Court In Spain Annuls Registration Of Twins Born To An American Surrogate

By Andrew Vorzimer ⋅ September 17, 2010 ⋅ A very disconcerting decision out of Valencia, Spain whose ramifications might be broader than originally reported:

The twins were born legally to a surrogate mother in the United States

The judge in First Instance Court 15 in Valencia has decided to annul the entry made in the Consular Civil Registry in Los Angeles, by a Spanish gay male married couple who were registered as the parents of twins. The twins were born legally in the United States by a surrogate mother.

Spanish legislation does not consider the surrogate process as legal, and now the judge has cancelled their registration after being appealed to do by the Prosecutor’s Office. The registration of the twins had previously been accepted by the DGRN, the Directorate General of Registries and Notaries, which considered at the time, in February 2009, that the application met all the formal requirements and did not break any international Spanish public order.

The Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals, FELGTB, described the Prosecutor’s attitude in presenting an appeal as ‘homophobic’. The judge explained the decision by saying the law in Spain is determined by the person who actually gave birth, and that person should be inscribed as a parent. The magistrate said that the same conclusion would be reached if the couple were men, women or straight, as the law does not distinguish between them. The gay couple say they will now place an appeal against the decision which they said showed that you can no longer say that there is equality in Spain.

While this couple is righteously indignant about the ruling, it does not appear this decision was based upon the couple’s sexual orientation. If the Judge is to be believed, then the outcome would be the same regardless of whether the Intended Parents are heterosexual or homosexual. This ruling appears to be the first since June when Spain joined 7 other European countries that sent written notifications to IVF clinics in India to not entertain surrogacy cases of citizens from their countries.

There are some unanswered questions as well about the impact of this decision, including: 1) Why are the twins not entitled to Spanish citizenship based upon the biological father’s Spanish citizenship; 2) Even if Spain were to recognize the Surrogate as the legal mother, why would they not recognize the biological father as the legal father; 3) Was the Surrogate married and, if so, did that play a role in the decision (which could answer my question #1); and 4) Will the twins be allowed to remain in the country while their parents perfect their immigration status?

This decision is yet another troubling reminder about the perilous nature of surrogacy today for international couples. For anyone considering surrogacy, in addition to performing your due diligence about the underlying legality of the arrangements and the methods by which your parental rights will be finalized, it is critical that you speak to an immigration and family law attorney in your country of residence to assess the impact of any applicable immigration and parentage laws. Unfortunately, given some of the situations that have recently arisen in India and the almost knee-jerk response by many European countries, I’m afraid these issues will remain prevalent for the foreseeable future.

Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Declaring Florida’s Ban on Gay Adoption Unconstitutional – September 22, 2010 – In November, 2008, Judge Cindy Lederman ruled that Florida’s ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional. The ruling allowed Frank Martin Gill to move forward with adopting two brothers, ages 4 and 8, who had been in Gill’s foster care since 2004.

In the 53-page 2008 ruling, Lederman wrote: “It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent.”

The state of Florida appealed the ruling, and today a Miami appeals court ruled against the state:

“The 3rd District Court of Appeal issued its decision Wednesday affirming a lower court’s decision that the ban is unconstitutional. Florida is the only state with a law flatly banning gays from adopting children without exception. Gays can be foster parents in Florida. A Miami-Dade County judge ruled the gay adoption ban unconstitutional in 2008, but the state appealed. The case will ultimately go to the state Supreme Court. Martin Gill and his male partner, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the lawsuit in their attempt to adopt two brothers, whom they have cared for as foster children since December 2004.”

This is the case for which discredited “ex-gay” fraud George “rentboy” Rekers was paid $120,000 to serve as an “expert” witness for the state.

Last week, Florida Governor Charlie Crist said he was considering dropping this specific case:

New Law Allows For Unmarried Partners To Adopt

New York 1 – September 21, 2010

Unmarried partners, including gay couples, are now free to jointly adopt a child in New York State.

Governor David Paterson signed a law making the change on Sunday.

The law also puts “married couple” in the adoption statute, in place of what used to read “husband and wife.”

