For Gay Parents, Deciding Between Adoption and Surrogacy Raises Tough Moral Questions

When my husband David and I became new parents, we thought it would be fun and perhaps even affirming to get involved with a gay dads group.

As far as I could tell, the only regular event was a brunch that took place every few months. That sounded promising, a throwback to idle Sundays before the babies made it all about them. The food was always great—these are gay men, after all. But as it turned out, the event was neither fun nor affirming.

The gatherings mostly took place in wealthy suburban redoubts and were marked by a weird social division between two teams: Surrogacy Dads and Adoptive Dads. Some of this division was to be expected. Each group had war stories to share, and it was natural to break the ice with those who had lived through similar experiences. But after one or two brunches, I came to see that this kind of informal division reflected something much deeper: a philosophical debate about how we should form our families. The annoyingly named “gayby boom” has created a knot of moral questions that are impossible to avoid.Child health outcomes

Should is a weird word to use in this context, of course. For gay men especially, bringing children into the family is difficult and challenging no matter which route one chooses. Our first instinct should be support for all families, regardless of what route each of us took to realize our dreams. Both surrogacy and adoption present daunting legal obstacles—even now that marriage equality has been achieved.

As I learned when researching a book I co-authored, surrogacy is a state-by-state legal minefield. Some states won’t recognize these contracts at all, while the law in other states is unsettled. And there is the ever-present danger that the woman carrying the child will try to renege on her commitment. Adoption is hardly more secure. The countries offering this choice to gay men are constantly changing. Domestic adoption can be fraught as well either because birth mothers change their minds, or as in our case of adoption through the child welfare system, because the process has no certain outcome.

Beyond the legal hurdles, though, there’s an undeniable moral component to whatever decision we make. Those who can pony up the money for surrogacy—which frequently exceeds $100,000, all in—are faced with the cold fact that they’re selecting an egg donor based on objective calculations of positive attributes. Lesbians do the same with sperm donors, although of course at a much lower cost since no surrogate is needed.

When a case surfaces that draws the uncomfortable selection process into the open, people are left tongue-tied trying to figure out the proper response. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for Slate about the case of a lesbian couplethat sued a sperm bank for providing the “wrong” material—from a black, rather than a white, donor. As I said at the time, outraged gasps at the couple were “easy, but not completely fair. Because everyone who transacts business with companies that offer sperm and egg donation is looking for a bespoke baby.”

When it comes to the gestational surrogate, there’s the additional issue of contributing to an industry that commodifies the body in an obvious way. The ethical issues multiply when the surrogate is from a developing country, often India, where women are paid much less for their services; but such “surrogacy tourism” just highlights the uncomfortable exchange going on in all these cases.

Those thinking of adopting face internal battles, too. As required by law, case workers confronted David and me with an unsettling battery of questions about the race, age, and sex of the kids we were willing to adopt, as well as delicately phrased inquiries about whether we’d be comfortable dealing with disabled kids—and, if so, they needed to know, what kinds of disabilities did we think we could handle? Really, who knows?

By John Culhane, slate.com

Hey, Daddy! is a monthly column exploring the joys and struggles of parenting from a gay father’s perspective. Got a topic idea or question for Daddy? Send your letter along to johnculhane@comcast.net.

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As Mexican State Limits Surrogacy, Global System Is Further Strained

After years of longing and a mountain of expense, Michael Theologos became a father in December, when a surrogate mother gave birth to his son in a clinic in this tropical town. Mr. Theologos wept as he cut the umbilical cord.

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico — Then the trouble began.

The next day, officials arrived at the hospital and took the baby, Alexandros, into custody. They said Mr. Theologos, a New York City resident, had broken a new law that bars surrogate mothers here in Tabasco State from bearing children for foreigners.

Mr. Theologos, 59, did not see Alexandros again for nearly six weeks.international surrogacy

“You receive your dream and then someone comes over and takes away everything,” said Mr. Theologos, an American citizen who paid $55,000 to an agency for the surrogacy. Speaking by telephone from Queens, he added, “It was the end of the world for me.”

