Lesbian couple appeals order removing their foster child

Lesbian couple appeals order removing their foster child
By 365gay Newscenter Staff
03.11.2009 4:39pm EDT

(Charleston, West Virginia) The West Virginia Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to overturn a lower court ruling that removed a child they had reared from birth because the judge wanted the child placed with a married, opposite-sex couple.

Fayette Circuit Judge Paul Blake originally agreed to allow Kathyrn Kutil and Cheryl Hess be foster parents for the infant girl, following a positive assessment by the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Court records show that the little girl was born to a drug addicted mother and the baby had cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines in her system. Shortly after birth, the baby went through drug withdrawal. The father was unknown.

The Department placed the child with Kutil and Hess, who had been approved as foster parents, when it could not find any blood relatives of the mother.

But nearly a year later, when the couple applied to adopt the little girl, both the Department and Judge Blake balked. Last year in his ruling, Blake ordered the child, removed saying the baby should be permanently placed in a home where the parents would be a married opposite-sex couple.

The ruling said that he had agreed to allow the women to foster the child because it was the best option at the time. But he never intended it to be permanent.

“I think I’ve indicated time and time again, this court’s opinion is that the best interest of a child is to be raised by a traditional family, mother and father,” Blake’s ruling said.

In their appeal to the sate Supreme Court, the women argue that Blake exceeded his authority and violated their constitutional rights. The appeal argues that Blake is “setting a dangerous precedent” for discriminatory treatment of non-traditional families.

A different judge recently approved Kutil’s adoption of a 12-year-old girl whom she’d been fostering for over two years, the appeal notes.

West Virginia law allows either single individuals or married couples to adopt. It says nothing about same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court, when the notice of appeal was filed, issued a stay on implementing Blake’s removal order and the child remains with the couple pending a final ruling by the high court.

The justices gave no indication when that might be.

Vermont mental health groups back gay marriage

By 365gay Newscenter Staff
03.10.2009 1:02pm EDT

(Burlington, Vermont) Vermont mental health professionals are backing legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The Vermont Psychiatric Association, the Vermont Psychological Association, the Vermont Mental Health Counselor Association and the Vermont chapter of the National Association of Social Workers said in a joint statement that arguments by opponents of same-sex marriage who claim it is not in the best interest of children to allow gays and lesbians to marry are wrong.

“Children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish,” the statement said.

The statement was released at a news conference by the groups.

“No study has shown that outcomes for children of single-sex families are any less positive than outcomes for children in heterosexual families,” said Jackie Weinstock, an associate professor at the University of Vermont and a spokesperson for the four groups.

Steve Cable, of the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council which opposes gay marriage, said the groups are using inconclusive science to back a political agenda.

The Vermont Legislature is expected to take up a marriage equality bill next week. The legislation has 59 sponsors in the House – all Democrats.

Vermont was the first state in the country to legalize civil unions in 2000. Since then, LGBT groups have criticized the law for creating a “two tiered” system – marriage for opposite-sex couples and civil unions for gays.

An 11-member commission was set up last year by Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin (D) and Speaker of the House Shap Smith (D).

The commission submitted its report to the legislature last April, but made no recommendations on revising the law to allow for same-sex marriage.

Last week, Shumlin, who spearheaded the civil union bill nine years ago, said that the civil union law hasn’t kept up with the times. Massachusetts and Connecticut allow same-sex marriage and gay marriage bills are under consideration in Maine and New Hampshire.

But if the bill passes the legislature it is doubtful Republican Gov. James Douglas will sign it. Douglas through a spokesperson said that the governor believes civil unions are sufficient.

HALL OF SHAME – Kentucky anti-gay adoption bill advances

Kentucky anti-gay adoption bill advances
By 365gay Newscenter Staff
03.06.2009 3:09pm EST

(Frankfort, Kentucky) Legislation that would bar unmarried couples in Kentucky from adopting or fostering children has passed a key committee and now advances to a vote on the floor of the Senate.

