Gay Couples One Step Closer to Having Their Own Babies After Stem Cell Breakthrough

by Dominic Preston, FrontiersMedia.com, February 25, 2015

A major breakthrough in stem cell research at the University of Cambridge and Israel’s Wiezmann Institute of Science has opened the door to the possibility of same-sex couples being able to have children together in the future.

The researchers used stem cells from embryos and skin cells from adults to create new, viable stem cells, using a technique that has previously been used to create live baby mice. Azim Surani, Wellcome Trust project leader and professor of physiology and reproduction at Cambridge, explained that this represented a significant milestone:

“We have succeeded in the first and most important step of this process, which is to show we can make these very early human stem cells in a dish.”

Perhaps most excitingly, the researchers admitted that it was possible to create stem cells from donors of the same gender, and that egg and sperm cells could also be created in the future. Jacob Hanna, the lead on the Israeli research team, explained that members of the gay community have already reached out to the researchers:

“It has already caused interest from gay groups because of the possibility of making egg and sperm cells from parents of the same sex.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Alabama Judge Refuses To Approve Adoption Of Lesbian Couple Who Fought Gay Marriage Ban

ontopmag.com, February 26, 2015

Less than two weeks after a lesbian couple won the right to have their marriage recognized in Alabama, Mobile County’s probate judge has refused to process the couple’s adoption petition.

Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, together over 15 years, exchanged vows in California in 2008.

In 2005, McKeand gave birth to the couple’s son, K.S.

In 2012, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis denied Searcy’s request to adopt K.S., citing the state’s law that only married couples may adopt their partner’s children. Davis determined that Searcy was not a “spouse” of McKeand because Alabama does not recognize their out-of-state marriage.

The women challenged the state’s marriage ban and won. U.S. District Judge Callie “Ginny” Granade declared unconstitutional an Alabama law and constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. Her ruling took effect on Monday, February 9 after the Supreme Court refused to block its implementation.

Davis refused to comply with the ruling until Granade ordered him to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

According to AL.com, Davis has indicated that he will not process the women’s adoption petition until the Supreme Court rules in a case challenging marriage bans in four states.

A lawyer for the couple called Davis’ decision “disappointing.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Thailand bans commercial surrogacy

TheGuardian.com – February 24, 2015

Thailand’s parliament has passed legislation banning commercial surrogacy, putting a halt on foreign couples seeking to have children through Thai surrogate mothers.

The issue of surrogacy was in the spotlight in Australia last year after a Western Australian couple were accused of leaving a twin boy, known as Baby Gammy, with his surrogate mother after they discovered he had Down syndrome.

The legislation passed by Thailand’s national legislative assembly on Thursday closed loopholes in the country’s public health laws that enabled commercial surrogacy to thrive.

The new law bans all foreign and same-sex couples from seeking surrogacy services in the country.

Only married heterosexuals with at least one Thai partner are allowed to use surrogates. There are no fees allowed for the service and the surrogate mothers must be Thai and over 25 years old.

The surrogate mothers are also required to be relatives of either the husband or wife.

The legislation also includes a ban on advertising and promotions, and shuts down surrogate agents and unregistered clinics.

The Baby Gammy case made headlines in August 2014 when Thai surrogate Pattaramon Chanbua alleged West Australian couple Wendy and David Farnell had abandoned Gammy and returned to Western Australia with his healthy twin sister, Pipah.

Farnell, a convicted child sex offender, retained custody of Pipah late last year after an investigation by the WA Department for Child Protection.

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Surrogacy Agency Pleads Guilty To Ripping Off Would-Be Parents Who Paid for Egg Donations

By Newsroom America Staff at 23 Feb 09:38

(Newsroom America) — The owner of a Glendora egg donation and surrogacy company has pled guilty to a federal wire fraud charge and admitted defrauding would-be parents, egg donors and surrogates over the course of more than three years.

Allison Layton, a 38-year-old resident of Star, Idaho, pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge George H. Wu.

Layton, who owned and operated Miracles Egg Donation and sometimes used the name Allison Jarvie, lived in Glendora during the course of the scheme.

