As Surrogacy Surges, New Parents Seek Legal Protections

As more couples turn to surrogates to carry their child, some states are considering further protections for the intended parents, many of whom are gay, by handling custody issues before a child is born.

When Brad Hoylman and his husband wanted to start a family, they looked to a woman nearly 3,000 miles away to carry their child.Hoylman

The two Manhattanites turned to a surrogate in California, a state with a robust commercial surrogacy industry, because the practice is banned in New York.

The advent of gay marriage, advances in reproductive technology, and the fact that more people are waiting longer to start families have fueled a surge in the surrogacy industry.

In 2015, 2,807 babies were born through surrogacy in the U.S., up from 738 in 2004, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Women are often paid at least $30,000 to carry a baby created from the egg and sperm of others.

But in many places, once the baby arrives, outdated state laws fail to answer an important question: Who are the parents?

In many states the law is murky or even silent on surrogacy. The industry is free to operate but the contracts signed between surrogates and intended parents may not be legally binding. The baby may be born in a state that views the woman who gave birth as its mother, even if she has no genetic connection to the child.

The legal uncertainty is particularly concerning to the intended parents, who usually spend about $100,000 (including payments to a surrogate and the company she works with as well as doctors and lawyers) and risk ending up without the child they counted on. Gay male couples have an additional fear: that they might be discriminated against if they are embroiled in a legal fight over custody.

In states that ban commercial surrogacy and those with no laws at all, legislators are pushing bills that would legalize the practice, determine parentage before a child arrives, and ensure that contracts are enforceable and followed by all parties. In many cases, they would require surrogates to be at least 21, to have already given birth to their own children, and to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluations before signing a contract.

Hoylman, a state senator from New York, introduced a bill this year that would legalize surrogacy in his state and establish the legal framework of intended parentage.

Surrogacy became legal in Washington, D.C., in April, and lawmakers in Minnesota and Massachusetts debated bills this year but didn’t approve them. In New Jersey, state lawmakers passed similar bills in 2012 and in 2015, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed them. The Senate passed another bill this week.

Women and Babies as Commodities?

Critics of surrogacy, including both religious conservatives and some feminists, object to what they view as the commodification of both women and children. Opponents point to numerous European countries that have banned the practice and say states should be wary of letting American women be used by others, including foreigners searching for surrogates beyond their borders.

For many, the financial aspect of surrogacy is most troubling.

“Women will be exploited by wealthy people,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota’s Catholic Conference. “We see all kinds of Hollywood stars contracting with surrogates, but we don’t see any Hollywood stars serving as surrogates for their nannies and maids.”

Surrogacy companies prefer to work with women they consider financially stable in order to avoid women who may be acting out of financial desperation. Medicaid does not cover surrogacy costs, and women who are enrolled in the program would risk losing coverage for themselves and their families if they carry a surrogate baby.

By Rebecca Beitsch, Huffingtonpost.com, june 29, 2017

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Parliament in Germany Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Lawmakers in Germany voted on Friday to allow same-sex marriage after a brisk but emotional debate in Parliament, setting the stage for the country to join more than a dozen European nations — including Ireland, France and Spain — in legalizing such unions.

BERLIN — The historic decision came with a swiftness rare in Germany’s usually staid politics, after Chancellor Angela Merkel unexpectedly eased her conservative party’s opposition to gay marriage and said she would allow lawmakers to vote their conscience on the measure, although she ultimately voted against it.

Ms. Merkel’s softened resistance paved the way for her coalition partners in the Social Democratic Party and two other political groups to press for Friday’s vote, which passed 393 to 226, with four abstentions.marital trust

“If the Constitution guarantees one thing, it is that anyone in this country can live as they wish,” Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, said in opening the floor debate. “If gay marriage is decided, then many will receive something, but nobody will have something taken away.”

His remark was clearly intended to defuse conservatives — including Ms. Merkel — who argued that the Constitution protected conventional marriage.

The chancellor explained her stance in a two-minute statement after the vote, saying that she had come to support the right of same-sex couples to adopt but maintained her view that marriage remained a union between a man and a woman.

“I hope that with today’s vote, not only that mutual respect is there between the individual positions, but also that a piece of social peace and togetherness could be created,” Ms. Merkel said.

Axel Hochrein, a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany who attended the parliamentary debate, expressed no bitterness toward Ms. Merkel, even though he had said Thursday evening that he thought she was leaning toward supporting the measure.