Bill sponsors say that is meant to ensure children get insurance and other benefits from both adults, as well as lifelong support even if couples split up.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in New York, but the state does recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Study Finds Wider View of ‘Family’

September 15, 2010
New York Times

A majority of Americans now say their definition of family includes same-sex couples with children, as well as married gay and lesbian couples.

At the same time, most Americans do not consider unmarried cohabiting couples, either heterosexual or same-sex, to be a family — unless they have children.

The findings — part of a survey conducted this year as well as in 2003 and 2006 by Brian Powell, a sociology professor at Indiana University, Bloomington — are reported in a new book, “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family,” to be published on Wednesday by the Russell Sage Foundation. Since the surveys began, the proportion of people who reported having a gay friend or relative rose 10 percentage points, said Professor Powell, the book’s lead author.

“This is not because more people are gay now than in 2003,” he said. “This indicates a more open social environment in which individuals now feel more comfortable discussing and acknowledging sexuality. Ironically with all the antigay initiatives, all of a sudden people were saying the word ‘gay’ out loud. Just the discussion about it made people more comfortable.”

The book concludes that framing the equality of same-sex couples in terms of “the best interests of the child” might prove to be a more successful political argument than others.

“Neither the numbers from our data nor actual votes on initiatives are anywhere near the sufficient magnitude to support the idea that the public is ready to embrace same sex-couples with open arms,” the authors say. But, likening the resistance to laws and mores against interracial marriage, “we envisage a day in the near future when same-sex families also will gain acceptance by a large plurality of the public.”

The latest telephone survey of 830 people conducted this year found that Americans were almost equally divided on same-sex marriage. “I don’t think people are ready to embrace it, but people are ready to accept it,” Professor Powell said of same-sex marriage.

The survey also found a growing acceptance that genetics, rather than parenting, peers or God’s will, was responsible for sexual orientation.

Since 2003, the survey found a decline of 11 percentage points in the number of people who generally define family as a husband and wife with or without children.

Prof. Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen State College in Washington, director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, a research and advocacy group, said that “Americans seem to be open to seeing same-sex couples with children as families, even while they hesitate to recognize their unions as marriage.”

David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, a marriage research and advocacy group, said he was not surprised by the findings. “I like the standard definition of family: two or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption,” Mr. Blankenhorn said. “Keeps it simple and coherent.”

But, he added: “We live in groups, and we need each other. So it’s always a good thing, isn’t it, when any of us truly loves and is loved by another.”

Court allows gay man to adopt child

Maris Beck
September 12, 2010 –

A JUDGE has allowed a gay man to adopt his foster child in what is believed to be a first for Victoria.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is in a gay relationship but has adopted the child by himself to comply with Victorian laws that make it illegal for gay couples to adopt a child together.

The New South Wales Parliament passed a bill this week giving same-sex couples full adoption rights, and similar rights already exist in Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.

The Victorian Commission for Equal Opportunity and Human Rights intervened in this case to protect the rights of the child, who had been abused and neglected until he was placed in the couple’s care four years ago.

Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Helen Szoke welcomed the judge’s order allowing the gay man to adopt the child, now 11, but said until the final judgment was made public, it was too early to say whether the case set a precedent. Dr Szoke said she was unaware of other cases of gay men being allowed to adopt children in Victoria.

”Until we see the reasons, it’s not clear what this does in relation to precedent or any changes long-term in relation to the laws,” Dr Szoke said. The 11-year-old boy told The Sunday Age he was overjoyed at the decision.

‘I’m really glad that I’m adopted. They always play with me and they do fun activities with me like going to the park and watching me play footy. It’s a really good thing.”

The boy’s adoptive father said it had felt like they were going on trial for their sexuality, and the possibility of losing their son had been ”hell”.

”It’s been a nightmare … in this limbo state.”

He said it had been a strain on him and his partner to decide who would be the one to adopt, but the outcome was just: ”We feel as though we’ve done our bit to help pave the path for others.”

The man’s partner said he could understand why some people thought every child should have a mother and a father but many children had neither.