The measure states that anyone “cohabitating with a sexual partner outside of marriage” cannot be considered as a foster or adoptive parent.

Although the bill affects all unmarried couples living together, it is seen as specifically targeting same-sex couples.

Opponents of the measure accuse Republican Senate leaders of dirty tricks over the way the committee vote was taken.

Read more at:  http://theweddingparty.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=12096#12096

The AFA LGBT Professional Network


The American Fertility Association (The AFA) believes that the road to parenthood isn’t always straight.

As the nation’s leading patient advocacy organization, The AFA is dedicated to educating and supporting all men and women concerned with family building – including hopeful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents.

The AFA’s LGBT Professional Network is comprised of two main sections: one for patients seeking referrals, and one for professionals with inclusive businesses that serve the LGBT community and wish to advertise those services.

For Patients:
Patients find the medical help they need in many ways, but unfortunately many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients still have difficulty locating health care and legal professionals that are sensitive to the special needs of the LGBT community who are seeking to build a family. To make this process easier, The American Fertility Association has developed an LGBT Professional Network.

This resource includes information about physicians, nurse practitioners, complimentary care providers, surrogacy, egg donation and sperm donation agencies, adoption agencies, lawyers, pharmacists and other professionals committed to assisting those in the LGBT community to create family and to deal with reproductive challenges. This directory will continue to grow, so please check back often!


Please note that the information in this network does not constitute a recommendation to consult any specific professional. Although The AFA makes every attempt to keep the information on members accurate and up-to-date, The AFA cannot attest at all times to the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.  This information is provided for your reference, however, the responsibility for choosing a professional and checking their credentials to practice must remain that of the patient.



Little Rock

Gary L. Sullivan, Esq.
Sullivan Law Firm, P.A.
400 W. Capitol Avenue
Suite 1700
Little Rock, AR 72201

Services Provided: Full service law firm working with LGBT clients in most practice areas.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (501) 374-7247
Fax: (501) 372-3482
Email: GLSullivan@aol.com
Web: http://members.aol.com/glsullivan



Diane Michelsen, Esq.
Diane Michelsen’s Family Formation Law Office
3190 Old Tunnel Road
Lafayette, CA 94549

Services Provided: Family Building Attorney. Works with the LGBT community, including single parents, adoption, gestational carriers or surrogacy for LGBT couples or individuals. Adoption legal services, including matching birthmothers with adoptive parents, excluding searching out birthmoms, surrogacy (gestational IVF only). All legal work for ART including surrogacy, embryo and ovum donors, sperm donors. All legal work for adoption, including second parent, domestic partner, adult child, step parent adoptions.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (925) 945-1880
Fax: (925) 933-6807
Web: http://www.lodm.com

Los Angeles

National Fertility Law Center, Inc.
5757 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 645
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Services Provided: Nationwide network of licensed attorneys dedicated to providing legal services in the area of assisted reproduction. Uniquely structured so that couples and individuals of any sexual orientation who are creating families through surrogacy, egg donation, and sperm donation are offered unparalleled legal expertise, regardless of their geographical location. Services include: surrogacy contracts, egg donation contracts, sperm donation contracts, parentage judgments, co-parenting agreements, co-parent adoptions, healthcare durable powers of attorney, passports for international newborns, apostilled documents, trust account management.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (800) 558-4009
Fax: (800) 507-8085
Email: info@nationalfertilitylaw.com
Web: http://www.nationalfertilitylaw.com

Woodland Hills

Jamie Stroops, Esq.
Vorzimmer Masserman
5950 Canoga Avenue
Suite 130
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Services Provided: Helps all types of people become parents through egg donation and surrogacy. Provides a caring and compassionate approach for clients.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (818) 999-1950
Email: jstroops@vmfirm.com
Web: http://www.vmfirm.com



Victoria T. Ferrara-Loris
Law Firm of Victoria T. Ferrara, PC
2150 Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824

