Iowa court upholds enforceability of surrogacy contracts

Iowa Surrogacy – The birth mother of an 18-month-old girl who agreed to be paid as a surrogate to have the baby, is not legally the child’s parent, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday in an emotional case that concluded surrogacy contracts can be enforced in Iowa.

The ruling means the girl remains with the Cedar Rapids couple, the only parents she has known since leaving the hospital after birth.

It was the first time the state’s highest court has weighed whether surrogacy contracts can be enforced.gay family law

But the fight isn’t over. The birth mother plans to appeal part of the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I no longer believe that surrogacy contracts should be entered into,” said the woman identified in court documents only as T.B., in a statement provided by her attorney. “Every child should have a mother and an essential part of the mother-child relationship is the role of pregnancy and the bonding that takes place during it. Children should not be sold.”

The woman said she has taken no money for bearing the baby. The contract required her to relinquish custody and parental rights in exchange for being paid, but she said she didn’t agree to do so after her relationship with the couple deteriorated. She also said she concluded that payment for babies is wrong.

Iowa, like most states, has no clear law on surrogacy parenting, but a 1989 law making it a felony to sell an individual to another person specifically exempts surrogate mother arrangements. The law was passed after the New Jersey Supreme Court invalidated surrogacy contracts as contrary to the state’s “baby selling” prohibition on payment of money to adopt a child.

In that case, which received wide publicity as the Baby M case, Mary Beth Whitehead agreed to carry a baby for William and Elizabeth Stern for $10,000. The New Jersey court in invalidating the surrogacy contract awarded the Sterns custody but allowed Whitehead visitation.

The Iowa court concluded that the Iowa Legislature “tacitly approved of surrogacy arrangements by exempting them from potential criminal liability for selling children,” in response to the Baby M case.

The justices concluded gestational surrogacy agreements promote families “by enabling infertile couples to raise their own children and help bring new life into this world through willing surrogate mothers.”

“Banning gestational surrogacy contracts would deprive infertile couples of perhaps the only way to raise their own biological children and would limit the contractual rights of willing surrogates,” the court said in an opinion written by Justice Thomas Waterman.

Omaha World Herald via AP, February 17, 2018

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All Evidence Shows That Children of Gay Parents Do Just as Well as Their Peers

Multiple studies have been conducted over the years, countless research has been carried out and endless debates have been had, all to show one thing.

That the children of gay parents do just as well as the children of straight parents. The myth that kids need a mum and a dad to have a fulfilled childhood has been repeatedly, conclusively disproved – so why is it still so pervasive?studies show kid of gay parents do great

Such views are ultimately rooted in outdated notions of what constitutes a good upbringing, stemming from conservative ideals of the ‘nuclear family’, with a mum, a dad and 2.4 children. In many cases, objection to LGBT families is motivated by homophobia as well – a belief that there is something different, and therefore undesirable or lacking, about same-sex parenting. But last year, researchers conducted one of the most comprehensive studies into same-sex parenting that has ever been carried out.

Scientists looked into more than three decades worth of peer-reviewed research into how the children in same-sex-parented families did in comparison to their peers from opposite-sex-parented families. The wide-ranging study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia in October 2017, found what had already been shown in multiple previous studies – that the kids do just as well.

Among the studies reviewed were the 2017 public policy research portal at Columbia Law School in the US, which itself looked at 79 studies investigating the well-being of children raised by gay parents; a 2014 American Sociological Association review of more than 40 studies, which found that children fared just as well in a number of areas; and the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ review from 2013, which found that there was no evidence of harm.

Researchers behind the study, titled ‘The Kids are OK: it is Discrimination Not Same-Sex Parents that Harms Children’, said at the time: ‘The findings of these reviews reflects a broader consensus within the fields of family studies and psychology. It is family processes – parenting quality, parental wellbeing, the quality of and satisfaction with relationships in the family – rather than family structures that make a more meaningful difference to children’s wellbeing and positive development.’

They added that studies that had shown poor outcomes for LGBT-parented children had been widely criticised for their limited methodologies.

by Ashtitha Nagesh, February 18, 2018 – Metro.co.uk

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Catholic Teacher Fired After Marrying Her Girlfriend

Parents at a Catholic school in Miami said they were astounded that administrators had fired a first-grade teacher just days after she married her girlfriend, and now some of the teacher’s supporters on the faculty are scared that the school will retaliate against them as well.

