Why Children of Same-Sex Parents Should No Longer Feel Invisible

by Ariel Chesler, Time.com June 23, 2015

The world still doesn’t know nearly enough about the estimated six million children with an LGBT parent

babyAs I nervously await this month’s Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, which may extend same-sex marriage to all 50 states, I’m thinking about what comes next. As a child raised by two women during my formative years, I’ve previously written about the invisibility and non-recognition of my family in media, culture, and law, and how my silence about my family led to a deep and unnecessary shame. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling, there is still much work to be done to make sure the children of same-sex parents are no longer invisible.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve come a long way in what seems to some like a short amount of time, although those who have been part of the struggle for 30 years or more may beg to differ. But, truthfully, I am, in a way, jealous of children currently being raised by same-sex parents.

In the 1980s, when I was getting teased on the playground for having two moms, we didn’t have shows like Glee or Modern Family or films like The Kids Are All Right. This was way before Orange Is the New Black, with its diverse cast of characters, and even well before Will and Grace appeared on our screens. There were no revolutionary legal rulings recognizing gay families, and anti-sodomy statutes were still on the books in some states.

We also didn’t yet have the classic children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. That book, and the many others like it that now exist, would have been so helpful to me. While I didn’t have the opportunity to see that aspect of my family in book form, I do recall reading Megan’s Book of Divorce by Erica Jong, which normalized my status as a child of divorce, and helped me work through the pain and frustration of not having my father in my home.

So, in many ways, the kids of same-sex couples today are so much more all right than I was because they can see themselves in books and on screen—which both validates and changes how they view themselves. Hopefully very soon they will see themselves and their families protected equally by the law.

But even with all this progress and with much of the focus of the same-sex marriage legal battle on the children of gays and lesbians, the world still doesn’t know nearly enough about the estimated 6 million children in America with an LGBT parent, and, speaking as one of those children, we don’t necessarily know enough about each other.

Enter organizations like COLAGE, which unites people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents into a network of peers, supports them, and allows them to share experiences and create community. This is such important work because allowing us to see other children with common but also unique family stories strengthens us and allows us to be seen as well.

Gabriela Herman, a Brooklyn-based photographer whose mother is gay, is also aiding the cause of visibility by collecting portraits of and interviewing people raised by gay parents. She describes each portrait and interview session as therapeutic and says she found that, as diverse as their experiences were, they all shared the feelings of silence and isolation.

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Gay couple unable to leave Thailand with daughter

Washington Blade, by Michael Lavers – June 24, 2015

A Florida man claims he and his husband are unable to leave Thailand with their infant daughter because the woman who gave birth to her objects to the fact they are a same-sex couple.

Gordon “Bud” Lake told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview on June 9 that he met the surrogate mother in person for the first time the day before his daughter, Carmen Santos Lake, was born in a Bangkok hospital on Jan. 17.

He said he visited her in the subsequent days, and brought his son Álvaro, who was born through a surrogate in India in August 2013, with him. Lake told the Blade that his husband, who is from Spain, did not accompany him. Lake said the surrogate — who is not the baby’s biological mother — agreed to list him on their daughter’s birth certificate as her father.

He told the Blade the surrogate also signed a consent form that allowed him to take her from the hospital. “All seemed to be going well,” wrote Lake in an email to the Blade earlier this month. “Carmen was beautiful, happy and healthy. The surrogate was fully cooperating and I was looking forward to heading home with my family in a matter of weeks, once all the remaining paperwork was finalized.”

Lake told the Blade he first became aware that the surrogate had an issue with the fact that he and his husband are a same-sex couple a few weeks after she gave birth to their daughter. “She had stated to our lawyer [that] she was fine helping out a couple that had problems that couldn’t have a child on their own and that we weren’t an ordinary family,” Lake told the Blade, recalling the surrogate’s objections. “That’s when I first found out about it. I don’t know if the agency told her before hand.” Lake told the Blade the surrogate — represented by the Women’s Lawyers Association of Thailand — did not show up for a scheduled meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok where he said she was to have provided him with the necessary paperwork that would have allowed him to leave the country with his daughter.

He said the surrogate was also supposed to sign for her American passport. The surrogate made the first of several appearances in the Thai media on March 3. Lake told the Blade that the surrogate on March 19 arrived at the Bangkok apartment building in which he and his husband had previously lived. He said they had already moved because their original lawyer told them “she could come and try to take the baby from us.” Lake said the surrogate and her teenage daughter waited in the lobby for eight hours.

