The Hague has decided to appoint an expert group to meet early next year to look at private international rules concerning children, including surrogacy

March 30, 2015 via Stephen Page

The Council decided that an Experts’ Group be convened to explore the feasibility of advancing work in this area . The Experts’ Group should first consider the private international law rules regarding the legal status of children in cross-border situations, including those born of international surrogacy arrangements. To this end, the Council decided that:

a)  the Experts’ Group should meet in early 2016 and report to the 2016 Council;

b)  the Group should be geographically representative and be composed in consultation with Members; and

c)  members are invited to keep the Permanent Bureau updated regarding significant developments in their States in relation to legal parentage and surrogacy.

 

Click here to read the press release.

5 Things This New Gay Dad Was Not Prepared For

The Handsome Father – March 26, 2015 by Scott Ballum Cohen

We welcomed our gorgeous, bright-eyed daughter six weeks ago. We had driven to Massachusetts a week before the due date to get ahead of an impending blizzard, and to wait. On a Saturday night five days later, our surrogate mother — a remarkable and generous relative — told us that the baby would come in the morning, so we should all get to sleep. We arose at six, took showers and a quick breakfast, and drove to the hospital. Our ‘Little Bear’ was born four hours later. It was the most civilized birthing story I’d ever heard of.

It was a moment no amount of planning could have prepared us for. Upon reflection, I can think of five other surprises my husband and I experienced in the weeks before and after the arrival of our baby girl, and a few things I learned:gay and lesbian adoption, adoption process for gay couples, adoption rights for gay couples, adoption for gay couples, gay families, gay parents adoption

1. The Other Big Decisions

Most of the research we had done, and the topic of most conversations at the group meetings we had attended, was about the logistics and options for having a baby and protecting our future family’s legal standings. But how to go about “getting pregnant” was only the first of many big decisions to make. Of course, at the start, this is the only one that matters. What I didn’t see coming, though, was the litany of big decisions that then had to be made – that really had nothing to do with how gay we were (mostly) and everything to do with the fact that we were about to become parents.

What kind of formula were we going to feed the baby? Organic? Ready-to-feed? Powdered? Something we could buy off the shelf locally, or that we had to order online from New Zealand? What about Diapers? All the charts show how much we would save over her early years by using cloth – but realistically we knew we needed to consider disposables, too. Which meant two separate research projects to determine what brands and styles we wanted to try. Same with bottles, lotions, clothes(!), cribs and crib sheets, nail clippers, and burp cloths. Don’t even get started on vaccines.

My lesson: I relied heavily on The NightLight for product reviews, and Reading My Tea Leaves for simple and natural essentials. Hand-me-downs were a mixed blessing, but we found some of the unlikeliest to be the most useful. The proprietor at our local baby shop patiently explained the ins-and-outs of cloth diapering to me on at least four separate occasions.

2. The Clumsiness of Baby Showers

We were lucky enough to have two friends in two cities offer to host baby showers for us. Given that we had already moved (which meant housewarming gifts) and got married (meaning wedding gifts) this year, I was reluctant to presume that anyone wanted to be given another shopping list for us — but family and friends insisted, so (following the stress of decision making above) we pulled together a thoughtful registry and handed over the email addresses of our close friends and family. The events were lovely and sweet, and we are so appreciative — but they truly were awkward for us. So awkward that we didn’t even open the presents until everyone left at the first shower, which was obviously a faux pas. Opening gifts at the second shower felt like Christmas — except it was Christmas only for us and no one else in the room; not quite a Birthday Party, either, because we were cautiously celebrating something that hadn’t happened yet. Yikes. My husband was so sure that we would receive everything we needed off our registry. That proved to be a silly assumption.

The only thing that wasn’t clumsy, surprisingly, was having our surrogate at our baby shower. We wondered if there would be a strange tension over who in the room we were celebrating. Seriously, no one was confused.