Between August 2008 and January 2012, would-be parents—who in the surrogacy and egg donation world are known as intended parents—paid thousands of dollars for egg donation and surrogacy services that Miracles promised to coordinate.

Layton took money—often tens of thousands of dollars—from the intended parents, but, instead of putting the funds into escrow accounts to be withdrawn only for certain costs related to the surrogacy or egg donation, Layton used the money for her own personal expenses or to cover unpaid costs related to other clients.

As a result of Layton’s misappropriation of client funds, egg donors, surrogates, attorneys and others often were not paid for all the services they provided and intended parents often did not receive all the services for which they had paid. At least one investor in Miracles also lost money.

When the donors, surrogates and intended parents sought to recover their money and costs, Layton would lull them into believing they would be repaid through false assurances that payments had already been made or would be made soon.

Click here to read the entire article.

COLAGE creates survey for individuals born to LGBQ parent(s) through ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology)

via Mombian – February 20, 2015

Help COLAGE, the national organization for those with LGBTQ parents, create a guide for youth and young adults born through assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

COLAGE is asking children of LGBQ parents to complete a confidential survey to help them prepare the informational guide. They explain on their website:

It will include conversations addressing different experiences youth face when talking about their method of conception and other things that come up when talking to peers and in their communities. This survey focuses on LGB families and we will have another survey that focuses specifically on families with trans and gender queer parents.

The finished guide will be available on the COLAGE website in electronic format and will be inclusive of all ART methods that LGBTQ families are using to create families.

This survey is for gaining information to create the COLAGE Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Guide in hopes of increasing awareness of and providing support and empowerment to people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer parent(s). We are looking for parent(s) who have used ART or youth, young adults, and adults born through ART who would be comfortable sharing their experiences. We are interested in families who have used surrogacy, donor insemination, in vitro fertilization, and any other methods of ART. If you are a trans or gender queer parent or have a trans or gender queer parent, please contact Robin Marquis at robin@colage.org for a survey designed specifically for you and your family!

Click here to go to the survey page!

Men Having Babies San Francisco Surrogacy Conference & Expo

By Jenae, allthingssurrogacy.com – February 16, 2015

Recently,  I had the opportunity to attend the Men Having Babies Surrogacy Conference and Expo in San Francisco, CA. I had heard of the Men Having Babies organization before, but until this recent event had not had a chance to attend one of the conferences. So, with three local SurroSisters in tow, we headed into the city for a day to focus on one of our favorite topics….Surrogacy!

My purpose for attending the MHB Conference, was an opportunity to see what the seminar was all about, the type of information they were sharing, resources they’re promoting, and to connect with other surrogacy professionals in attendance. Education is important to me and being the surrogacy advocate that I am, I couldn’t wait for the days activities!

We started the day by arriving at the LGBT Center early to attend the surrogacy professionals breakfast upstairs. It was such a treat to be able to meet so many wonderful organizations, agencies and fertility clinics! I am always up for meeting new agencies, clinics, and organizations as it gives me the chance to find out what they have to offer you all as surrogates and parents to be!

Armed with my camera in hand, and my SurroSisters taking notes, we made our way from the 4th floor (where the professionals and sponsors were set up as the Expo) down to the 2nd floor Rainbow Room where the seminars were being held. The room was close to packed as we entered, with a line of men still at the door checking in for the day’s event.

How great is that to see a room full of at least 200 men eager for knowledge and understanding of how the surrogacy process works?! All those men we shared a room with that day were there with the same goal in mind, to start their family. It was such a great vibe!

Ron Poole-Dayan and Anthony Brown, Esq., both of Men Having Babies, and Judy Appel of Our Family Coalition started things off with a warm welcome and introduction. After introductions and review of the agenda, they quickly went to business. They began with explaining the Surrogacy process (something they’re both familiar with as both Ron and Anthony had their children through surrogacy), information on egg donation, FAQ’s, agency information; as well as what it means to go “independent”. I feel that they did a great job explaining the process and appreciated that they left time for members in the audience to ask questions.