“She asked me to come downstairs and bring the baby,” he said, recalling a conversation he said he had with the surrogate over a Thai social media network. “She wanted to see the baby.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Supreme Court gay marriage decision could end debate over children’s well-being

Mashable.com June 21, 2015 by Rebecca Ruiz

Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo are like most American parents. They juggle work and family, try to keep up with household chores, and spend weekends with their two children, Wyatt, 8, and Elyse, 7.

Saturday nights are a special occasion. Mansell’s mother, who lives with the family in their Placentia, California home, treats everyone to dinner at a local restaurant. They come home, pile on the couch, and watch a movie selected by one of the kids. Most recently, Elyse chose the animated children’s movie ParaNorman.

It would all be rather ordinary — except for the fact that Mansell and Espejo are plaintiffs in Tanco v. Haslam, which has been consolidated with four other lawsuits under Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark case before the Supreme Court challenging same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. (The couple lived in Tennessee when they filed the original suit.)

While the case disputes the constitutionality of gay marriage bans, it also raises emotional questions about whether children of such couples are somehow worse off than the offspring of straight couples. An estimated 122,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. are raising more than 200,000 children, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Though decades of research show no emotional or psychological harm, opponents of same-sex marriage argue the possibility of such a thing is a compelling reason to prohibit gay unions. This line of reasoning is central to the defense of Michigan’s ban.

When the Supreme Court rules on the case in the coming weeks, its opinion could very well render that argument irrelevant. Mansell would welcome such a decision, but doesn’t need the Supreme Court to say what he already knows.

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Overview of surrogacy and adoption options in the USA / 2015 Brussels MHB

Unused Embryos Pose Difficult Issue: What to Do With Them

By Tamar Lewin, New York Times, June 17, 2015

After years of infertility, Angel and Jeff Watts found a young egg donor to help them have a baby. They fertilized her eggs with Mr. Watts’s sperm and got 10 good embryos. Four of those embryos were transferred to Ms. Watts’s womb, resulting in two sets of twins — Alexander and Shelby, now 4 years old, and Angelina and Charles, not yet 2.

But that left six frozen embryos, and on medical advice, Ms. Watts, 45, had no plans for more children. So in December she took to Facebook to try to find a nearby Tennessee family that wanted them.

“We have 6 good quality frozen six-day-old embryos to donate to an amazing family who wants a large family,” she posted. “We prefer someone who has been married several years in a steady loving relationship and strong Christian background, and who does not already have kids, but wants a boat load.”

In storage facilities across the nation, hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos — perhaps a million — are preserved in silver tanks of liquid nitrogen. Some are in storage for cancer patients trying to preserve their chance to have a family after chemotherapy destroys their fertility. But most are leftovers from the booming assisted reproduction industry, belonging to couples like the Wattses, who could not conceive naturally.

And increasingly families, clinics and the courts are facing difficult choices on what to do with them — decisions that involve profound questions about the beginning of life, the definition of family and the technological advances that have opened new reproductive possibilities.

Since the first American “test tube” baby was born in 1981, in vitro fertilization, at a cost of $12,000 or more per cycle, has grown to account for more than 1.5 percent of all United States births.

The embryos with the greatest chance of developing into a healthy baby are used first, and the excess are frozen; a 2002 survey found about 400,000 frozen embryos, and another in 2011 estimated 612,000. Now, many reproductive endocrinologists say, the total may be about a million.

Couples are generally glad to have the leftover embryos, backups in case a pregnancy does not result from the first tries.

“But if I ask what they’ll do with them, they often have a Scarlett O’Hara response: I’ll think about that tomorrow,” said Dr. Mark V. Sauer, of Columbia University’s Center for Women’s Reproductive Care. “Couples don’t always agree about the moral and legal status of the embryo, where life begins, and how religion enters into it, and a lot of them end up kicking the can down the road.’’

There are no national statistics on what happens with these leftover embryos. As a practical matter, many sit in storage indefinitely, academic researchers say, either at fertility clinics or other facilities, costing $300 to $1,200 a year. A small percentage of people stop paying the storage fees and leave it to the clinic or facility to figure out what to do.

Click here to read the entire article.