Mr. Theologos and his son are among a dozen foreign families who have been tangled up in a legal battle over how to apply new surrogacy restrictions in Tabasco, which for years was the only state in Mexico that allowed foreigners to hire surrogates.

Dozens of other families whose babies are yet unborn will face the same quandary, officials and lawyers said.

The imbroglio highlights the legal complexities of commercial surrogacy and the hazards of outsourcing it to freewheeling frontier markets, experts said.

“It’s an area that’s incredibly hard to regulate,” said Sam Everingham, global director of Families Through Surrogacy, a nonprofit based in Sydney that organizes seminars and shares information on the internet.

The model in which would-be parents from wealthy countries hire surrogates in poorer — and less regulated — nations is “not sustainable,” he said.

Surrogacy has expanded around the globe over the past decade as adoption rules become more stringent. But several markets have boomed and then abruptly closed to foreigners or people who are not in heterosexual marriages, often catching parents in a messy transition from one law to the next.

surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legalTabasco, where surrogacy has been legal since 1997, became a hub after India closed its doors, first to gay and then to foreign would-be parents, starting in 2013, and Thailand followed suit.

In Tabasco, the new restrictions closed a lucrative door for hundreds of women in a state where the oil industry has shed thousands of jobs, and the unemployment rate, at over 7 percent, is the highest in Mexico.

“There are no opportunities here,” said Mariana, 34, an unemployed saleswoman who bore twins for an Australian man last year. Like other surrogate mothers interviewed for this article, she did not want her full name used.

Sipping a soursop juice at a noisy cafe in the city center recently, she said that the pregnancy, for which she was paid about $10,000, was her “only chance to get ahead.”

The market here was never as large as India’s and Thailand’s had been. The government estimates that about 100 babies were born to surrogates in Tabasco each year from 2013 to 2016; academics and activists say it could have been as many as 500 a year.

by Victoria Burnett, New York Times – March 23, 2017

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The Children of Gay Parents Speak for Themselves

For the past five years, Gabriela Herman has been photographing and interviewing people from all over the country with one or more LGBTQ parent.

“My mom is gay,” she explained. “But it took me a long time to say those words out loud.” For Herman, coming to terms with her mother’s identity was a “raw and difficult time.” She had never met another person who was raised by a gay parent. “The topic was taboo even within our otherwise tight-knit family,” she said. “My younger siblings were dealing with the same emotions, but meaningful conversation eluded us.” Eventually she connected with COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) and found a community of people who shared a similar childhood: the juggling of silence and isolation, the defending of parents on the playground. In many ways, the images and interviews in Herman’s essay The Kids seeks to fill that silence. The children of gay parents aren’t “hypothetical”: They’re real and they’re ok.gay parents adoption

  1.  Hope, raised in New York City by her two dads: “I would see my friend’s families and my aunts and uncles and I knew that people had something called a mother that I didn’t necessarily have, but I didn’t really think that I was so much in the minority. I wondered about my birth family and my birth mother in particular, but in terms of my own development, I don’t feel like I suffered because of it. I think that my parents did a fantastic job of helping to raise me to be a strong woman, but in terms of that question piece about where did I come from—sometimes I still wonder that, and then other times it just kinda disappears in terms of its importance.”
  2. Allison, raised in Connecticut and Vermont by her mom and her mom’s partner: “As soon as I found out [my new school] had a gay-straight alliance I just—it was amazing, to know that there are other kids my age—to realize that they were supportive of LGBT people. I wasn’t the only one who knew gay people and it wasn’t this dark secret that I had to hide.”
  3. Kerry, raised in New Jersey by her dad and mom, who came out when she was 11: “I remember a conversation with my mom where she was talking about how she would like to marry another woman. When I was really little I wanted to marry my best friend so I was like, ‘Oh, it’s like me and Sarah?’ She was like, ‘No, not like you and Sarah.’”
  4. Zack, raised in upstate New York by his two moms: “Everyone in my family is adopted. I had less trouble with two moms and more issues with finding myself, you know, with race and ethnicity.”

by Emily Ann Epstein, The Atlantic – March 6, 2017

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Dozens of Anti-LGBT Bills Proposed This Year Target Kids and Families

Billy Mawhiney is a 38-year-old cooking instructor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He works with local kids, teaching classes at Plum’s Cooking Company, which he describes as a local version of Williams-Sonoma. 