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Federal Court Lifts Injunction on Mississippi Anti-Gay Law

A federal appeals court on Thursday lifted an injunction on a Mississippi law that grants private individuals and government workers far-reaching abilities to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on religious grounds, though lawyers said the law was likely to remain blocked for the time being during the appeals process.

Thursday’s decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, is part of a legal drama being closely watched by gay-rights advocates and religious conservatives. The state law, titled the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, on April 5, 2016. It is considered the most aggressive of several state-level conservative responses to the United States Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.Discrimination

According to a legal analysis released last year by Columbia University, the Mississippi law would, among other things, allow government clerks to opt out of certifying same-sex marriages (though only if the marriage is not “impeded or delayed” by their decision) and allow businesses to deny wedding-related services to same-sex couples if their marriage contravened “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

It would allow religious organizations to engage in job and housing discrimination against L.G.B.T. people; allow public school counselors to refuse to work with L.G.B.T. students; and potentially force child-welfare agencies to place L.G.B.T. children with anti-gay foster or adoptive parents.

The law also contains provisions that could potentially affect single heterosexual people. “For example,” the authors of the analysis wrote, “it would allow a religious university to fire a single mother working in its cafeteria, who supports her children on her own, because the university has a religious opposition to sex outside marriage.”

Last June, just before the law was to take effect, a federal district judge issued the injunction, finding that the law violated the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

Thursday’s 16-page ruling states, in essence, that the plaintiffs challenging the law, many of whom are gay Mississippi residents, lacked standing because the law had not yet injured them.

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Working with LGBT couples and families – Nicholas has two dads

This series of videos tell my and my husband’s story of how we came to the decision to be parents and how it changes our lives with a magical New York story.  I do believe in miracles.

Columbia Teachers College has created a series of videos for students who want to work with the LGBT community. I am privileged to have been featured as a mentor and to be able to tell my story. This video discusses my dedication to my family and why Nicholas has two dads.

timeforfamilies.com

Working with non profits and how it changed my life – The Wedding Party and Men Having Babies

Columbia Teachers College has created a series of videos for students who want to work with the LGBT community. I am privileged to have been featured as a mentor and to be able to tell my story. This video discusses my dedication to non-profit work and how it has tracked my own personal life.

These series of videos tell my story and why giving back to my community makes me a better lawyer and a better citizen.  I hope that you enjoy this series as much as I have enjoyed living it.

Property Columbia teacher’s College and rights were granted to TimeForFamilies.com to post these for your viewing.

 

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

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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

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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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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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South Dakota Senate advances protections for adoption agencies that turn away gay couples

The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill that would protect religious or faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that deny child placement to same-sex couples and single parents.

PIERRE — On a 22-12 vote, South Dakota legislators approved Senate Bill 149, which would ensure that religious or faith-based adoption and foster care groups could continue to benefit from state funds and that they wouldn’t face retribution if they denied placement to a parent or couple that doesn’t meet their requirements.

The measure’s sponsor Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, said he brought the bill to ensure that groups with “sincerely held” religious views are able to place children with traditional families or with other parents that they deem appropriate. He said the bill would help maintain the status quo in that private adoption groups in the state could continue to utilize certain faith-based requirements when selecting prospective parents.gay adoption

“I worry that with out these protections that these boards are going to say we’re done doing child placement,” Solano said.

He said other cities and states have brought restrictions on private adoption agencies that require they drop placement standards based on religion or sexual orientation or risk losing state funding for the services or other programs.

Currently, more than a dozen private adoption agencies operate in the state and if they don’t contract with the state, they are able to turn away single parents, LGBTQ people or non-religious people. Six other organizations currently receive state funds and as a result must comply with state and federal standards that bar them from imposing restrictions based on religion, sexual orientation, marital status, race or gender identity.

Opponents of the bill, including civil rights groups and LGBT advocacy organizations have said the bill’s passage would lead to discrimination at the taxpayer’s expense and could land the state in court.

“This bill could prevent LGBT couples, interfaith couples, divorced people and many otherwise qualified, loving families from adopting children under the guise of religious liberty – all on the taxpayer’s dime,” said Libby Skarin, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. “Everyone has the right to their beliefs and to act on them, but that right doesn’t give anyone, including the government, a license to harm others.”

by Dana Ferguson, Argus Leader, 2/22/2017

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