He said when they first fostered their son, they had thought he had a speech impediment but then realised he had trouble speaking only because he had been so neglected. He is now confident and articulate, and his dads say he is thriving.

Karen Field, chief executive of Drummond Street Relationship Centre, said many foster-care agencies actively marketed themselves to gay couples and the state was heavily reliant on the assistance of gay foster carers.

She said the double standard that did not allow gay couples to adopt was ridiculous.

”In worst-case scenarios, you could have someone who could end up not being able to access a child that they’ve raised for a number of years.”

The Victorian Law Reform Commission said in 2005 it made ”no sense” that same-sex couples could be permanent and short-term carers for children in need but not assume the full legal powers and responsibilities.

Brian Lucas, general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said: ”The general principle is that adoption needs to look at the welfare of the child and that will depend on very particular circumstances. I don’ t have any comment on the particular circumstances here.”

Living to Be a Parent

September 10, 2010
New York Times Magazine

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? You learned about it in your intro psych course: a neat and tidy pyramid, with fulfillment of “physiological needs” at its base, then things like “safety,” “love,” “belonging” and “esteem” stacked on top, all capped by “self-actualization.”

A group of academic psychologists have redesigned the nearly 70-year-old triangle. Most notably they have knocked “self-actualization” off the pinnacle and replaced it with “parenting.” Right below, they have added “mate retention” and “mate acquisition.”

This very academic change — which was an attempt on the part of its proponents to look at human motivation based on evolution — has sparked some very visceral responses. It has brought protest from people who don’t want children (and who see the redesign as a criticism of their choice) or can’t have children (who see it as an intimation that they are not psychologically complete) or who oppose gay marriage (who see in this an attempt to legitimize same-sex parenting as a psychological right). Most of all, it raises the question of whether the tendency in recent decades to all but sanctify parenting has gone just a bit too far.

All science reinforces or refutes what came before, and when Abraham Maslow published his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943, it was a rebuttal of the prevailing theory that everything humans do stems from physical needs. A baby learns to love by bonding with its food source, the older behaviorist thinking went. Maslow’s newer argument was that humans are not motivated simply by hunger and thirst but by higher goals. “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself,” he said.

Over the decades, though, Maslow’s triangle came to be seen as “aspirational” — a description of what fulfilled individuals “should” do — rather than as an explanation of how human motivation actually works. Viewed through an evolutionary lens, some aspects of Maslow’s hierarchy make no sense, says Douglas T. Kenrick, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, who argues for a new pyramid. If the only purpose of art, music and literature is self-fulfillment, how does that abet the survival of the species? After all, he argues, “the time you spend playing the guitar or creating poetry or contemplating the meaning of life could be otherwise spent finding food.” Kenrick isn’t saying the pursuit of art and such has no evolutionary purpose; he just sees it as subordinate to the main act. “Look at it this way,” he says. “If you are a good poet or a good musician, there is a reproductive payoff: women are attracted to men with these abilities. What a man is saying when he is playing his guitar up there is ‘look at my good genes.’ ”

Which is why, in the paper published earlier this summer in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, Kenrick and his co-authors redefined “self-actualization” as an indirect means to attracting a mate and, ultimately, parenting children. They chose the word “parenting,” rather than “procreation,” quite deliberately, he says, because our genes do not live on unless our children reach puberty healthy enough to have children of their own. And if those children are attractive as potential mates — the result of good schools, years of tennis lessons and the ability to play the guitar or write poetry — so much the better.

Kenrick and his colleagues are careful to say that, unlike Maslow, their pyramid is not aspirational, and that by placing parenting at the top they are not promoting it as the “right” or “laudable” path. They are simply explaining, with illustrations, why we, as a species, act as we do. In fact, Kenrick — who is the father of two sons, one 6 and the other 33 — says he believes the earth would be better off if fewer of us had children.

Point taken. But I find it hard to look at the new pyramid, with parenting at its apex, and not see a value judgement. That’s because in the decades since Maslow proposed his hierarchy, in the decades, even, since Kenrick became a father, “parent” became a loaded verb. Once, “parent” was something you were, not something you did. We have elevated it into a profession, a competition, a calling. Women, freer to choose, find themselves unexpectedly torn by the choice. Men, once free not to be involved, are now expected to plunge in. (Kenrick himself says he is “a lot” more involved in raising his younger son than he was with his older one, though that’s easier now that he has tenure.) Society, with virtual, actual and imagined predators, demands more vigilance from parents.