BABY LOVE: HOW AMBER MADE A GAY COUPLE’S DREAMS COME TRUE

Gayswithkids.com, by Asaf Rosenheim, June 13, 2015

babybumpThis is the story of Baby Love. Baby Love isn’t her real name; it is the name we chose for the purposes of this story. One reason we are going to call her Baby Love is that her parents would like to give her a choice when she grows up to keep this story to herself. More to the point, we are calling her Baby Love because three people took every ounce of their love, from the far corners of New York to the depths of Texas, to bring Baby Love into this world.  If you stick with the story, you will hear about the moment Baby Love was born.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber, the surrogate who carried Baby Love. Amber will be the guest at the Men Having Babies (“MHB”) Pride meeting this week in New York. This is a real cause for celebration for anyone who cares about our gay families. MHB has grown from a program that ran at the NYC LGBT Center starting in 2005 to an independent nonprofit organization that provides valuable invaluable support to prospective gay fathers, including online resources, ratings of surrogacy agencies and fertility clinics, seminars, exhibits and workshops worldwide.

Most importantly, MHB provides prospective fathers who cannot afford the expenses involved with parenting through surrogacy with over a million dollars’ worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from about forty leading service providers through the Gay Parenting Assistance Program (“GPAP”). To date GPAP has already provided almost 200 couples with access to substantial discounts, and more than two dozen couples and singles received full support, including grants and free service. These prospective parents, who otherwise may have not been able to complete this journey, were chosen by a grant committee. As of today, about 10 babies are already expected to be born later this year, with many more to come. Applications for stage I of the program is open year round, and stage II applications for 2016 are received from eligible stage I recipients until August 1.

The celebratory Pride meeting of the organization will take place at 6:30pm on Wednesday June 17 at the JCC Manhattan. It will start with a networking reception, with a short briefing by the organization’s board about recent developments, future plans and opportunities to get involved. Following the reception Amber and the parents she helped will tell their stories. Tissues and light refreshments will be provided.

This story began ten years ago when Amber, pregnant with her first son, decided that she would be a surrogate one day. Amber doesn’t remember where she heard about this option, but what she does remember is that, from that moment on, for ten whole years, she knew she would one day carry a child for another family. For the most part Amber’s pregnancies were easy: she enjoyed them, and she even said that she felt like she “could be pregnant forever.” Despite her amazing outlook and good pregnancies, there were moments that weren’t easy, but none of these hardships came close to stopping Amber from pursuing her dream.

When I asked Amber what pushed her all this time, she said that, as a mother, she couldn’t imagine someone not being able to start a family because they couldn’t have a child on their own. She knew she wanted to give this gift, not only to them, but also to herself.

Five years ago, Amber, by then a mother of three, moved to Texas, where surrogacy is legal; and the moment she and her family unpacked, she started exploring it. For a long time she was a fly on the wall on Facebook groups dedicated to surrogates and their networks, and she recommended that any women considering surrogacy do the same: hear the stories, the lovely with the ugly, the good with the bad. Amber, in a way that is typical for her personality, spent a long time researching agencies, clinics and speaking with surrogates who had gone through this journey. So it was hardly surprising that, three days after she submitted her application to her preferred agency, she got matched with a gay couple from New York. Two days later she had her first phone call with the intended parents. I asked Amber about the moment before she hit “send” on her application. She remembered that she had butterflies because she had put so much of herself into it. She felt very vulnerable.

It had been a while since everyone on that phone call had been on a first date , but that’s exactly what it felt like. Excitement mixed with anxiety is how they all described that call. Amber remembers the exact date: January 8. Will she like us? Will they like me? Can I make sure I make a good impression while being completely honest? Is this the right person for us?

Amber says that she got some very good advice from an experienced surrogate before the call, who told her not to say “yes” just because she felt excited to start the process. But after an hour-long conversation, which had no awkward silences, it took both parties less than two minutes to write back to the agency and say: YES YES YES.

Amber told me that a few days ago while going through some documents she re-read the couple’s application. She said that everything they wrote in that application was spot-on, and that everything they had hoped for happened. She attributes this to both parties being emotionally ready and being in the right place at the right time.

Click here to read the entire article.

Michigan Legislation Allows Adoption Agencies to Reject LGBT Parents

Reuters via New York Times – June 10, 2015

(Reuters) – Adoption agencies in Michigan would be able to refuse service on religious grounds to homosexual couples who want to adopt children under three bills that the state’s Republican-controlled Senate passed on Wednesday.