Mawhiney and his husband, Kyle Margheim, have been together for ten years but married for five. Margheim also works with kids, teaching them to swim at a local club that contracts with the school district. 

Three years ago, the couple decided they were ready for children of their own. 

The process for becoming foster parents was rigorous. Mawhiney recalled “Two months of classes, FBI background check, fingerprinting, home visits, physicals, safety checks” and more. Discrimination

In the end, it was worth it: they became foster parents to two children, both under the age of 2. One of the kids currently lives with them, but the couple can’t give their name or age to a reporter due to the strict privacy laws protecting foster kids. 

And this July, that child could potentially be taken away from the home, and Mawhiney and Margheim’s lives as parents would change forever. 

That’s because South Dakota just passed the first anti-LGBT law of 2017, a bill that takes effect in July and allows adoption and foster agencies that receive state funding to turn away families like Mawhiney’s if the agency cites religious objections to LGBT people. 

In Mawhiney’s case, that means that a foster child might not get access to a loving pair of parents who have spent most of their careers working with kids. It also means they may never be able to permanently adopt the child currently in their care. 

“I’m a Christian and I believe in freedom of religion,” said Mawhiney. “But it should not be used to deny kids homes, to deny vulnerable children loving parents.” 

While South Dakota’s is the first passed, over 100 bills have been proposed this year that aim to curb the civil rights of LGBT Americans. Dozens of those target children and families primarily. 

Four states are considering bills that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to opt out of anything that has to do with LGBT people. Fifteen states have so-called “bathroom bills” on the table, which would prevent transgender kids and teens from being able to access gender-appropriate restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities at school. 

The federal government had promised to protect transgender students last year, but the Trump administration pulled back from defending Title IX protections for transgender kids on February 22nd, leaving an opening for such legislation to pass without federal interference.

March 14, 2017 – by MAry Emily O’Hara – nbc news.com

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Second Parent Adoption Necessity: Securing Parentage in Uncertain Times

Second parent adoption necessity has become the primary topic of discussion for me both at work and in my private life. 

Is there a second parent adoption necessity?  Everyone wants to know whether their family is safe.  Since January 2017, I have received more calls from parents who have not gone through the second parent adoption process for whatever reason and are now concerned that their children may be the ones who suffer from the lack of clear and incontrovertible parentage; a parentage that second parent adoption provides.

Why do I have to adopt my own child?  Many gay and lesbian parents are asking this question when attempting to understand the second parent adoption necessity.  In New York, married lesbian couples who have used anonymous sperm donors are allowed to be listed as a parent on their child’s birth certificate.  Gay couples who have children with the help of a surrogate mother may have petitioned for and received a pre or post-birth order declaring them the legal parents of their children.  They may also be on their children’s birth certificate.  So why is second parent adoption a necessity?second parent adoption necessity

The answer to this question is perhaps the most confounding that I have had to provide clients and friends.  If you can guarantee that your relationship will never end in divorce or dissolution and that, if it does, both individuals will prioritize the best interests of the child first and foremost, then perhaps you can get by without a second parent adoption.  But the reality of a relationship ending is never certain and, unfortunately, the non-genetically related parent is vulnerable to what may be costly and emotionally terrifying consequences.  While the few cases we have seen that have addressed the issue of the validity of a pre or post-birth order have ultimately upheld those orders, those cases cost the litigants tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This is because every jurisdiction has different laws around parentage, some more friendly than others.

