Reaching Across the Uterus

Politics pops up in the oddest places. And like a song that gets stuck in your head, it refuses to be ignored.

“She’s having my baby…” That’s the one I’ve been humming lately because my husband Gary and I are taking the plunge into full-on parenthood and, at age 46, some would say we’re crazy. Piper, our three year old, is in every meaningful sense of the word, our daughter. But legally she only has two parents, and they are her mothers. With many options before us, Gary and I choose surrogacy.

Inviting a “team” to help you have a baby is not as nontraditional as some may think. As Hillary said, “it takes a village.” But our lack of girl-parts makes the process an e-ticket ride to say the least. Every person I have spoken with about their experience with surrogacy has said that the relationship you form with the surrogate mother, clinically referred to as the carrier, is unique, emotionally overpowering and absolutely specific to the individuals involved. Amen to that.Anthony Brown

What I didn’t count on was falling for a carrier of the republican persuasion. I am about as political as a gay-lawyer-activist can be. It is funny that when Gary and I were looking at the profiles of egg donors and gestational carriers, political affiliation wasn’t even a consideration. We were looking for all the elements of a person that demonstrate trust, love and happiness. For us, politics didn’t enter into it, until recently.

Suzanna, our carrier, lives in rural North Carolina with her husband Jonathan. She is everything and more that we could have hoped for in a surrogate. She is direct and at peace with surrendering her parental rights when the child is born. She has an absolutely beautiful smile and laugh that are the signs of a person who is loved and supported. She has two wonderful, healthy children who Gary and I fell in love with instantaneously and, best of all, she has a sense of humor about the process.

When we first met, Jonathan kidded about looking forward to someone touching Suzanna’s pregnant belly and asking, “when is she due?” Jonathan relished at the prospect of answering, “I dunno, it’s not mine.” Then Suzanna said, “Yea, then I can say, don’t look at me, it’s not mine either.”

But recently, Suzanna forwarded to us one of those anti-Obama emails that have made the rounds misrepresenting his positions on several issues and taking out-of-context shots at his voting record. I know that some people forward emails without reading them completely. I also know that we never talked politics up until that moment, but one of the misrepresentations in the letter was that Obama supported gay marriage and John McCain did not. Well… Deep breath…

KNEE JERK – I sat down at the computer and typed for over an hour. After I pressed send, I thought to myself, “Oh shit, I just lost our carrier.” I don’t think Suzanna expected a two-page response debunking the email she sent, with citations to accurate information and a personal note asking why she would think Gary and I would support anyone who would not support our marriage, which was a key factor in her choosing to work with us in the first place.

To Suzanna’s credit, she sent one of the most thoughtful and detailed responses, acknowledging that she had not completely read through what she had sent, and apologizing for any distress that it may have caused us. She then laid out her positions on a number of issues, she disagrees with the conservatives about marriage equality – thank God, and demonstrated the intelligence and the spirit that Gary and I were drawn to when we first read her profile and went to North Carolina to meet. All of the sudden, we were talking politics. And I loved it.

I have always believed in communication, about equality and about politics. But when it comes to family, even nontraditional family, it’s tough. Now, Suzanna and Jonathan know how we feel, and more importantly, we know how they feel. Agreement is not always possible, and when people are on opposite sides of the political fence, it is often rare. But agreement isn’t a prerequisite for communication. And as Suzanna and Jonathan are now a part of “the village,” there is no reason to stay silent.

I originally published this article in 2008 after working on the Obama campaign but I am revisiting it now because there are so many paralells to the misinformation that has been spread in the current political climate.  I hope that you find something meaningful here.

May 30, 2017 -To share your personal story, please visit timeforfamilies.com.

HOYLMAN ANNOUNCES COMMITTEE PASSAGE OF BILL TO LEGALIZE SURROGACY IN NEW YORK

 
S.17A, the Child-Parent Security Act, would legalize enforceable gestational surrogacy agreements in New York State

Hoylman: Becoming a parent should be a joyous occasion, not an illegal act. We need to legalize and regulate surrogacy contracts sensibly.”