Click here to read the entire article.

Gay couple stuck in Mexican legal limbo after birth of surrogate twins

El Pais – Mexico City 12 FEB 2015

Luis Delgado and José Antonio Fernández, a gay married couple from Spain, decided to have a child via a surrogate mother in Mexico. Their twins were born on January 6, but the four of them have found themselves unable to return together to their home country.

Due to a legal anomaly, they cannot secure passports for their children, given that the state of Tabasco, Mexico, where the surrogacy took place, recognizes surrogate births, while the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) – the government department responsible for Mexican passport applications – does not.

The couple say they have heard “very positive words” from the Spanish authorities, but nothing more.

It is illegal for couples to have children via surrogates in Spain, but if the country where the surrogacy takes place officially confirms that the couple (whether they are homosexual or heterosexual) are the biological parents of the children in question, they can be registered in Spain and obtain Spanish passports. If not, the mother must appear on the paperwork. But Delgado and Fernández cannot produce an acceptable version of that certificate for the authorities.

The pair signed a surrogacy contract in Mexico last year, and when the babies were born they registered them in Tabasco with José Antonio as the father, and on another part of the form, Luis as the other parent. The part of the form where the mother should have appeared was left blank.

Click here to read the entire article.

N.J. gay couple’s custody battle with sperm donor could set precedent

South Jersey Times – February 9, 2015 by Andy Polhamus

A lesbian couple from Salem County are locked in a custody battle over their son after a sperm donor sued them for parenting time.

The outcome of their case, according to their attorney and a Rutgers law professor, might change the status of reproductive rights for couples around New Jersey who conceive by artificial means.

Sheena and Tiara Yates of Pennsville had a son who was conceived by at-home artificial insemination — known colloquially as alternative insemination — in June 2013 under the counsel of a physician. The couple already had a toddler, also conceived by artificial insemination from a different donor, and had drawn up contracts in which both men relinquished their legal paternity.

It looked for a while as though everything had gone smoothly. In the same five-month span between December 2013 and April 2014, however, both sperm donors came forward and filed for visiting rights with each child.

State law addressing artificial insemination and domestic issues, as the Yateses discovered, says that only when the insemination process is carried out under the direct supervision of a physician, can the non-biological parent be legally considered the natural parent of the child. The law also protects the donor from having any “rights or duties stemming from the conception of the child.”

The Yates family lost the first custody case, and that donor now has visitation time with the older child — a court ruling the couple decided not to dispute. The same thing happened with the second suit in September after a Salem County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the donor, Shawn Sorrell. His parenting time begins with a few hours each weekend in addition to paying $83 a week in child support.

“Emotionally it’s very hard for us,” said Sheena Yates. “All we want is a family, and we can’t have kids without an outside party. It’s a lot for us to have to deal with. It’s not just hard on us, it’s hard on the kids, too.”

The Yateses asked that their children’s names not be revealed to protect their privacy.

The couple’s son is now a year old, and according to Sheena, had not met his biological father until visitation began. Sorrell, of Wilmington, Delaware, is representing himself in the case. He could not be reached for comment.

As they file their appeal with the Superior Court of New Jersey’s appellate division, the Yateses not only argue that the precise location of the procedure should be irrelevant, but also hope one major factor will influence an appellate court’s decision about custody over their younger child. They had no legal recognition of their relationship when their first child was born, but have been in a civil union since 2011 and got married in May 2014.

“The question now is whether the presumption of marriage is stronger than the artificial insemination statute,” said Kimberly Mutcherson, a professor of law at Rutgers-Camden. “You’re battling out two different parts of the statutory scheme and figuring out which one would prevail.”

Without the marriage aspect, she added, the case would be fairly cut and dry.

“It’s a core mistake people make. The court says if you go to a physician and do it their way, [donors] don’t have a legal connection to the child,” Mutcherson said. “When you don’t have that anymore, you have two people on equal footing. At that point it’s just a custody proceeding.”

John Keating, the Glassboro-based attorney representing the Yateses, said he hopes the question of marital status will strengthen their case.