Services Provided: All legal services for contractual needs in the areas of egg donation, sperm donation, and surrogacy contracts, co-parent adoption, pre-birth orders, surrogacy matching
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (203) 255 9877
Email: vferrara@victoriaferrara.com
Web: http://www.assistedreproductionlaw.com



Gordon T. Nicol, Esq.
Gordon T. Nicol, P.A.
8545 Centurian Parkway
Suite 108
Jacksonville, FL 32256

Services Provided: Legal services provided for Personal Injury, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Contracts, Wills & Trusts, Criminal & Traffic, Buying & Selling Real Estate, Immigration and Mediation.
Participant in Managed Care: Yes
Phone: (904) 384-4911
Fax: (904) 384-4944
Email: gordon@yourjacksonvillelawyer.com
Web: http://www.yourjacksonvillelawyer.com



Steven C. Litz, Esq.
Surrogate Mothers, Inc.
P.O. Box 216
Monrovia, IN 46157

Services Provided: Surrogacy program that does not discriminate against clients based on race, marital status or sexual orientation. Provides alternatives to infertility such as surrogacy, adoption, egg donation.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (317) 996-2000
Email: scl@surrogatemothers.com
Web: http://www.surrogatemothers.com



Amy Demma, J.D.
396 Washington Street
Suite 216
Wellesley, MA 02481

Services Provided: Counsel, guidance, advocacy regarding donor selection, matching, financials, medical/clinic and legal aspects of egg donation. Donor search, donor selection, donor matching, coordination with clinic, attorneys, escrow managers regarding all aspects of egg donation.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (781) 258-5149
Fax: (339) 686-3031
Email: amy.demma@prospectivefamilies.com
Web: http://www.prospectivefamilies.com


Eden Prairie

Maury D. Beaulier, Esq.
Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC
10400 Viking Drive
Suite 500
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Services Provided: Surrogacy agreements, adoption, cohabitation agreements, custody and parenting disputes, partition actions. Legal services for businesses, construction law, family law, criminal defense, immigration.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (612) 240-8005
Fax: (952) 941-2337
Email: maury@beaulier.com
Web: http://www.hjlawfirm.com

Maple Grove

Steven H. Snyder, Esq.
Steven H. Snyder & Associates, Attorneys at Law
11270 86th Avenue North
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Services Provided: Legal services related to ART programs in Minnesota, including drafting agreements and conducting parentage proceedings for single parents and members of the LGBT community, including second-parent adoptions, etc. Surrogate and egg donation screening and matching, including insurance review, complete program scheduling and administration, fertility clinic selection, financial administration and legal documentation.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (763) 420-6700
Email: steve@snyderlawfirm.com
Web: http://www.snyderlawfirm.com

North Carolina


Connie J. Vetter, Esq.
4037 E. Independence Blvd.
Suite 565
Charlotte, NC 28205-0505

Services Provided: Focus on the legal needs of LGBT community. Surrogacy agreements, adoptions, represents GC in surrogacy agreements, LGBT estate documents, parenting documents, estate planning, etc. Ninety percent of clients are LGBT.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (704) 567-5530
Email: connievetter@cjvlaw.com
Web: http://www.cjvlaw.com


Sharon Thompson, Esq.
Sharon Thompson Law Group
400 West Main Street
Suite 502
Durham, NC 27701

Services Provided: All aspects of family law, including assisted reproduction, adoption, healthcare, powers of attorney, wills & estate planning. Works with two-mom, two-dad & single parent families, in addition to traditional married families. LGBT Family Law, Adoption, Estate Probate
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (919) 688-9646
Fax: (919) 683-1395
Email: stlawgroup@aol.com
Web: http://www.stlawgroup.com


Jeffrey G. Marsocci, Esq.
Law Offices of Jeffrey G. Marsocci, PLLC
8406 Six Forks Road
Suite 102
Raleigh, NC 27618

Services Provided: Estate and life planning, legal services for domestic partners and other non-traditional families through trusts, powers of attorney, wills, family limited partnerships and other means. Estate and trust planning, small business establishment, contracts, buy-sell agreements and other non-litigation matters.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (919) 844-7993
Web: http://www.livingtrustlawfirm.com