Catholic school teacher fired after marrying her girlfriend.  The teacher, Jocelyn Morffi, was by all accounts one of the most popular educators at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School in Miami, where she taught for nearly seven years.

“I consider her the Mother Teresa of teachers,” Samantha Mills, a parent whose son was in Ms. Morffi’s class last year, said on Monday.catholic teacher fired

But on Feb. 8, Ms. Mills and other parents at the school received an email from the principal saying that the school had made a “difficult and necessary decision,” and that Ms. Morffi would no longer be teaching at the school. The email was shared with The New York Times.

She was fired just days after marrying her girlfriend of about two years.

“The kids are very confused,” said Vanessa Almeida, whose children were tutored by Ms. Morffi. “My son said, ‘Mommy, I heard that Ms. Morffi got fired for getting married,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘What’s so bad about that?’”

On Friday, Ms. Morffi spoke out in a statement on Instagram.

“This weekend I married the love of my life and unfortunately I was terminated from my job as a result,” she wrote in the post. “In their eyes I’m not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner.”

Mary Ross Agosta, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Miami, said in an email on Monday that Ms. Morffi was fired because she violated a contract stipulating that teachers must abide by Catholic teachings and traditions.

She declined to say whether Ms. Morffi had been fired for marrying a woman, noting that it was “a personnel issue.”

Four teachers attended the wedding, one of them told The Times on Wednesday. She asked not to be named out of fear for her career.

by Christina Caron, New York Times, February 17, 2018

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Transgender Woman Breast-Feeds Baby After Hospital Induces Lactation

When a transgender woman told doctors at a hospital in New York that she wanted to breast-feed her pregnant partner’s baby, they put her on a regimen of drugs that included an anti-nausea medication licensed in Britain and Canada but banned in the United States.

Within a month, according to the journal Transgender Health, the woman, 30, who was born male, was producing droplets of milk. Within three months — two weeks before the baby’s due date — she had increased her production to eight ounces of milk a day.three-parent baby

In the end, the study showed, “she was able to achieve sufficient breast milk volume to be the sole source of nourishment for her child for six weeks,” according to the journal.

Dr. Tamar Reisman and Zil Goldstein, a nurse practitioner, of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York, say the case illustrates that, in some circumstances, modest but functional lactation can be induced in transgender women who did not give birth or undergo surgery.

“We believe that this is the first formal report in the medical literature of induced lactation in a transgender woman,” said the study’s authors, Dr. Reisman and Ms. Goldstein, a transgender activist and program director at the center. They were not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

New York Times by Ceylon Yeginsu, February 15, 2018

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Interracial Gay Family Handbook

When same sex parents create families through transracial adoption, they must find ways to discuss racism, homophobia, instill positive racial identities, and honor their children’s birth culture.

If you don’t know this and what the benefits of transracial adoption are, it is worth considering before adopting. For so many same sex couples, transracial adoption is the best fit. If considering transracial adoption, there are many benefits and situations that should be discussed.interracial

Double Takes and Stares

We are a gay interracial couple – black and white – raising our two boys, black, with our mixed-raced daughter, who looks more white than anything else.

I personally identify with being black, because it carries the same combination of pride, remembrance and regret that “African American” was designed for. Thus, I prefer to raise our boys to also identify with being black. We will let our daughter decide what identity best fits her as she gets older.

Regardless if its black parents adopting white kids or white parents adopting black kids, families like ours typically garner lots of intention when in public.

Since our mixed-race daughter looks white, she and I often get double takes everywhere we go. I prefer to credit those double takes to our daughter’s beauty but reality dictates otherwise. Our first foster-to-adopt son (he has since been placed back with his birth mom) was white.  He and I also received stares wherever we went. I particularly despised the “is he yours” question, which made me feel self consciously black.

My white husband, Paul, receives similar double takes and stares, perhaps more, when he is in public with our black boys. On one occasion, he was approached by an older black woman asking, “where is the mother”? A polite reply would probably be the best response, but we typically respond with “none of your business” or “I am the mother”. Either way, we try to protect our children from such approaches by just removing ourselves from the situation.

Fascination with Hair 

The fascination with touching other people’s hair, particularly strangers, can be both frustrating and annoying. I have had situations where total strangers were fascinated with my boys’ hair because it “looks” and “feels” different. My advice would be to ask the child or their parent before touching his/her hair.