ALBANY – State Senator Brad Hoylman (D, WF-Manhattan), Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced passage today of his bill (S.17A) to lift the ban on compensated surrogacy through committee. Currently, New York is only one of five states where compensated surrogacy is illegal, along with Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Washington.gay dads

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “For decades, New York law has been stuck in the dark ages on surrogacy. While the science on reproductive technology has advanced, our laws haven’t. The infamous ‘Baby M’ case led to a complete ban on surrogacy in New York. But now, thanks to in vitro fertilization, surrogates carry babies who are not genetically related to them, technology that wasn’t available at the time of Baby M. 

“As the proud father of a child born through surrogacy in California (and another on the way!) where it’s legal, I’ve experienced firsthand the need to provide the option of surrogacy to New Yorkers and establish laws to protect all the parties in a surrogacy arrangement, including the gamete donors, surrogates, intended parents and unborn children. Becoming a parent should be a joyous occasion, not an illegal act. We need to legalize and regulate compensated surrogacy contracts sensibly. 

“I thank my colleagues on the committee and look forward to working with them to pass this important piece of legislation through the full Senate.”

Hoylman’s legislation, the Child-Parent Security Act (S.17A), which he carries along with Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), would permit legally enforceable compensated gestational surrogacy agreements, allow individuals to obtain a “Judgement of Parentage” from a court prior to the birth of the child to establish legal parentage, and establish firm legal protections for both parents and surrogates.

May 23, 2017 – by Brad Hoylman

Click here to read the entire release.

Court Ruling Could Make Taiwan First Place in Asia to Legalize Gay Marriage

In a ruling that paves the way for Taiwan to become the first place in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage, the constitutional court on Wednesday struck down the Civil Code’s definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The legislature now has two years either to amend the Civil Code or to enact laws addressing same-sex couples.

If the legislature fails to pass an amendment or legislation in the next two years, same-sex couples “shall be allowed to have their marriage registration effectuated at the authorities in charge of household registration,” the court wrote in a news release.gay family law

Cindy Su, of the Lobby Alliance for LGBT Human Rights, said she was “excited and proud” of the court’s ruling, but also eager to see legislation passed as soon as possible. “We hope that we don’t have to wait another two years before we can get married,” said Ms. Su, whose marriage to her partner in Canada was not recognized in Taiwan.

The court’s ruling came in response to two petitions to review the current law, one brought by Chi Chia-wei, a longtime gay rights campaigner. Mr. Chi favors amending the Civil Code to define marriage as a union of two spouses, arguing that a separate marriage law for gays and lesbians would be unacceptable.

May 24, 2017 by Chris Horton, New York Times

Click here to read the entire article.

Carrying a child for someone else should be celebrated—and paid

Restrictive rules are in neither the surrogate’s interests, nor the baby’s

The earliest known description of surrogacy is an ugly biblical story: in Genesis, the childless Sara sends her husband to bed with her maidservant, Hagar, and takes the child as her own. It is this exploitative version of surrogacy that still shapes attitudes and laws today. Many countries ban it outright, convinced that the surrogate is bound to be harmed, no matter whether she consents. Others allow it, but ban payment. Except in a few places, including Greece, Ukraine and a few American states, the commissioning parents have no legal standing before the birth; even if the child is genetically theirs, the surrogate can change her mind and keep the baby. Several developing countries popular with foreigners in need of a surrogate have started to turn them away.

These restrictions are harmful. By pushing surrogacy to the legal fringes, they make it both more dangerous and more costly, and create legal uncertainty for all, especially the newborn baby who may be deemed parentless and taken into care. Instead, giving the gift of parenthood to those who cannot have it should be celebrated—and regulated sensibly.surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legal

Getting surrogacy right matters more than ever, since demand is rising (see article). That is partly because fewer children are available for adoption, and partly because ideas about what constitutes a family have become more liberal. Surrogates used to be sought out only by heterosexual couples, and only when the woman had a medical problem that meant she could not carry a baby. But the spread of gay marriage has been followed by a rise in male couples turning to surrogates to complete their newly recognised families. And just as more women are becoming single parents with the help of sperm donation, more men are seeking to do so through surrogates.