“We think it’s important the appellate division make a decision. Our purpose here is for other couples not to go through this. They set out to start a family together, and they did what they thought was the right thing,” he said. “They entered into contracts with sperm donors, they consulted a physician and are now in a position of raising two children with two sperm donors instead of being two parents and their children. Now there are four parents raising these children.”

Sheena said she hopes bringing attention to her case will help other couples avoid similar problems in the future.

“It’s not just us,” she said. “It’s thousands of others who could go through it, too, and it affects people’s lives every day.”

Keating also argues that their consultation of a physician should hold up in court, despite the fact that the procedure was carried out at home. Furthermore, he said, the court’s interpretation that artificial insemination must be carried out only by a doctor puts lower-income people, gay or straight, at a disadvantage. Fertility clinics carry a hefty price tag, and sperm banks aren’t cheap.

“We don’t think this is an anti-LGBT decision,” Keating said, but noted that even initial fees at most sperm banks tally about $1,000. “But we do think it disparately impacts LGBT couples, and disproportionately impacts lower-income people.”

Mutcherson agreed.

Click here to read the entire article.

AG recommends recognizing same-sex parents in Israel

ynetnews.com, February 9, 2015 by Aviel Magnezi

Israel takes step towards granting parental rights to same-sex parents, as AG says state should give recognize partner of biological parent, instead of forcing them to legally adopt child.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein submitted a precedent-setting request to the family court on Sunday, recommending that the same-sex partner of a biological birth mother be regarded as a legal parent.

The recommendation pertains to same-sex parents of a child born through sperm donation. Currently, the non-biological partner was forced to adopt their partner’s biological child in order to be listed as a legal parent.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the partner of a biological parent can be registered as the child’s parent in the civil registry, following a US court ruling that ordered to allow the names of a same-sex couple on birth certificates.

 

Click here to read the entire article.

Adoption hope for same-sex couples in Bermuda

February 6, 2015 – The Royal Gazette By Owain Johnston-Barnes

Unmarried and same-sex couples can apply to jointly adopt children, according to a recent judgment in the Supreme Court.

Under the Adoption Act 2006, unmarried couples have been unable to jointly adopt children. Bermuda does not recognise same-sex marriage, so the Act also indirectly banned same-sex couples from joint adoption.

But in a judgment dated February 3, Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman ruled that section of the Act represented unlawful discrimination.

The ruling came after an unnamed same-sex couple wanted to adopt a nine-month-old child they had been raising together.

They were told by the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) that, as an unmarried couple, they would have to make separate applications, which would be processed and considered separately. The couple argued that requiring a separate process was discriminatory and sought a declaration from the Court that the Adoption Act should be read in a manner which is consistent with the Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the grounds of marital status and sexual orientation.

The department argued that having the couple processed separately would not constitute less favourable treatment. In the judgment, Mr Justice Hellman found that “marital status” included both the state of being married and unmarried.

“If one is a status so, too, is the other,” he stated. “Permitting a joint application by a married couple but not an unmarried couple is discriminatory in that it involves treating the unmarried couple less favourably than the married couple by providing adoption services to the one couple but not the other.

“For the reasons given by the plaintiffs, I therefore reject the defendants’ submission that processing the plaintiffs’ applications separately, with the possibility of a separate adoption order in the case of each plaintiff, would not constitute less favourable treatment.

“It would, however, constitute a refusal to provide them with adoption services of a like quality, in the like manner and on the like terms on which the DCFS normally makes them available to other members of the public, namely applicants who are married couples.

“It is in any case doubtful whether the Act would permit the court to entertain two applications for the adoption of the same child.

“The argument that it would involve a strained construction of the statutory language to which a court would likely only have recourse if it were necessary to avoid applying that section in an unlawfully discriminatory way.

“As it would not achieve that end, there is no good reason to construe the section in this way.”

He ruled that the statutory ban on the couple to adopt was unlawful, noting that the same position had already been taken by courts in Britain, Canada, Gibraltar, and South Africa.

Click here to read the entire article.