January  28, 2018 daddaddykids.com by Gregory Yorgey-Girdy

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Tom Daley And Dustin Lance Black Expecting First Child Together

Congratulations are in order for British Olympic diver Tom Daley and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

The couple announced they are expecting their first child together on Wednesday. Each shared photos of themselves on their separate social media accounts holding up the same ultrasound photo.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Daley wrote in the caption, while Black added, “A Happy Valentine’s Day from ours to yours.”

Both complimented their posts with a same-sex family emoji just in case the message wasn’t clear.

By Cole Delbyck huffingtonpost.com, February 14, 2018

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Bermuda Outlaws Gay Marriage, Less Than a Year After It Became Legal

Bermuda has forbidden same-sex marriage, only nine months after legalizing it, in what advocates for gay and lesbian rights called a disappointing setback.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Bermuda, a British overseas territory, in May as a result of a ruling by the island’s Supreme Court.

But the unions are unpopular with some voters.Bermuda

In 2016, Bermudians voted against same-sex marriage in a referendum, and after the court ruling in May, the territory’s legislature drafted a bill banning same-sex marriage but giving all couples legal recognition as domestic partners. Parliament adopted the Domestic Partnership Act in December, and on Wednesday the territory’s governor, John Rankin, signed it into law.

The British prime minister, Theresa May, said Britain was “seriously disappointed,” but the Foreign Office said on Thursday it would be inappropriate to block the measure.

Same-sex marriage became legal in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014, but it is not permitted in Northern Ireland. The issue has been divisive in Britain’s overseas territories, which control their own internal affairs but rely on Britain for defense and for representation in the international community.

by Mafen Specia, New York Times – February 8, 2018

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NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs LGBT Anti-Discrimination Order

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order that prohibits state entities from doing business with any company that promotes or tolerates discrimination.

Cuomo announced the order at Saturday’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Greater New York Gala, where he also promised New York would lead the nation on ending the AIDS epidemic and announced plans to introduce legislation this session that would put an end to the so-called gay panic defense.Cuomo

The Democrat said that his order was a direct response to President Donald Trump’s policies.

“The Trump administration gave the attorney general a license to discriminate by interpreting ‘religious liberty’ protections in the federal law. What that means is a business can refuse to serve LGBTQ individuals because it violates their religious beliefs. They did that. So, today I’m signing an executive order prohibiting New York state government from doing any business with any entity that discriminates against any New Yorker, period,” Cuomo said at Saturday’s event.

by Carlos Santascoy, ontopmag.com February 6, 2018

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Is America Growing Less Tolerant on L.G.B.T.Q. Rights?

When my sister came out, there was an accordion trio on hand to perform the music of Sly and the Family Stone.

Debutantes in white dresses and boys with matching cummberbunds and bowties drank from the waters of a gurgling champagne fountain. The entire affair, staged in my parents’ old house in Devon, Pa., was an anachronism, to be sure — but as wingdings go, it was tons of fun. It was 1975.

When I came out, in 2002, there wasn’t any party. There were tense meetings with the affirmative action/equal opportunity officer at my place of work; there was a carefully worded statement sent to my colleagues explaining exactly what “transgender” was; there was a series of conversations with my friends, and my mother, and the people whom I loved best, many of whom — in spite of their brave pledges to stand by me — ended those conversations in tears.

That was then.

People who “come out” at debutante parties have been off my radar for a long time now, although apparently they’re still going strong in some quarters. As for L.G.B.T.Q. people, “coming out” has gotten safer in fits and starts, not only in the wake of the Obergefell decision but also in other ways: L.G.B.T.Q. people are now visible in a way that was inconceivable half a generation ago. Most of the people that I thought I had lost after my 2002 unveiling have, miraculously, been returned to me, the intervening years having brought not only forgiveness but also understanding. Since my coming out, our family has thrived, and in the wake of that progress, I have believed that just as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. predicted, the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice.

Until now.

Last week, GLAAD — the media advocacy group for L.G.B.T.Q. people (of which I was a national co-chairwoman from 2013 to 2017) — released the results of its latest “Accelerating Acceptance” survey at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While the biggest headlines from the forum focused on the fact that the president of the United States managed to get through an event on the world stage without shoving any prime ministers or calling anyone’s country an outhouse, the results of the poll, conducted by Harris, deserve attention as well. They are shocking.