With a second parent adoption, there is no question about the parentage rights of a non-genetically related parent.  Even with recent New York case law protecting non-adoptive lesbian parents, there remains questions about what rights other than the standing to sue for custody and visitation exist without adoption.  Federal social security benefits attach to “natural or adopted” children.  Inheritance rights attach to “natural or adopted” children.  Without adoption, future clarification will be needed to accurately assess when parentage exists.

Assisted Reproductive Technology and Gay Families – Sometimes it feels  like we are all just waiting for the law to catch up to how gay and lesbian couples have their families.  One recent decision from Brooklyn, Kings County Family Court to be precise, describes this issue masterfully and concludes that second parent adoption is the one way to ensure that couples are protected as state courts and legislatures grapple with assisted reproductive technology (ART) issues.

While the court in this decision confirms that a parental relationship exists in most cases with or without the adoption, it also holds that married gay and lesbian couples are entitled to second parent adoptions to expel any doubt about parentage and to protect families, particularly when they travel throughout the country and around the world.  The good news is that in many states, New York included, a marriage is not a prerequisite for a second parent adoption.

Whether you are a lesbian couple with a known donor or an anonymous donor, or whether you are a gay couple with a surrogate mother and a pre or post-birth order, the second parent adoption necessity is very real.  Second parent adoption is the right choice to make to protect your family from any future uncertainties.

For more information, email me at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com or visit www.timeforfamilies.com for more information.

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South Dakota Allows State-Funded Adoption Agencies to Turn Away Same-Sex Couples

Religious liberty means different things to different people. To James Madison, it meant freedom from religious persecution—and, specifically, from taxes used to fund specific religious sects.

To Thomas Jefferson, it meant freedom of worship, safeguarded by a strict separation of church and state. And to South Dakota Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, it means the freedom of state-funded agencies to refuse to let same-sex couples foster or adoption children.new york adoption, new york state adoption, adoption New York

On Friday evening, Daugaard signed SB 149 into law, granting publicly funded adoption agencies a license to discriminate. The law permits any “child-placement agency” in the state—including those that receive taxpayer money—to discriminate on the basis of “any sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.” Republican legislators designed the law to let these agencies turn away same-sex couples who hope to foster or adopt; its Senate sponsor, Republican Sen. Alan Solano, co-wrote the bill with Catholic Social Services, a vigorously anti-gay religious adoption agency that will not place children with same-sex couples. But the measure actually extends far beyond LGBTQ discrimination: It will also allow agencies to discriminate against single and divorced people, couples who engage in premarital sex, interfaith couples, and anyone else whose behavior or identity violates an agency’s “religious belief or moral conviction.”

More than 300 children are currently awaiting adoption in South Dakota, a number that SB 149 may well increase. Many of these children were removed from neglectful or abusive homes; SB 149 reduces the odds that they will find families to take them in. Adoption and foster care agencies may now turn away qualified individuals for reasons that are utterly immaterial to the wellbeing of children. The upshot of the bill is that more kids are likely to be left without homes and families.

by Mark Joseph Stern, Slate.com – March 13, 2017

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For first time, NY judge grants custody of boy to 3 parents in ‘unique’ case

A Long Island judge recently awarded custody of a 10-year-old boy to 3 parents in a “unique” case growing out of the state’s expanded parenting and same-sex marriage laws.

Suffolk County, NY — The child was conceived by parents “Michael M.” and “Audria,” whose full names  were not provided in court documents to protect the child’s privacy.

Audria was the best friend of Michael M.’s wife, the New York Law Journal reported.three parent custody

At the time of the baby’s birth, Audria and Michael M.’s wife, “Dawn M.,” were romantically involved. When the baby was born, Michael M. allowed both women raise the child as joint mothers, Judge H. Patrick Leis III wrote in his decision.

Michael M. remained romantically involved with both women until a 2011 divorce from Dawn M., the Law Journal reported.

Audria and Michael M. had joint custody of the boy prior to the judge’s ruling. Now, the boy lives with Dawn M. and Audria.

