ rights and could intimidate free speech.

”The bill could potentially imperil the free speech rights of Christians who choose to speak out against homosexuality — which could even be extended to preaching against it,” The Christian Coalition of America said in a statement.

Supporters countered that prosecutions under the bill can occur only when bodily injury is involved, and no minister or protester could be targeted for expressing opposition to homosexuality, even if their statements are followed by another person committing a violent action.

To emphasize the point, the Senate passed provisions restating that the bill does not prohibit constitutionally protected speech and that free speech is guaranteed unless it is intended to plan or prepare for an act of violence.

The bill is named for Matthew Shephard, a gay Wyoming college student who was murdered in 1968.

The FBI receives reports of nearly 8,000 hate crimes each year. Of those, about 15 percent are linked to sexual orientation, which ranks third after those involving race and religion.

——

The Senate hate crimes bill is S. 909.

Miami judge who struck gay adoption ban demoted


(Miami) A Miami-Dade circuit court judge who ruled Florida’s gay adoption ban is unconstitutional has been demoted.

Judge Cindy Lederman has been removed from her 15-year post as top administrative judge over Miami-Dade’s juvenile courts. The new chief justice over Miami courts says he wanted new perspectives and leadership.

Lederman ruled in November 2008 that Florida’s gay adoption ban was unconstitutional, a case now on appeal. She also oversaw numerous juvenile justice programs in Miami and publicly scolded state officials in 2002 following the disappearance of 5-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson.

The new top judge in Miami’s juvenile courts is Orlando Prescott. Lederman will remain a juvenile court judge and says she respects the decision.

No Stork Involved, but Mom and Dad Had Help

July 12, 2009, New York times

Melissa Brisman and her daughter, Simmie, age 6, were catching a matinee of “Marley and Me” in Tenafly, N.J.

It was supposed to be a movie about a dog named Marley. But up on the big screen, Marley’s owner, a glowing Jennifer Aniston, kept getting pregnant — serenely, effortlessly pregnant (after one miscarriage).

Jumping up on her seat, Simmie loudly asked her mother, “How come you’re the only mommy who can’t get pregnant?”

“Sit down,” whispered Mrs. Brisman, who is a lawyer specializing in surrogacy. “We’ll talk about this later.”

Every child has a birth story. The story of Simmie, who was born to a surrogate, is different from the stories of the three children in the movie. But her story, which is also the story of her 11-year-old twin brothers, Andrew and Benjamin, is less unusual than it used to be.

While there is no widely agreed upon number for surrogate births, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates 400 to 600 births a year from 2003 to 2007 in which a surrogate was implanted with a fertilized egg. Advocacy groups put the count much higher — including most recently to the actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick — and say the numbers will increase as more people, including gay men, turn to surrogacy to become parents.

So despite the substantial costs (at least $30,000), there is now a group of young children whose parents are wrestling with this modern twist on the eternal question: Where did I come from?

These parents have to take the often excruciating saga of all they went through to have a baby and turn it into a child-friendly, reassuring and true Your Birth Story.

So many parents are trying to figure out how to tell this new story that Judith Kottick, a licensed social worker in Montclair, N.J., provides counseling in just that area. “What kids want to know is that they’re in the family they were meant to be in — that they belong to their mom and dad,” she said.

She advises parents to start telling their children’s birth story early. “You want them to grow up with the information so it’s not a news flash,” Ms. Kottick said. She also recommends some of the new children’s books that are tailored to the story of birth through surrogacy, like “Hope & Will Have a Baby: The Gift of Surrogacy” by Irene Celcer.

Marla Culliton and her husband, Steven, of Swampscott, Mass., have 7-year-old twins, Jacob and Naomi. “When they were 4, I told them, ‘First you have to get married, then you have to have a nice house, then you can go to a doctor, and he can help you,’ ” said Mrs. Culliton, a dental hygienist. “At 5, they said, ‘How is the baby made?’ I said: ‘They come from a sperm and an egg. The doctor made you in a dish.’ ”

If anyone has been preparing for The Talk, it is these parents, who have often spent years trying to have children. “You know how you sit down at night, talking to them, telling them stories?” said Jan Zoretich, who has two children, Sarah Elizabeth, 5, and Rachel, 3, born through surrogacy. “From Day 1,” she said, referring to Sarah Elizabeth, “I said: ‘Mommy’s so happy. You’re such a blessing. We’re so grateful Jessica was a surrogate for us.’ ”

In Sarah Elizabeth’s birth story, Jessica, whom the family prefers to identify only by her first name and who lives in the same Maryland town, is a central character. “She comes to the door, and I’ll say, ‘Sarah, your surro’s here,’ ” said Mrs. Zoretich, a former chief financial officer for a group of nursing homes who now stays home with her children.