A result of a certain kind of overparenting, we are learning, is children who are better prepared for college but less prepared for life. They are more dependent, expecting trophies just for trying and texting their parents to ask for advice about what to eat for breakfast. Childhood, some experts say, now continues well into the 20s.

All scientific inquiry relies on assumptions that go unseen because they are so tangled up with their times. Maslow’s conclusions seem ethnocentric now, but the idea that some cultures might not value individualism as much as Americans do was not so obvious then. Similarly, Maslow never mentioned parenting as one possible subset of “self-actualization” perhaps because he couldn’t fathom the idea of children as “life’s work,” at least not for the audience of men to whom he seemed to be speaking.

So while this new construct may not set out to glorify parenting, it nonetheless reflects a moment when too many have lost sight of the goal of all parents — to make ourselves unnecessary. Just as Maslow’s views look quaint through a modern lens, we may look back on this version too as an artifact of a muddled time. Our current tendency toward “too much for too long” arguably influenced researchers to crown their revision with parenting. Yet that same tendency is delaying our children from reaching independent adulthood, which is, on any pyramid, the entire point.

Lisa Belkin is a contributing writer and the author of the Motherlode blog.

An Adopted Boy Considers His Origins

September 3, 2010
New York Times Magazine

Jonah, our youngest, spent the day in the water again. At 5 he’s already an exquisite swimmer, diving for coins our Provincetown neighbors throw into the tide for him to fetch. Now we’re lying in his bed together waiting for him to fall asleep, and he’s thumping my stomach like it’s a beach ball.

“Are you going to have more babies in your belly?”

“You know I’ve never had any babies in my belly,” I tell him.

“Well, whose belly did I come out of?” he says.

My girlfriend, Molly, and I have always been frank about the fact that Jonah and his brother, Sam, were adopted, though until recently they’ve really only shown interest in the few details that feel glamorous: for instance, Jonah enjoys knowing that he was born on an island. The rest of how the kids came to us is so complex and adult, we’ve so far opted to leave it alone.

Scratch the surface and nobody’s birth story is typical. Our two children are biological brothers, and they have an older sister a friend of ours adopted first. Because of her special relationship to the boys, Sister plays a starring role in our house. Looking at the three of them leaves little doubt they’re related: ignore the height difference, and they could almost pass for triplets. A few days earlier we were having a bonfire at the beach. It was one of those ridiculously idyllic summer evenings at the seaside, replete with rainbows and a dolphin release the kids ran down to see. On the way back to the fire, Jonah tripped, catapulting him into a flood of tears. Sister grew more agitated the louder he wailed. Finally, in some kind of attempt to shut him up, she turned to him and said, “You didn’t come out of your mommy’s belly.”

“Now isn’t the time for this conversation,” Molly told her.

“You didn’t,” Sister continued, “you came out of the same belly as me. Her name was Cheri.” For Jonah, that belly never had a name before. That name was so revelatory you could almost see a light bulb in a thought bubble hovering above Jonah’s head. He began crying louder.

To Molly and me, our children are so completely ours it feels impossible that anyone else had anything to do with them. But for Jonah, who knows? Some would say, for example, that it was the hand of God that saved his namesake, the original Jonah, from the belly of the whale; others, that it was luck that caused the beast to spit him out.

So here I am in the bed with our youngest boy, telling him the truth as I see it: “Some babies come out of their mommies, and some come through other bodies to get to their mommies. My body couldn’t make babies, so we had to find another way to get you here.” I’ve told him this before, but the story no longer satisfies the way it once did. He may be only 5, but it’s time for Jonah to begin making his own version of the narrative.

“Whose belly?” he demands.

“Her name was Cheri,” I say, affirming it for him.

“I should be there with her,” he says.