The modern version of surrogacy is nothing like the tale of Sara and Hagar. Nowadays, surrogates rarely carry babies who are genetically related to them, instead using embryos created in vitro with eggs and sperm from the commissioning parents, or from donors. They almost never change their minds about handing over the baby. On the rare occasions that a deal fails, it is because the commissioning parents pull out.

 

A modern surrogacy law should recognise those intending to form a family as the legal parents. To protect the surrogate, it should demand that she obtain a doctor’s all-clear and enjoy good medical care. And to avoid disputes, both parties should sign a detailed contract that can be enforced in the courts, setting out in advance what they will do if the fetus is disabled, the surrogate falls ill or the commissioning parents break up.

Emotional labour

Laws should also let the surrogate be paid. Women who become surrogates generally take great satisfaction in helping someone become a parent. But plenty of jobs offer rewards beyond money, and no one suggests they should therefore be done for nothing. The fact that a surrogate in India or Nepal can earn the equivalent of ten years’ wages by carrying a child for a rich foreigner is a consequence of global inequality, not its cause. Banning commercial surrogacy will not change that.

The Economist, May 13, 2017 Print Edition

Click here to read the entire article.

Marital Trust Planning – Making the Most of Your Money

Marital Trust planning is essential for those couples who are concerned about protecting surviving family members, especially children, and avoiding estate taxation.

Marital Trust planning is the use of trusts to achieve the goals of asset preservation and family protection.  The term, “Marital Trust” is used in this article to discuss both marital trusts and non-marital trusts

What is a Marital Trust?  There are essentially three types of marital trusts.  QTIP (Qualified Terminal Interest Property) Trusts, Estate Trusts and General Power of Appointment Trusts.  Each has a specific targeted goal, but the reason why someone would consider a Marital Trust is to provide for their surviving spouse and children.marital trust

A QTIP Trust, in most cases, is funded upon the death of one spouse and directs payments of interest income, on at least an annual basis, to the surviving spouse.  The remainder in the trust then passes upon the death of the surviving spouse to the children of the original Grantor.  The benefit of this trust is that it allows someone with children from a previous marriage to ensure that those children are provided for, while also providing for a surviving spouse.  An Estate Trust essentially does the same thing, but requires the remainder to be passed through the surviving spouse’s estate, giving the surviving spouse greater discretion in the allocation of the original asset.  A General Power of Appointment Trust is appropriate if there are no children and gives the surviving spouse access to the full amount in the trust during their lifetime.

The most important element of a Marital Trust to remember is that it does not shield assets from estate taxation.  They simply postpone the taxation event until the death of the surviving spouse, as there is a unlimited marital exemption upon the death of the first spouse.   Assets in a marital trust pass subject to any applicable estate tax guidelines.  This is particularly important for QTIP Trusts as they may contain assets earmarked for the children of the Grantor, but are potentially diminished by estate taxation.  To shield assets from estate taxation, you must have a Non-Martial Trust.

What is a Non-Marital Trust?  Non-Marital Trusts are often referred to as “Credit Shelter Trusts” or “Bypass Trusts.” These trusts allow the Grantor to provide income to their surviving spouse, while ultimately passing assets to the Grantor’s children   

Bypass Trusts are irrevocable trusts that can be created during the lifetime of the Grantor or in the Grantor’s Last Will and Testament.  If they are created in a Grantor’s Will, they become irrevocable upon the death of the grantor.  The trust is funded with an amount equal to the annual exclusion applicable in the year of the Grantor’s death.  In 2017, the annual exclusion amount is $5.49 million dollars.  A surviving spouse will have access to interest income from the trust and also the trust principal, but only for the surviving spouse’s health, education, maintenance or support.  Upon the death of the surviving spouse, the trust remainder passes to the original Grantor’s children tax free.