The bills, which must be signed by the governor to become law, say child-placing agencies shall not be required to provide adoption services under circumstances that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs contained in a written policy or other document. The agencies are private, but receive state funding.

While the bills do not specifically mention lesbian and gay couples, they are viewed as narrow versions of religious freedom acts passed in a number of states to shield businesses that want to refuse service to same-sex couples from discrimination lawsuits.

Supporters say the acts protect religious freedoms, while others say they are licenses to discriminate. With 37 states now allowing same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court has taken up the issue this year and conservative groups are turning toward backing religious-freedom laws from fighting recent battles on gay marriage.

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Gay adoption ban stricken from Florida laws after 4 decades

AP via The Tampa Tribune

TALLAHASSEE – The nearly four-decade-old law that prevents gays from adopting children will disappear from Florida’s statutes on July 1.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill today that removes the language – though the ban hasn’t been enforced for the past five years.

The bill signed by Scott also promotes adoption, but the original language was changed to include a provision removing the gay adoption ban from state law.

While conservative Republicans objected to the idea, others said that it simply changes the law to reflect reality.

A judge ruled five years ago that the state’s ban was unconstitutional.

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Same-Sex Couples More Equitable in Childcare, Chores than Different-Sex Ones

June 10, 2015 – via Mombian,com

Same-sex couples tend to share child care and certain household chores more equitably than different-sex ones, according to a new study.

Both same- and different-sex couples divvy up household chores, according to “Modern Families: Same- and Different-Sex Couples Negotiating at Home, conducted by the non-profit, nonpartisan Families and Work Institute. Different-sex couples, however, “generally do so in ways that align with traditional gender and power roles.”

The study looked at 225 dual-earner couples who have been married or living with a partner for at least one year, including same-sex and different-sex couples, with and without children. Both members of the couples completed the surveys.

In different-sex, dual-earner couples, a person’s sex, relative income, and work hours more often predict his or her household responsibilities. Women, lower earners, and those with fewer work hours take primary responsibility for stereotypically female chores (cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping), whereas men, higher earners, and those with more work hours take primary responsibility for stereotypically male chores (outdoor work, household repairs). Errand tend to be shared.

For same-sex, dual-earner couples, however, relative income and work hours do not reliably predict household responsibilities. A greater proportion of same-sex couples share routine and sick child care responsibilities (74 percent versus 38 percent and 62 percent versus 32 percent, respectively). More same-sex couples also share laundry (44 percent versus 31 percent) and household repair (33 percent versus 15 percent) responsibilities.

Italian surrogacy case goes to ECHR Grand Chamber

By Susan Gately – 05 June, 2015 – CatholicIreland.Net (The implications of this case are huge for European surrogacy but please keep in mind that the tone of the reporting reflects the source.)

The European Court of Human Rights decided earlier this week to refer an Italian surrogacy case on appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

The case Paradiso and Campanelli v. Italy was originally heard in the European Court of Human Rights in January this year.

The case involved a couple who obtained a child from a Russian company specialising in surrogacy.

Paradiso and Campanelli paid €49,000 for the baby boy who was produced through in vitro fertilisation and surrogacy. He had no biological connection with them.

Surrogacy is illegal in Italy, so the purchase of the baby was illegal, and passing him off as their own child, was seen as an act of fraud and a breach of public order. The Italian courts prosecuted the couple and the baby was placed with a foster family.

Paradiso and Campanelli appealed to the European Court of Human Rights maintaining that the interference was a breach of their right to “respect for private and family life” which is protected under the European Convention of Human Rights.

In its judgment on 27 January 2015, the Section of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the couple and ordered the Italian government to pay them €20,000 in damages and costs.

The Court considered that the Italian authorities had not given sufficient weight to the best interests of the child when balancing them against public-policy considerations.

The authorities had decided to remove the child and to place him under guardianship on the grounds that he had no biological relationship with the applicants and that the applicants had been in an unlawful situation (by contacting a Russian agency in order to become parents and subsequently bringing a child to Italy whom they passed off as their child, they had circumvented the prohibition in Italy on surrogacy and the rules on international adoption).

The Court said in particular, the authorities had not recognised the de facto relationship between the applicants and the child and had imposed an extreme measure, reserved for cases where children were in danger.

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