I take a breath. “No,” I tell him. “Wherever Sam and your other mommy and I are, that’s where your home is. That’s where you should be.” And in a sure sign he knows that what he’s hearing is correct, he begins to cry hard.

In a little while I feel him exhale long and slow, his back relaxing against my hands that are holding him in place like bookends: Your body begins here, and it ends here. You are safe. By now he’s exhausted, but he’s too smart to take my word for anything yet. “What if you and Mommy and Sam get dead and I’m left here all alone?” he says.

Even though I can’t say for sure, I opt for kindness over stark possibility, which I maintain is every parent’s prerogative. “Not gonna happen,” I tell him. And he falls asleep.

For days after, Jonah vacillated between being demonstrative and being withdrawn, all the thinking about his origins rendering him tender, as if from sunburn. The summer carried on in its relentless perfection. We were on the beach the other day when I overheard him tell a friend, “I was born on an island, you know.”

“Really?” the friend said.

“Yes,” Jonah said, “and they weren’t my mommies,” pointing like a hitchhiker with his thumb to Molly and me.

“So how’d you get here?” his friend asked.

“I swam a hundred miles to get home,” he said.

Melanie Braverman, a poet and novelist, is the Jacob Ziskind poetry fellow at Brandeis University.

Nick’s First Steps…

Kids with Same-Sex Parents are All Right: A Conversation with Lisa Cholodenko

by Vera von Kreutzbruck  – September 3, 2010

Last winter film director Lisa Cholodenko came to Berlin to present The Kids Are All Right at the International Film Festival. Dressed in black with short dark hair and thick-framed glasses Cholodenko is an outgoing and witty person, who occasionally swears. She has a winning sense of humor, which is reflected in the new movie. Her films portray the clash between conservative and creative milieus, places she knows first-hand. Though The Kids Are All Right has not done well outside of the large cities and art house theaters, the topic is “timely” and significant.

On July 15, 2010 a civil rights milestone was set – Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. Not so long ago, in fact until 1983, homosexuals were persecuted. Homosexuals in Argentina now have the same rights as heterosexuals, including the right to adoption, inheritance, pension, and social security. This is a sign of evolution in a nation in which a Macho-driven culture unfortunately still prevails.

Before same-sex marriage was legalized in Argentina, one of the most fiercely debated topics in the Senate was whether to allow gay couples to adopt. Opponents fear that children raised by same-sex couples will not develop properly. But a recent study reveals that young children with same-sex parents are as well-adjusted as their counterparts with heterosexual parents.

Research conducted by the University of Virginia investigated child development and parenting in 27 lesbian couples, 29 gay male couples, and 50 heterosexual couples with young adopted children. Parents, teachers, and external caregivers evaluated the preschoolers’ behavior and gender development.

The results revealed that family type was not significantly associated with parent reports of child adjustment, including children’s behavior problems and gender role development. They also demonstrated that “family type was not significantly associated with parents’ reports of parenting stress, parent discipline techniques, or couple relationship adjustment.” The study concluded that “parental sexual orientation did not emerge as an important predictor of any outcomes.”

Four years ago film director Lisa Cholodenko gave birth to her child with the help of a sperm donor. During the process she decided to make a movie about it. The Kids Are All Right was one of the most talked about movies at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The dialogue is smart and amusing – often playing on society’s prejudice against homosexual couples. The cast’s performances are all fantastic. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play the lesbian parents, Mark Ruffalo is the sperm donor, and Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson are the teen children.

In a room with dark wood-paneled walls of a fancy Berlin hotel I sat with Lisa Cholodenko to talk about family upbringing, gay marriage, and the intention of her film:

Do you think that your new movie The Kids Are All Right shows a family situation in a way that nobody has seen before in cinema?

I do. It feels like a relief because when I was writing I thought this is too good, this is too timely. I was so amazed that nobody took that subject on before. The press coverage about gay marriage and kids finding their sperm donors in the States is becoming so popular.

The movie is about family. Why did you choose the title The Kids Are All Right for it?

I think it’s my ironic comment about how people are always afraid that kids of gay parents are going to get fucked up. In this case the kids are more stable than their moms.