My lesson: In hindsight, I would have preferred gift-free showers. I ended up using My Registry as my own shopping list, but prices and availability changed between the time I listed them and when I went back to buy them. I wish I had just bought the things I knew I was going to need or really loved. My suggestion is that if grandparents want to gift you the crib or rocking chair or that adorable aviator hat with little bear ears, see if they’ll mind reimbursing you.

3. The Kindness of the Hospital Staff

June was born at a city hospital in Massachusetts, which meant that they had seen a lot of things, and that we certainly weren’t the most unusual situation to come through. But it also meant there was a ‘rough around the edges’ element to the facility. It was a Catholic hospital, at least theoretically, but one where our surrogate’s own children had been born. We weren’t sure how we’d be welcomed.

I started calling the hospital social worker and attending nurse months in advance, so I knew from the beginning that they were on board. “How can we make this the most positive birthing experience for all of you?” one asked on our first call. We talked through a birth plan, and I was feeling quite positive.

Then the hospital attorneys got involved, and suddenly we were a liability. We weren’t going to be allowed to leave with our new baby until after the four-day required waiting period after which our surrogate could relinquish her maternal rights. Our lawyer was furious; their lawyer threatened to call social services. This was all hard news – but to be frank, this is the kind of attitude life had prepared us for. What we actually faced at the hospital before, during, and after the birth, though, was far more shocking. We were welcomed into the birthing room, doted on as new parents, given our own suite on the maternity floor, and treated with utmost respect. Delivery nurses came to find us to thank us for the opportunity to be part of our story. After days of seeing us handle baby June, the cleaning crews and food service staff came back in to tell us they found us inspiring, and that the amount of love in our room was remarkable, “even after working here a long time.” In a hospital that often sees young or unwed mothers, reluctant fathers, or worse, the joy in our family was very welcome. “They aren’t all good days,” one delivery nurse told us. “Today was a good day.”

My lesson: Allies are often where we least expect them. We had also received some sage advice to not let the inevitable stressful moments or unsupportive individuals take our focus off of the joy of those days. I am so glad we heeded that advice.

Click here to read the entire article.

Judge In Texas Blocks Plan To Extend Family Leave Benefits To Married Gay Couples

March 27, 2015 by Carlos Santoscoy

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked implementation of a plan to extend family leave benefits to married gay couples.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor granted the preliminary junction sought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (pictured) that stays expansion of the federal definition of “spouse” in the Family Medical Leave Act to include the legal husband or wife of a gay worker.

The change was set to take effect Friday.

Under the law, employers must allow unpaid time off for employees facing certain family emergencies.

Paxton argued that the new regulation would force state agencies to violate Texas’ 2005 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union.

“This lawsuit is about defending the sovereignty of our state, and we will continue to protect Texas from the unlawful overreach of the federal government,” Paxton said in filing the lawsuit.

“Texans have clearly defined the institution of marriage in our state, and attempts by the Obama administration to disregard the will of our citizens through the use of new federal rules is unconstitutional and an affront to the foundations of federalism,” he added.

Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska joined the lawsuit.

Click here to read the entire article.

Bill would require fertility benefits for lesbians

The Baltimore Sun, by Michael Dresser, March 18, 2015

f Fiona M. Jardine had a husband, the expensive fertility treatments she’s now undergoing would be covered by her health plan.

But Jardine, 29, is married to a woman, so she and her wife have to pay out of pocket.

A bill that would grant married lesbian couples the same fertility treatment benefits as husbands and wives is advancing in the Maryland General Assembly. The measure passed unanimously in a House subcommittee Tuesday, and full Senate and House committees are likely to vote this week.

Del. Terri L. Hill, the bill’s House sponsor, said the measure is designed to bring consistency to state law, given Maryland voters’ approval of same-sex marriage in 2012.

“We’re concerned that we correct the law to reflect Maryland’s state on marriage equality,” said Hill, a Democrat who represents Howard and Baltimore counties. “It was about making sure all Marylanders are treated in an equitable fashion.”

Maryland has required state-regulated health insurance plans that offer pregnancy-related benefits to cover the costs of in vitro fertilization since 2000. It is one of a dozen states that require coverage of the procedure, which involves fertilizing the egg outside the woman’s body and implanting the embryo in the uterus.