One important note with Bypass Trusts is that the IRS has a three year look back period for tax free transfers.  That means that if the surviving spouse dies within three years of the original Grantor’s death, the assets will be subject to estate taxation.  Also, if a family residence is transferred into a Bypass Trust, it will receive the stepped-up value as of the date of the Grantor’s death.  However, if the value of the residence continues to increase, any gain attributed from the date of the Grantor’s death to the distribution to beneficiaries will be subject to capital gains tax.  A Bypass Trust cannot claim the $250,000.00 personal capital gains exemption.

Surviving spouses are often named as trustees, which makes compliance with tax requirement critical in both the drafting of Bypass Trusts and in their execution after the original Grantor’s death.  That’s why it is crucial to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney when considering Marital and Non-Marital Trusts.  Remember that a strong basic estate plan is also a must for any family.

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

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As demand for surrogacy soars, more countries are trying to ban it

Many feminists and religious leaders regard it as exploitation

NATALIE SMITH was born without a uterus. But her ovaries work normally, which means that, with the help of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and a “gestational surrogate”—a woman willing to carry a baby for someone else—she and her husband were able to have children genetically related to both of them. In 2009 they became parents to twins, carried by Jenny French, who has since had babies for two other couples. Ms French was motivated by her own experience of infertility between her first and second children. The experience created a lasting link: she has stayed friends with the family she helped to complete and is godmother to the twins.

gay surrogacy

Ms Smith was lucky to live in Britain, one of just a handful of jurisdictions where surrogacy is governed by clear (though restrictive) rules. In some other European countries, it is illegal. American laws vary from state to state, all the way from complete bans to granting parental rights to the intended parents, rather than the woman who carries the baby. In most of the rest of the world, until recently, surrogacy has been unregulated, leaving all concerned in a legal vacuum. The variation in laws—and costs—has created a global surrogacy trade rife with complications and pitfalls.

Now many of the developing countries whose low costs and lack of legal restrictions had made them popular surrogacy destinations are trying to end the business. Thailand barred foreigners from paying for surrogacy in 2015. Nepal banned it, even when unpaid, later that year. India, where surrogacy had been a booming business for more than a decade, suddenly barred foreign clients a few months later. A bill before its parliament would allow only unpaid surrogacy by close relatives.

These new laws were intended to protect surrogates from exploitation. These poor and often illiterate women could earn an amount equivalent to ten years’ wages for a single pregnancy. Governments feared that some did not understand the contracts they were signing. Unscrupulous clinics often placed multiple embryos in their wombs with the aim of making pregnancy more likely, without making the risks clear. Some overused Caesarean sections and neglected post-partum care.

The Economist, May 11, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

Tennessee ‘Natural Meaning’ Law Raises Fears in LGBT Community

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Friday enacted a bill that critics say is an underhanded way of denying rights to same-sex couples by insisting on the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state statues.

(Reuters) – The legislation, which was signed by the Republican governor despite pressure from civil liberty and gay-rights groups, requires words in Tennessee law be interpreted with their “natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language.” It did not explain, however, what that means.

Civil rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates warned the law is meant to undermine the rights of same-sex couples in any statutes that include words like “husband,” “wife,” “mother” or “father.”Discrimination

Neither of the two sponsoring lawmakers, Republican state Senator John Stevens and Republican state Representative Andrew Farmer, could be reached to comment.

However, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Stevens said he proposed the measure partly to compel courts to side more closely with the dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriage.

Haslam said on Friday he believes the law will not change how courts interpret legal precedent.

“While I understand the concerns raised about this bill, the Obergefell decision is the law of the land, and this legislation does not change a principle relied upon by the courts for more than a century, mitigating the substantive impact of this legislation,” he said in a statement.

The Tennessee measure is one of more than 100 bills introduced in U.S. state legislatures this year that to curtail LGBT rights, said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

 

While public opinion polls and court rulings have shifted in favor of same-sex rights in recent years, there is ongoing pushback from the 2015 ruling, Oakley said.

Last month, a Kentucky family court judge made headlines by issuing an order stating he would not hear adoption cases involving same-sex couples due to personal objections. That echoed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ 2015 refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses because it violated her religious beliefs.

U.S. News and World report, May 5, 2017 – By Chris Kenning

Click here to read the entire article.