Did you choose to make the script more comedic to broaden the appeal to a mainstream audience?

I just felt that the subject really lent itself to that. There is something so inheritably ridiculous about all of it. I totally respect and identify with it. It’s very much my own experience because my partner and I have a kid with a sperm donor. When you peel away the layers of what happens in a long term marriage: people going outside of the marriage to keep their marriage exciting, or what they don’t do. I can’t play this straight. It would be ridiculous. Everybody is struggling, but it’s kind of ridiculous too.

The two moms are very different.

Annette Bening is more type A. She wears the pants in the family and is less overt with her feelings. Juliane Moore is more the nurturing, “get in touch with your feelings” kind of mom. It was a fun thing to play with and that it actually was plausible that these people with such psychological differences would be attracted to each other.

It’s not the first movie where you have free-spirited characters clash with more structured people. This dynamic seems to be a recurring theme. What attracts you so much to this exchange between characters?

I think that it’s something that is universal. Maybe it’s expressed in a very specific way in my films because they are in very specific places and milieus. The tension between going the right path, the conventional path, and moving outside the box, doing the wrong thing, I think that that is a universal theme. So far I’m still interested in it. It might be the last one.

What was your own upbringing like? Was it strict?

It was a little bit of both, which is why I can switch between these two worlds. It was conventional in the sense that my parents have been married 50 years and they still live in the house that I grew up in. There was always dinner at seven o’clock when my dad got home. But I grew up in Los Angeles in a liberal environment. Things were a little bit looser – it was the seventies.

There was a rigid structure at home?

There was a rigid sense of family life and appropriateness as a family, about what you did: the whole thing with “Did you write the thank you card, did you call blah blah blah?” Those sorts of things. In certain families there is this idea of what is appropriate and I had a mother that was quite like that. It’s oppressive, you always had to be doing the appropriate thing. On the other hand, both of my parents worked and we were kind of on our own during the day and it wasn’t like we were supervised and had to have our homework checked or anything like that. We were smoking pot and hanging out and nobody was really noticing.

What would you like people to walk away with after seeing this movie?

I feel like it’s really a film about family. It’s a portrait of a family. I want people to walk away with a really good feeling about family. That it was a fair, sort of even-handed representation of the shit people go through and the storms people can weather and kind of stick it out for good reasons with genuine feeling intact because I really think that families are great if you can make them work. I’m all for the family, especially with kids in the picture.

Do you think that the film can help gay marriage become more accepted in America?

Yes, all the stuff that is going on brings me down. I’m proud that this film isn’t overtly political. It’s just a portrait, it’s just a story and I think it’s coming in a good time. I feel ashamed of what is going on in our culture.

Do you think it’s getting better?

I think it’s changing. It’s incredibly slow, much slower than it should be and much slower than Western Europe. I’m pleased that it translated culturally here in Germany, that cross-cultures are responding to it, that’s really hopeful to me.

Do you think that Catherine Bigelow winning an Oscar is a milestone in the film industry?

Yes, it’s a step forward but I don’t see things changing for women in a quick or epic way. But I think incrementally we see more opportunities and women taking out projects that are bigger, more lucrative, more ambitious.
About the Author
Vera von Kreutzbruck was born in Argentina. She started her career in journalism at the English language newspaper, Buenos Aires Herald. After a fellowship in Germany, she decided to settle in Berlin. She currently works as a freelance journalist contributing to media in Europe and Latin America. Her articles focus on international news and culture in Germany and the European Union.

New South Wales Passes Gay Adoption Bill

by Allison Marcotte | Article Date: 09/03/2010 1:56 PM

A bill that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children was passed Thursday by the lower house of parliament in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state.

According to The Australian, the bill passed with a close vote. It will allow same-sex couples to adopt a child together, as they can in the Australian Capital Territory and in Western Australia.

“Forty-six MPs voted for the historic bill and 44 voted against it yesterday, after a two-day debate,” reported The Australian on Thursday.

In an effort to make sure the bill passed, Sydney MP Clover Moore, who introduced it, included an amendment to allow religious adoption agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples without violating antidiscrimination laws.