New Jersey

Haddon Township

Stephen J. Hyland, Esq.
Law Offices of Stephen J. Hyland
212 Haddon Avenue
Suite 1
Haddon Township, NJ 08108

Services Provided: Gay-owned practice helping same-sex couples build and secure their families through adoption, assisted reproduction, parenting agreements, judgments of parentage, estate planning, guardianship, civil unions, and related law. Member, New Jersey Civil Union Commission. Licensed to practice in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (856) 854-7600
Email: sjh@stephenhyland.com
Web: http://www.stephenhyland.com

Park Ridge

Melissa B. Brisman, Esq.,
Melissa B. Brisman, Esq., LLC
77 Market Street
2nd Floor
Park Ridge, NJ 07656

Services Provided: Works with same-sex, single and heterosexuals on adoptions, 2nd parent and co-parent adoptions, birth orders, insurance reviews and appeals. Locate egg donors and gestational carriers; egg, sperm and embryo donation, gestational carrier contracts, organize homestudies and criminal background checks, name changes and escrow account services.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (201) 505-0078
Fax: (201) 505-1994
Email: melissab@reproductivelawyer.com
Web: http://www.reproductivelawyer.com

New Mexico

Santa Fe

Ami Jaeger
Biolaw Group, LLC
7 Avenue Vista Grande
Suite 205
Santa Fe, NM 87508

Services Provided: Does not discriminate based on any orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc. Known donor, anonymous donor, gc and surrogacy arrangements, finalization of birth certificates, consulting and advice of legal issues on ART, adoption, step-parent adoption, insurance coverage questions.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (505) 466-4642
Fax: (505) 466-2818
Email: asj@bio-law.com
Web: http://www.bio-law.com

New York

Rockville Centre and New York City

Anthony M. Brown, Esq.
Albert W. Chianese & Associates, PC
100 Merrick rd., Ste. 103E
Rockville Centre, NY 11570

122 E. 42nd St., Ste. 3900, New York, NY 10168

Services Provided: Trusts. estates and family law for nontraditional families. Wills, trusts, second parent adoption, partnership agreements, parenting agreements, dispute resolution and donor counseling (legal).
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (516) 599-2020
Fax: (516) 599-6476
Email: brown@awclawyer.com
Web: https://www.timeforfamilies.com


Laurie B. Goldheim, Esq.
Law Offices of Laurie B. Goldheim
20 Old Nyack Turnpike
Suite 300
Nanuet, NY 10954

Services Provided: Represents single couples, couples (heterosexual and homosexual) in private domestic adoption.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (845) 624-2727
Fax: (845) 624-8400
Email: lgoldheim@adoptionrights.com
Web: http://www.adoptionrights.com


Lawrence Krieger, Esq.
The Wilder Building
8 Exchange Blvd.
Suite 400
Rochester, NY 14614

Services Provided: Co-parenting agreements, fertility related family law, second parent adoption, gay friendly general practice of law, domestic partnership planning.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (585) 325-2640
Fax: (585) 325-1946
Email: larry@kriegerlaw.net
Web: http://www.kriegerlaw.net

Rye Brook

Michael S. Goldstein, Esq.
Michael S. Goldstein, P.C.
62 Bowman Avenue
Rye Brook, NY 10573

Services Provided: Single, dual and second parent adoptions. Domestic, agency, international, readoption and foster care.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (914) 939-1111
Fax: (914) 939-2369
Email: info@adoptgold.com
Web: http://www.adoptgold.com

Yorktown Heights

Denise Seidelman, Esq.
Rumbold & Seidelman
1145 Baldwin Road
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598

Services Provided: Adoption – for both single parents and same sex couples, second parent adoptions, egg donation agreements, sperm donor agreements, reproductive law
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (914) 962-3001
Fax: (914) 962-1707
Email: dseidelman@adoptionlawny.com
Web: http://www.adoptionlawny.com