Mrs. Brisman, the lawyer, who also runs an agency that connects prospective parents with surrogates, began telling Simmie her birth story when she was about 3. (“The doctor took a piece of Daddy and took a piece of Mommy and put it inside someone else because my tummy was broken.”)

Mrs. Brisman, who contends that the estimates from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine on the numbers of surrogate births are far too low, said her clients alone had 300 babies through surrogacy last year, with gay men becoming parents in 20 percent of the cases.

Jeffrey T. Parsons, a Manhattan psychologist and his partner, Chris Hietikko, have a 3-year-old son, Henry, who sees his surrogate, Jessica, at least once a year.

When their son starts asking questions at, say age 5, said Dr. Parsons, a psychology professor at Hunter College, “I would probably relate it to one of his friends. I’d say, ‘You’ve met your friend Michael’s dad and mom. You have two dads, right? Well, it takes a mom to make a baby because they grow them in their tummy. That’s Jessica.”

The television host Joan Lunden, 58, has become a celebrity spokeswoman for surrogacy since she and her second husband, Jeff, became parents of two sets of twins, now 4 and 6. Their surrogate, Deborah Bolig, has become a part of their large, extended family. This is how Ms. Lunden has described their surrogate to her twins: “She’s a woman in our lives we greatly respect, she helped us have Kate and Max and Kim and Jack.”

Although she considers her children too young for a talk about embryos and uteruses, Ms. Lunden already has a metaphor ready for when the time comes: cupcakes. “It’s almost like we can’t cook the cupcakes in our oven because the oven is broken,” she said. “We’re going to use the neighbor’s oven.”

Fay Johnson, whose two children, Lily and Chase, now 19 and 15, were born through traditional surrogacy — the surrogate was also the egg donor, with the sperm from Mrs. Johnson’s husband — said she started telling them their stories when they were babies. “I was like Seinfeld,” said Mrs. Johnson, who is a program coordinator for the Center for Surrogate Parenting in California. “I needed to practice my material.”

As the children got older and had more questions, Mrs. Johnson had more explaining to do about their surrogate. “Lily would say to me, ‘Why don’t I look like you?’ ” Mrs. Johnson said. “She was maybe 3 at the time. I would say, ‘Because you look just like Daddy, and you have Natalie’s gorgeous hair and skin.’ ” Lily knew all about her surrogate, Natalie, because her mother had been talking about Natalie since Lily was a baby.

“So when Lily was 9 years old, she said: ‘Mom, I have figured out that I’m not from your eggs. And I think Dad and Natalie make a pretty cute couple,’ ” recalled Mrs. Johnson, whose husband died several years ago.

“I said: ‘Lily, well, Natalie and Dad were never a couple. You were only created in the doctor’s office because I was going to be your mother. Would you like to see your birth certificate — because I’m going to be your mother forever.’ ”

NEA calls for LGBT rights

By Jennifer Vanasco, editor in chief, 365gay.com
07.08.2009 9:25am EDT

(Washington) The National Education Association adopted two resolutions calling for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights at its annual conference last week.

The resolutions say that the organization opposes the “discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples and its belief that such couples should have the same legal rights and benefits as similarly-situated heterosexual couples.” They also call for the “passage of a federal statute prohibiting federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.” The NEA also committed itself to supporting the enactment of LGBT equality at local, state and federal levels.

The NEA falls short of asking for gay marriage – instead, it says:

“NEA does not believe that a single term must be used to designate this legally recognized “equal treatment” relationship, and recommends that each state decide for itself whether “marriage,” “civil union,” “domestic partnership,” or some other term is most appropriate based upon the cultural, social, and religious values of its citizenry.”

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization with over 3.2 million members. Members work at every level of education — from pre-school to university graduate programs.

Designated beneficiaries in Colorado

July 1, 2009

Today marks the first day that unmarried or same sex couples can file to be designated beneficiaries in the state of Colorado. Thanks to our legislature and governor, we can now receive a number of important rights to grant to the person of our choice including:

Property transfer

Designated beneficiary for life insurance, trusts, pension plans,and retirement plans

Hospital visitation

Medical decisions

Organ donations

Workman’s comp benefits.

Coloradoans should immediately take advatage of this. The steps to do so cost nothing. Go to designatedbeneficiaries.org, print out the form, get it signed and notarized, and then file it with the county clerk and recorder’s office. Just like that you’ve got State of Colorado protected rights!

Thanks to all the state legislators for their hard work and to Governor Ritter for signing this important piece of legislation.