Highlights From 2017 Chicago MHB Surrogacy & Gay Parenting Conference

The 2017 Chicago MHB Conference was an amazing experience for over 100 participants and dozens of providers.

 The possibility of family is a powerful realization and I am proud to be a part of an organization that provides that possibility at the 2017 Chicago MHB conference for so many gay men around the world.  For more information visit www.menhavingbabies.org or www.youtube.com/menhavingbabies.

With over 4500 future and current gay parents worldwide, the international nonprofit Men Having Babies (MHB) is dedicated to providing its members with educational and financial support. Each year over a thousand attendees benefit from unbiased guidance and access to a wide range of relevant service providers at its monthly workshops and conferences in NY, Chicago, Brussels, San Francisco, Dallas and Tel Aviv. The organization’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP) annually provides dozens of couples with over a million dollars worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from over fifty leading service providers. Collaborating with an advisory board made of surrogates, MHB developed a framework for Ethical Surrogacy that has received endorsements from several LGBT parenting organizations worldwide. In addition, MHB offers extensive online resources, a directory with ratings and reviews of agencies and clinics, a Surrogacy Speakers Bureau, and a vibrant online community forum.

 

Governor Signs ‘Religious Freedom’ Law Allowing Adoption Agencies to Discriminate Against Gay Couples

‘This Bill Is Not About Discrimination, but Instead Protects the Ability of Religious Agencies to Place Vulnerable Children in a Permanent Home’ Governor Says, Falsely

Alabama’s newly-elevated governor has just signed into law legislation that allows adoption agencies to cite their “sincerely-held religious beliefs” as a reason to ban same-sex couples from adopting. Republican Kay Ivey took office last month when embattled governor Robert Bentley was forced to resign amid a sex and finance scandal.

“The need for adoption is so high. We need to have every avenue available,” State Senator Bill Hightower said of his bill allowing adoption agencies a religious license to discriminate.Discrimination

The Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, also known as HB24, would even allow adoption agencies to cite its “sincerely held religious beliefs” and refuse to place children with blood relatives. As HRC noted last month, even a “qualified, loving LGBTQ grandparent, for example, could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.””I ultimately signed House Hill 24 because it ensures hundreds of children can continue to find ‘forever homes’ through religiously-affiliated adoption agencies. This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home,” Gov. Ivey said.

By David Badash, thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, May 3, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

As ‘a matter of conscience,’ a Kentucky judge refuses to hear adoption cases involving gay parents

Two years after a Kentucky county clerk stirred national attention for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a family court judge in the same state announced he will no longer hear adoption cases involving gay parents, calling his stance on the issue “a matter of conscience.”

Judge W. Mitchell Nance, who sits in Barren and Metcalfe counties in Kentucky, issued an order Thursday saying he believes that allowing a “practicing homosexual” to adopt would “under no circumstance” promote the best interest of the child, he wrote in the order obtained by The Washington Post.

The judge disqualified himself from any adoption cases involving gay couples, citing judicial ethics codes requiring that judges recuse themselves whenever they have a “personal bias or prejudice” concerning a case. Nance’s “conscientious objection” to the concept of gay parents adopting children constitutes such a bias, he argued.Discrimination

The announcement garnered support from some conservative groups, while also spurring intense criticism from some lawyers and judicial ethics experts who viewed the blanket statement as discriminatory, and a sign that Nance is not fit to fulfill his duties as a judge. Kentucky state law permits gay couples to adopt children, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that all states must allow same-sex marriage.

That ruling came in four cases consolidated as Obergefell et al. v Hodges, one of which specifically involved a couple who wanted to adopt but was barred from doing so because Michigan banned same-sex marriage and adoption by unmarried couples.

Nance’s recusal drew some comparisons to the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed after she refused in the face of multiple court orders to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying she couldn’t issue the licenses because her name was on them, and it violated her religious beliefs. Eventually, deputies in her office began issuing licenses. Kentucky’s governor and General Assembly would later remove the name of clerks from the marriage licenses.

by Samantha Schmidt, May 1, 2017 – Washington Post

Click here to read the entire article.