That law includes a requirement that only the husband’s sperm can be used in any covered in vitro procedure — a provision that excludes lesbians using donated sperm. Hill’s bill, sponsored in the Senate by Montgomery County Democrat Cheryl Kagan, would remove that requirement for same-sex couples.

And if an insurer chooses to provide more extensive fertility coverage to heterosexual couples, same-sex couples would have to be offered the same.

“It’s all about equality. It’s all about updating our laws,” Kagan said.

Jardine, a graduate assistant at the University of Maryland College Park, said she was dismayed to learn that her insurance carrier would not cover the costly form of artificial insemination she needs because of a medical condition. The sticking point was that she and her wife, Jo Arnone, 57, would be using donor sperm instead of a husband’s sperm.

Click here to read the entire article.

Kids thrive just as well in non-traditional families, new book says

MyKwartha.com, March 20, 2015 – By Andrea Gordon

Baby Jasmine Chan delivered the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift to her parents this year. It was her first word, clear and deliberate.

“Daddy,” she said, beaming across the dinner table.

Music to her two dads’ ears.

When they met 12 years ago, Paul Chan and Ewan French never imagined they would one day answer to Daddy or Papa.

Chan had recently come out to his family. It was a tough period and his mother was heartbroken. She wanted grandkids. He assumed his own dream of being a father would never come true.

It wasn’t until they married two years ago that the couple started to explore the idea of parenthood. Chan, 33, was confident they could be good, loving parents. French was on the fence.

“I always knew we’d have a strong community around us,” says French, 34, who was born and raised in Scotland.

“But I didn’t want (our child) to face any challenges because of having same-sex parents. Would we be putting her at an unfair advantage because of it?”

According to a new book from University of Cambridge developmental psychologist Susan Golombok, the answer is a resounding “No.”

Golombok, director of the university’s Centre for Family Research, has been studying the impact of evolving family structures on children for almost 40 years.

Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms, which rounds up research from around the world, concludes that children raised by same-sex parents and solo moms by choice or born as a result of donor conception or surrogacy fare just as well as kids raised by a two-parent, heterosexual married couple.

“The main conclusion is that what matters for children is not so much the structure of the family — the gender or sexual orientation of their parents, the number of parents or whether parents are biologically related to their children,” Golombok said in a phone interview from England.

“What seems to be more important is the quality of the relationships within the family.”

In other words, while the traditional model of mom, dad and biological kids was once considered “the gold standard,” four decades of research doesn’t bear that out.

All other things being equal, children manage just as well — and face the same difficulties — whether they have two dads and no mom, or two moms and no father as they do with two heterosexual parents. There is no evidence they have more psychological problems, difficulty adjusting or atypical gender development, Golombok found.

The fluidity of partnerships and family is also the subject of a soon-to-be-released book by Hollywood actress Maria Bello.

Her memoir, Whatever…Love is Love, follows her 2013 Modern Love column in the Sunday New York Times, which drew accolades. Titled “Coming Out as a Modern Family,” it told the poignant story of how Bello explained to her 12-year-old son that she was in love with her best friend, a woman.

The piece, which made the list of the top 10 Modern Love columns ever written, highlights the resilience and adaptability that kids can demonstrate when they have trusting relationships with parents.

It’s something Chantal Saville has seen in her 6-year-old daughter Nikki, who she’s now raising with the help of her own mom.

After Saville’s marriage broke up two years ago and the couple sold the business they ran outside Peterborough, she wondered how she’d make ends meet.

Her mother, widowed a decade earlier, was still living in the Toronto bungalow Saville grew up in as an only child. The two had always been close.

“Now we are effectively co-parenting Nikki,” says Saville, 42, a writer.

In the early days, mom and grandma occasionally locked horns over discipline when the era of, “because I said so” clashed with modern refrain of, “sweetie, here’s why I need you to do what I ask.”

But they’ve learned that communication is key and that whoever is in charge at a given moment gets the final word.