Kate Lynn, Esq.
Law Offices of Kate Lynn, P.C.
The Sovereign Building
609 Hamilton Mall
Suite 1
Allentown, PA 18101-2111

Services Provided: Second parent adoption, LGBT estate planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills), living together contracts & separation agreements. Full service lesbian-owned law firm.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (610) 435-7770
Fax: (610) 419-4699
Email: kate@katelynnlaw.com
Web: http://www.katelynnlaw.com


Tiffany L. Palmer, Esq.
Jerner & Palmer, P.C.
5401 Wissahickon Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

Services Provided: Assisted reproductive technology law, LGBT family law, adoption, estate planning for LGBT families.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (215) 843-6000
Fax: (215) 843-6006
Email: tpalmer@jplaw.com
Web: http://www.jplaw.com



Julia J. Tate, J.D., L.C.S.W.
5606 Cloverland Drive, #107
Brentwood, TN 37027

Services Provided: Provides legal services to people forming families through ART and those assisting them. Works with egg donors, surrogates, and intended parents. Clients include married couples, single people, as well as gay and lesbian couples and individuals.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (615) 783-2892
Email: Julia@TNBabyLaw.com
Web: http://TnBabyLaw.com


Elizabeth L. McConnell, Esq.
Elizabeth L. McConnell Attorney At Law
222 1/2 E. Center Street
P.O. Box 85
Kingsport, TN 37662

Services Provided: Any and all aspects of general civil practice. Helps many gay and lesbian couples with wills, general durable powers of attorney, guardianships, long wills, social security and SSI, partnership agreements and dissolution of same, etc. Name changes for transgendered clients.
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (423) 246-4416
Email: EMcConnellLaw@aol.com



Arthur H. Geffen, Esq.
1620 East Beltline Road
Carrollton, TX 75006

Services Provided: Business organizations, estate planning, tax
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: (972) 242-8887
Fax: (972) 446-7976
Email: ageffen@iadfw.net



Sheri Abrams, Esq.
Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
10467 White Granite Drive
Suite 360
Oakton, VA 22124

Services Provided: Social Security Disability Law, Special Needs Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Special Needs Trusts, Guardianship, Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney
Participant in Managed Care: No
Phone: 571-328-5795
Email: sheri@sheriabrams.com
Web: http://www.sheriabrams.com

Circle Surrogacy: Neither economy nor gay right setbacks are likely to slow down the gay surrogacy boom.

“In fact,” says Circle’s president John Weltman, “while surrogacy was untouched by recent ballot measures, it is benefiting from growing public acceptance and awareness as a viable and safe method for gay men to become parents. This is particularly true since international and domestic adoptions have become more difficult to accomplish.”

The recent disappointments in Arizona, Florida, Arkansas, and California have already affected gay men and lesbians around the country. Although in some states our ability to form loving caring relationships is presumed to be subjected to a vote by our fellow citizens, a growing number of gay men nationwide are having children and proving to be great parents. Will recent ballot measures present obstacles to this trend? Not according to John Weltman, president and owner of the country’s oldest gay owned and gay focused surrogacy agency. Based on first hand experience, Weltman is optimistic about both the level of public acceptance of gay families, and the availability and affordability of surrogacy as a safe, legal and rewarding parenting option for gay men. Proud Parenting asked John Weltman [pictured below] a few questions about how gay surrogacy is affected by recent political and economic trends, and the possibility of seeing more gay dads at the playground. We included a poll, to let you weigh in.

PP: John – we’ve read about you in the New York Times, Newsweek, and Details magazine. You are everywhere we look, getting your message out, and you recently told the newswire service AFP that Circle has grown significantly in 12 years. You also expect to double in the next two and half years. The number of new gay parents seems to be rising at a remarkable rate when we consider that the economy is getting more unmanageable. Do you expect the gayby boom to plateau at any point soon?