For the first time since the poll began, support for L.G.B.T.Q. people has dropped, in all seven areas that the survey measured. They include “having an L.G.B.T. person at my place of worship” (24 percent of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable), seeing a same-sex couple holding hands (31 percent are uncomfortable) and “learning my child has an L.G.B.T. teacher at school” (37 percent are uncomfortable).

New York Times – by Jennifer Finney Boylan, January 29, 2018

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Known Donor Family Law New York – Protecting Lesbian Mothers

Known Donor Family Law New York is changing. 

Many lesbian couples look to known donor family law New York prior to choosing known donors to help them have their families.  In my legal practice, I have seen this number increase steadily over the last 10 years.  Reasons for choosing a known donor include giving children a link to their biological heritage, having access to specific medical histories and providing male influences in the lives of children born into these progressive families.

The law appears to be coalescing in favor of intended mothers and a recent Appellate Division case moves known donor family law in New York further in that direction.  Before discussing the new case, let me give you a brief history of existing known donor family law in New York.known donor family law New York

Existing Family Law Treatment

Brooklyn Family Court Judicial Hearing Officer (JHO) Harold Ross, in a decision titled The Matter of L., et. al, held that as long as uncertainty exists for LGBT couples who create their families with assisted reproductive technology (ART), with both anonymous and known donors, then second parent adoptions are the best way to secure those families from this uncertainty.

In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.  C.C., a landmark decision released in August of 2016, the New York’s highest court overturned previous New York precedent that had torn families apart for decades and ruled that non-biological and non-adoptive parents did have standing to sue for custody and visitation in the New York family court system.  While this case did not specifically address the issue of a known donor’s rights to a child he helped come to be, it brought New York family law in line with many other states which recognize “de facto” parents for the purpose of custody and visitation and prioritizes the best interests of the child in making these critical decisions.

New Case Law 

This new known donor case, entitled In the Matter of Christopher YY v. Jessica ZZ and Nicole ZZ, New York’s Appellate Division, Third Department (whose jurisdiction covers matters derived in South Central New York State to North Eastern and Central Eastern Counties in New York) addressed the issue of a known donor who sought to have a paternity test ordered by a family court.  The family court agreed with the donor and ordered the testing.  The mothers filed an appeal and the result of that appeal was to overturn the lower family court’s decision to order paternity testing for two reasons, thus codifying new known donor family law in New York.

The first reason was the marital status of the mothers.  They were married when they planned on having the child and they had an informal agreement (one drafted and executed without the benefit of legal counsel) with their donor, something that all intended mothers should have with their known donor prior to insemination.  The court stated that there existed a “presumption of legitimacy of a child born to a married woman.”  Even if this presumption exists, the court must conduct a “best interests of the child” analysis before any paternity testing can be ordered.

known sperm donorsThe key question is whether the paternity testing is in the best interests of a child.  The court determined that the presumption existed regardless of the gender of the parents, a huge statement of support for lesbian couples across New York.  However, that presumption can be “rebutted” by a donor in certain circumstances.  The court looked at the facts of this case, the existence of an agreement in which the donor stated that he would not seek paternity, and the lack of a significant relationship between the donor and the child after the child’s birth. 

To determine whether the presumption of parentage that the court established for the non-birth mother could be rebutted, they applied the concept of “equitable estoppel,” which bars a legal claim by a party if that claim is inconsistent with a prior position taken by them and relied upon by the other party.  In this case, the prior position was outlined in the known donor agreement he signed with the mothers, that he would not attempt to establish paternity,  and his lack of a relationship with the child after her birth.  Equitable estoppel prevented the known donor from proving to the court that the paternity testing was in the best interest of the child.

What does this case mean for Known Donor Family Law New York? 

This case is certainly a step in the right direction.  But these cases are fact specific and unless there is a legal instrument, such as a step or second parent adoption order, the possibility of taking a party to court will always be a financially and emotionally time-consuming specter over a family.  Another benefit of a step or second parent adoption is that is clearly and indisputably terminates the rights of a known donor, making a claim such as the one made by the donor in this case, a nullity.

Known Donor Family Law New York is moving in the right direction.  If you are considering a known donor, you must also consider how best to secure your family from unwanted paternity or visitation suits.  For answers to your questions, please contact Anthony M. Brown at anthony@timeforfamilies.com or visit www.timeforfamilies.com.

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