“Tri-custody is the logical evolution of the Court of Appeals decision in Brooke S.B. (expanding parental rights in same-sex families) and the passage of the Marriage Equality Act and DRL [Domestic Relations Law] SS10-a which permits same-sex couples to marry in New York,” Leis wrote in his decision.

He then took issue with the father who contested his ex-wife’s request to share in custody.

“No one told these three people to create this unique relationship,” the judge wrote. “Nor did anyone tell (Michael M.) to conceive a child with his wife’s best friend or to raise that child knowing two women as his mother.”

by Douglas Dowty, Syracuse.com – March 13, 2017

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Supreme Court Won’t Hear Major Case on Transgender Rights

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not hear a major case on transgender rights after all, acting after the Trump administration changed the federal government’s position on whether public schools must allow transgender youths to use bathrooms that match their gender identities.

WASHINGTON — In a one-sentence order, the Supreme Court vacated an appeals court decision in favor of a Virginia transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, and sent the case back for further consideration in light of the new guidance from the administration.

The Supreme Court had agreed in October to hear the case, and the justices were scheduled to hear arguments this month. The case would have been the court’s first encounter with transgender rights, and it would probably have been one of the biggest decisions of a fairly sleepy term.Transgender

Proponents of transgender rights said they were disappointed that the court had not taken the chance to decide a pressing national issue.

“Thousands of transgender students across the country will have to wait even longer for a final decision from our nation’s highest court affirming their basic rights,” said Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign.

Kerri Kupec, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group, welcomed Monday’s development.

“The first duty of school districts is to protect the bodily privacy rights of all of the students who attend their schools and to respect the rights of parents who understandably don’t want their children exposed in intimate changing areas like locker rooms and showers,” she said.

There are other cases on transgender rights in lower courts, including a challenge to a North Carolina law that, in government buildings, requires transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates. The law has drawn protests, boycotts and lawsuits.

The question in the Virginia case was whether Mr. Grimm could use the boys’ bathroom in his high school. The Obama administration said yes, relying on its interpretation of a federal regulation under a 1972 law, Title IX, that bans discrimination “on the basis of sex” in schools that receive federal money.

The Department of Education said in 2015 that schools “generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” Last year, the department went further, saying that schools could lose federal money if they discriminated against transgender students. The Trump administration withdrew that guidance last month.

Mr. Grimm attends Gloucester High School in southeastern Virginia. For a time, school administrators allowed him to use the boys’ bathroom, but the local school board later adopted a policy that required students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms for their “corresponding biological genders.” The board added that “students with gender identity issues” would be allowed to use private bathrooms.

New York Times, by Adam Liptak, March 6, 2017

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In landmark ruling, Italy recognizes gay couple as dads to surrogate babies

For the first time in Italy, two gay partners have been legally recognized as fathers of two surrogate children.

The children were born to a surrogate mother in the United States using artificial insemination, but both of the men will officially be named as its father – not just the parent who is biologically related.

Judges at Trento’s Court of Appeal made the historic ruling in line with the birth certificate issued in the US, which stated the dual paternity, according to the Article 29 website.international surrogacy

The website, which takes its name from the article in the Italian Constitution regarding family life, published the ruling on Tuesday, though the ruling was dated February 23rd.

In their decision, judges noted that the foreign birth certificate was valid because in Italy parental relationships are not determined solely by biological relationships.

“On the contrary,” they said, “One must consider the importance of parental responsibility, which is manifested in the conscious decision to have and care for the child.” 

Article 29 said the decision had “great significance”, as it is the first time an Italian court has ruled that a child has two fathers.

Surrogacy in Italy

Italian law prevents couples from using a surrogate mother, and in theory, anyone caught entering into a surrogacy arrangement faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to a million euros.

Two years ago, a child was taken from its parents who had paid a surrogate mother in Ukraine 25,000 euros. The couple were charged with fraud and the child put up for adoption.

TheLocal.it, February 28, 2017

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