JW: I don’t – in fact, I expect the gay surrogacy boom to continue to grow quite substantially in the next 10 to 20 years. I think what we are experiencing at Circle is the result of several trends resulting in more gay parents, and a larger share of these men who are choosing surrogacy as the method to achieve this goal. I think the world has just begun to accept gay relationships and gay parenting, and the rise in gay men choosing to become parents is in part a reflection of the growing numbers of men coming out and reaching a certain age and level of financial security. As this becomes true in more and more places, I think the desire of gay men to become parents is likely to grow further. However, a recent statistic I saw states that about 15% of gay men were becoming parents, still a much lower percentage than their heterosexual and even lesbian counterparts. This, I fear, reflects the simple fact that it is much harder for men to achieve parenthood. In addition with states like Arkansas cutting off gay adoption and certain international countries stopping adoption altogether, adoption is becoming even harder still. So what we are experiencing is the result of growing public awareness and acceptance of surrogacy as a viable method for gay men to become parents, when the alternatives are becoming decreasingly available. Beyond the obvious advantage of having a biological link with your children, surrogacy today is often faster than adoption, it is extremely reliable and essentially 100% safe legally. It doesn’t involve the risk of a birth mother changing her mind, or the need to persuade the entire electorate that you are fit to be a parent. Our clients express a strong sense of empowerment and satisfaction that surrogacy allows them to “take their fate in their own hands,” especially when they are working with a gay-owned and gay-focused agency like ours.

And while surrogacy remains an expensive process, some new alternatives (like the use of an egg-bank and more affordable health insurance solutions) can reduce the costs significantly. In fact, even as the economic situation has been changing in the last few months, we have experienced a remarkable growth in our practice. There seems to be no hesitation among our clients. This is not surprising to us. We have found that for many the bad economy causes them to focus on their core desires, in this case, the desire to become parents.

PP: Circle Surrogacy has representatives in Boston, New York, Texas, Indiana and Arizona. What states are your most active? Is there a connection between the state’s politics [red, blue, conservative, liberal] and the number of Circle’s clients?

JW: As Boston is where our principal office is, the large majority of our domestic clients are from the northeast, mostly MA and NY. However, we have clients from all over the country and the world.

I don’t think the state’s politics have anything to do with the desire of its gay residents to parent, but naturally the larger gay centers tend to be in the “blue” states. Other than Florida, Georgia and Texas, the rest of the south is definitely under-represented in our client base.

PP: Have you noticed an impact from the recent marriage decisions in Massachusetts and Connecticut? Do you believe surrogacy will become even more popular where gay marriage is available?

JW: Despite the recent setback in California, we believe that decisions in Massachusetts and Connecticut to allow gay marriage, and decisions in New York that recognize marriages from those states, along with national legislation in Canada, Spain the Netherlands and Belgium that authorize gay marriage portend well for the acceptability of gay couples. And even though states like Arkansas now prohibit gay adoption, this does not mean that gays can’t do surrogacy. Rather, a unanimous 10th Circuit Decision (covering Oklahoma, Utah, Nebraska, etc.), from last year makes clear that all states must give full faith and credit to decisions from other states authorizing second parent adoptions, even if the state itself does not permit two men or two women on a birth certificate. This bodes very well for gay parenting nationwide. In fact, for some reason, gay parenting is still years ahead of gay marriage in acceptability nationwide.

Despite the recent setbacks for gay marriage in California and elsewhere, gay parenting rights have been growing over the last 15 years, with dozens of states presently authorizing second parent adoptions when one of the parents is biologically related to the children, as in surrogacy.

Incidentally, in the days after the election we got several new inquiries from people in Arkansas and Florida, perhaps out of defiance and a resolve to take matters into their own hands. Many of our gay clients, domestic and international, are now eager to also get married when they come in to our office or visit our most frequently used clinics in Massachusetts and Connecticut. This is especially attractive for clients from New York and Israel, both examples of places where gay marriages are recognized if conducted elsewhere. However it has a deep emotional significance for many others as well. I know from first had experience that an official marriage status can be a great source of comfort and pride for our kids, once they reach a certain age.