Organizations like American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have already endorsed findings that the sexual orientation of parents has no bearing on child-rearing abilities or the well-being of kids.

What’s new about Modern Families is it brings together empirical research involving many thousands of families from around the world and explores some of the reasons that more unorthodox families seem to do so well.

Golombok’s career has spanned an evolution in family life, starting in the late 1970s as lesbian moms came out and divorced husbands fought for the right to raise their children, followed by the arrival of the first test-tube baby in 1978.

The book comes amid a huge shift in how society recognizes and accommodates the assortment of families created as a result of assisted reproductive technologies. Modern kids may have a “solo mom” who chose to have a child on her own using donated sperm, or relationships with as many as five parents, including two legal parents, a sperm donor, egg donor and a surrogate.

The careful planning and lengths these parents go to in order to have children may be one reason their kids do well, says Golombok.

It can require years of fertility treatment and facing other barriers like social disapproval. The less motivated give up along the way.

Click here to read the entire article.

The Metro Areas With the Largest, and Smallest, Gay Populations

New York Times, March 20, 2015 by David Leonhart and Claire Cain Miller

The Census Bureau asks Americans about subjects as varied as race, religion, annual income and even their source of home heating. But there is one glaring demographic omission: The census does not ask people about their sexual orientation. As a result, there has long been a shroud of uncertainty around the geography of gay and lesbian Americans.

A new analysis of Gallup survey data offers the most detailed estimates yet about where people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender live.

The Gallup analysis finds the largest concentrations in the West — and not just in the expected places like San Francisco and Portland, Ore. Among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Denver and Salt Lake City are also in the top 10. How could Salt Lake be there, given its well-known social conservatism? It seems to be a kind of regional capital of gay life, attracting people from other parts of Utah and the Mormon West.

On the other hand, some of the East Coast places with famous gay neighborhoods, including in New York, Miami and Washington, have a smaller percentage of their population who identify as gay — roughly average for a big metropolitan area. The least gay urban areas are in the Midwest and South.

Significant as these differences are, the similarities are just as notable. Gay America, rather than being confined to a few places, spreads across every major region of the country. Nationwide, Gallup says, 3.6 percent of adults consider themselves gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. And even the parts of the country outside the 50 biggest metropolitan areas have a gay population (about 3 percent) not so different from some big metropolitan areas. It’s a reflection in part of increasing tolerance and of social connections made possible by the Internet.

Frank Newport, the editor in chief of Gallup, notes that the regional variation in sexual orientation is much smaller than the variation in many other categories. The share of San Francisco’s population that’s gay is only two and a half times larger than the share outside major metro areas. The regional gaps in political attitudes, religion and ethnic makeup are often much wider.

Click here to read the entire article.

Surrogacy and the ‘Legal Parent’ in the UK

 

GayStarNews.com – March 10, 2015

Gemma Whitchurch, of family law solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, looks at some if the legal issues around surrogacy for those in the UK.  Surrogacy is when another woman carries and gives birth to a baby for the couple who want to have a child. For many childless couples and same sex partners it can enable them to have a baby when it would otherwise have been impossible.

There are two types of surrogacy: 1. Full surrogacy (also known as host or gestational). This involves the implantation of an embryo created using either: • the eggs and sperm of the intended parents; • a donated egg fertilized with sperm from the intended father; or • an embryo created using donor eggs and sperm. 2 Partial surrogacy (also known straight or traditional). This involves sperm from the intended father and an egg from the surrogate. Here fertilization is usually undertaken by artificial insemination or intrauterine insemination. If you are considering a surrogacy arrangement, it is crucial to take legal advice before you embark on the process.

The law in this area can be quite complex and unless a parental order is made then the child’s legal parents may not be as you intended. It is important to note that commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK and as such is a criminal offence. Surrogacy agreements cannot be enforced and therefore caution should be given to anything that purports to be a surrogacy contract. Under the law of England and Wales, irrespective of a biological connection, the woman who gives birth to the child is the child’s mother. This means that even if the child was conceived using the egg of another woman, the woman who gives birth will be the child’s legal mother.