PP: The New York Times recently published a story about single dads by choice, and we know Circle has worked with single men as clients throughout its 13 years of existence. The Time’s piece reported an increase in the number of gay single fathers working with surrogates. Because so many gay men are single, do you believe the ratio of single gay dads will ever equal the number of gay male couples who choose surrogacy?

JW: While I do not think that the ratio will ever be the same, since obviously it is harder to raise a child on your own, we have seen a growth in the number of applications from single guys. I think that more single gay men are feeling confident and financially secure enough to start the process alone. However we have always had about 20% of our practice devoted to single dads.

PP: The Details magazine article said that many single men pair off soon after they become parents. We think this notion is adorable, and wonder if you could share any anecdotes involving this ‘pairing off’.

JW: Indeed the vast majority of our single dads have become partnered either before their children were born or shortly thereafter. We think it is their level of comfort with themselves, and their confidence in their own decision-making that makes them very attractive to others. In fact, in one instance we had two single surrogacy gay dads who met after they each had their own children first, and now they are one large happy family.

PP: Lastly, Circle Surrogacy just celebrated its 13th anniversary – and the birth of its 250th baby – with a reunion party in September. We found out that your family was planning to attend, but we haven’t heard how the party went. Can you describe your reaction to the party and the clients who attended?

JW: My whole family attended and the party was terrific. We had surrogates, donors, couples, singles, gay and straight from the Boston area, the NY tri state area and as far away as Italy in attendance. A similar party we had in New York three years (and 100 babies) ago was mostly attended by NY gay dads and their children. It was such a warm reunion, so well attended, filled with fun for kids (with a magician, animals and the Aquarium) and adults – with great food and a champagne toast and a chance to get to know other couples in similar situations. While some of the children who attended are 7-13 years old, most were infants and toddlers, reflecting the “surrogacy baby boom” of the last few years. It was also nice to see how the children of clients and surrogates mingled and played together. These parties are a great opportunity to be reminded of what we believe surrogacy is all about: families helping create other families.

Same-sex couples find options in adoption and foster parenting

Just Being Parents
Same-sex couples find options in adoption and foster parenting
by Heather Cassell

Since the ’90s, visibility has been given to the gay community’s slice of the American dream—the lavender house with two kids strapped into the eco-friendly SUV, headed on the queer family vacation package.

“I’ve been extremely impressed by the caliber of parenting I see from our gay and lesbian clients,” said Shari Levine, executive director of Open Adoption & Family Services in Portland.

Approximately 40 percent of the organization’s prospective parents are gay or lesbian, said Levine, and Open Adoption & Family Services allows an open relationship between adopted children and both their birth and adoptive parents. Levine added that both hetero and same-sex couples can expect a 10- to 11-month adoption period through her agency.

Many same-sex parents don’t view themselves as different from other parents, but others speculate that gay parents may raise their children with a greater awareness of diversity.

“Being a gay parent hasn’t been defined as being gay, but as a parent,” said Tyler Silver, who has two children with his partner of five years, Joel Schudde.

Carrie Adamson-John added, “I think that we would parent the same if we were straight…sexuality is a separate issue from parenting.” She is raising 2-year-old Dakotah with her partner, Shanon. “If you have a child and they are small, you can be encouraging, nurturing and respectful of their spirit no matter what. We parent him with respect and love.”

This is a reoccurring theme among same-sex parents, and none seemed concerned about their children having problems at school because they have same-sex parents.

Trish and Jan Calvin’s voices resonate with pride when they talk about their oldest daughter, Sarah, not being afraid to stand up to other kids when she gets grief for having gay parents. The parents said that Sarah sometimes gets tired of explaining her unique family to other kids but that she typically doesn’t have any problem talking about her two moms and brings books such as And Tango Makes Three and Heather Has Two Mommies to school for the teacher to read to the class.

According to the Williams Institute—a sexual minority think tank at University of California, Los Angeles—more than half of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians want to have a child. The research organization published those statistics in Adoption & Foster Care by Lesbians & Gay Men in March 2007.

According to the report, an estimated 65,500 adopted children live with a gay or lesbian parents and 2 million gay and lesbian people are interested in adopting. The institute estimated that of 23,901 adoptions in Oregon, 1,232 are by gay and lesbian parents. It also estimated that 14,100 foster children are living with gay or lesbian parents nationwide, including about 250 in Oregon.

Fertility experts are noticing a rise in sexual minorities looking at reproductive technologies as an option in their family planning.

Oregon Reproductive Medicine—formerly the Portland Center for Reproductive Medicine—has been helping gay couples and individuals with their reproductive needs for many years, “not just lately because it’s become in vogue,” said Jonathan Kipp, a spokesman for the center. Kipp, a gay man, said he has noticed an increase in queer clients at the center from as far away as France.

“There is a wide range of options for the gay community now to be able to create their families,” said Stuart Miller, co-founder and chief executive officer of Growing Generations. He estimated the agency has seen a 20 percent increase in mostly gay male clients with a few lesbian clients annually.

The trend hasn’t escaped the American Fertility Association, a New York-based reproductive technologies organization, either. For the third consecutive year, the organization hosted a queer-specific tract at its Family Matters Conference, where Miller and John J. Weltman, president of Circle Surrogacy, were presenters in San Francisco in February. This was the first year the conference was held on the West Coast.
Silver and Schudde, 38-year-old gay men, chose to have biological children. Their first two children, William, 4, and Bryn, 2, were born using Silver’s DNA and a surrogate through Growing Generations.

Silver, who has a graduate degree in family and children counseling and is retired, said he chose to use reproductive technologies because it “felt comforting to have my genetic history involved.”

Schudde, a former public administrator and now a stay-at-home dad, is attempting to have a child using his DNA and a surrogate.

While reproductive technologies are an emerging option for gay family planning, it’s expensive, and infertility issues can enter the picture.

“I wanted to be pregnant for as long as I could remember,” said Shanon Adamson-John, who was diagnosed with unidentified infertility. “My life without a child wasn’t an option.”

She and Carrie looked into adoption through Open Adoption & Family Services, and within three weeks, they adopted a son. The Adamson-Johns were unusually lucky.

Trish Calvin had difficulty conceiving when she attempted to have a second child. She and Jan, a couple of 19 years, not only added Alison, 4, to their family, but they also acquired two gay godfathers and a godson in the process.

Ed Lazzara, 48, and Kurt Garcia-Ottens, 45, were already in Open Adoption & Family Services’ adoption pool when they met the Calvins, who were exploring adoption. At the men’s suggestion, the Calvins joined the pool and adopted Alison before Lazzara and Garcia-Ottens adopted their son, Leo, 3.

“It was a blessing,” said Trish, recalling that Alison became Lazzara’s and Garcia-Ottens’ “practice child, because they really had no clue how to change a diaper.”

Lazzara and Garcia-Ottens, a couple of 17 years, explored family planning options and decided adoption felt right for them.

Christian Hetchinson, 40, and his partner of 19 years, Timothy Kirchner, 42, weren’t quite ready to adopt, so they opted to become foster parents as a “beginning step” into parenthood.

Hetchinson said they weren’t sure if they would even be allowed to be foster parents, but with the help of a private child service organization, they have been foster parents to three boys between 12 and 15 years old for the past eight months.

“We thought it would be fun being foster parents, and it’s been much more fun than we ever expected it to be,” said Hetchinson, who is now a full-time foster parent while Kirchner manages a retail store.

Other than spoiling the boys, Hetchinson, who plans on having a “steady flow of kids coming through our house,” said the best part of being a foster parent is something significant: “We are able to give back to these kids something that maybe they didn’t have in their homes or their personal history.”

For more information visit www.oregonreproductivemedicine.com, www.openadopt.org, www.boysandgirlsaid.org and www.fyi3.com/fyi3/states/oregon.cfm .