The position of the ‘other parent’ is much more complex and varies whether the surrogate mother is married or unmarried, and in the case of the latter, whether the treatment takes place at a licensed clinic. To realign parentage in a surrogacy arrangement, the intended parents must apply for a parental order. The effect of a parental order is to give the commissioning parents the status of legal parents in the ordinary way.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Act provide that applicants for a parental order must be: a) Husband and wife; b) Civil partners; or c) Two persons who are living as partners in an enduring family type relationship and are not within prohibited degrees of separation of each other. Surprisingly this has not yet been amended to specifically allow for those applicants in a same-sex marriage, although one cannot envisage any problems if they were to apply for a parental order. The only category of person excluded from applying for a parental order is a single parent which is in stark contrast to adoption where there can be a single applicant. However, it is important to note that this does not stop a single parent entering into a surrogacy arrangements, whether in this country or abroad. In such a situation, legal advice should always be obtained. To make a parental order two conditions must be satisfied: a) The child must have been carried by a woman who is not one of the applicants, AND b) The gametes of at least one of the applicants must have been used to create the embryo

The application must be made within six months of the child being born.  However, there has been a case whereby the application was successful despite being made two years after the child’s birth. In such circumstances, every case will be fact specific and in considering any application for a parental order the welfare of the child will always be the court’s paramount consideration.

Click here to read the entire article.

5th Grader’s Delightful Review of “And Tango Makes Three”

Via Mombian.com – March 11, 2015

tangoFifth grader Zoe, at her blog Kids’ Animal Station, has written a terrific review of And Tango Makes Three, the lovely picture book about two male penguins who raise a chick together.

Zoe started her blog in 2012, and bills it as, “For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals.” The face that Tango is about “cute waddling penguins” qualifies it for coverage—but Zoe’s love for the book goes beyond just that. She explains:

This book has a particular soft spot in my heart, considering I know many people who are within the LGBT community, so this book was one of the first times I actually got a chance to learn about it, since you don’t really get to learn about LGBT people and things like that at the age this book is targeted to.

She adds a touch of humor, noting that when it comes to the acronym LGBT, “half the kids in my school think it’s a sandwich.”

Then she calls for more books like Tango:

What everyone can take away from this book is that families come in all sorts of ways, which is a lesson a bunch of the kids at my school don’t seem to know. . . . It would be better if more books like this were around, because I have noticed that the books you read when you are really young greatly impact your later years,

Click here to read the entire article.

IVF test improves chances of implantation by pinpointing fertility window

March 10, 2015 – the guardian.com

Thousands of infertile couples could benefit from a new test that tailors the timing of IVF treatment to a woman’s individual cycle for the first time.

The scientists behind the technique believe that IVF frequently fails because the embryo is transferred at the wrong time, missing a crucial fertility window.

The new test assesses the activity of genes of the womb lining to pinpoint a woman’s optimum time for treatment and in pilot studies the personalised approach appeared to significantly boost success rates.

Prof Juan Garcia-Velasco, of the IVI fertility clinic in Madrid, said: “We think that about 15% of cases of implantation failure are simply due to bad timing.” Prof Garcia-Velasco is now leading a clinical trial of the test, involving 2,500 patients in more than ten countries, including Britain.

Geeta Nargund, medical director of Create Fertility whose London clinic is participating, said: “The weakest link in IVF is implantation failure. I believe this is a breakthrough.”

There are more than 60,000 IVF cycles in Britain each year, but just 24% of these treatments lead to live births. Clinics currently check the visual appearance of the womb lining using ultrasound, giving a general indication of health.

“What we have never known is the right window of implantation,” said Nargund. “If you miss that window, no matter how beautiful the embryo, it’s not going to implant.”

For most women there is a two to four day stretch when the lining, or endometrium, sends out crucial chemical signals that allow the embryo to attach. For some women the fertile window is shifted earlier or later in the cycle or is unusually brief, however.

Click here to read the entire article.