How Co-parenting Has Equipped Queer Families To Handle The Coronavirus Pandemic

Co-parenting families are drawing on the resiliency that comes from living on the margins in the Coronavirus pandemic.

Co-parenting families are drawing on the resiliency that comes from living on the margins in the Coronavirus pandemic. Four months ago, Lisa Lo, from Calgary, separated from the father of her two young children, ages two and five, in part because she wanted to open her marriage to relationships with both men and women.Co-parenting Coronavirus

Lo, whose name has been changed to protect her family’s privacy, is polyamorous, and she’s had three relationships since her separation, one of which has ended, and two of which have been complicated by pandemic living arrangements.

Some of these relationships have brought big feelings, but through it all, Lo is mindful of keeping an emotional balance for her kids, who spend most of their time with her. “They pick up on my emotions,” she said. “If I’m happy, they’re happy. If I’m stressed and upset, then they’re stressed and upset.”

But that was all pre-pandemic: “Now, dating has been put on hold,” she told HuffPost Canada. Lo’s priorities are different these days. She is very much focused on the challenges COVID-19 poses to all multi-household families: creating consistent self-isolation protocols, navigating the handing-off of children, communicating in a time of stress, finding legal counsel.

To create a situation that worked for everyone, Lo had to have hard conversations with her ex-husband about whether to integrate any of her existing polyamorous relationships into their isolation cohort.

They settled on Lo living with one somewhat-ex-partner (it’s complicated). They are also still employing a nanny in both households, in part, because this is supportive of Lo’s mental health. The negotiations about child schedules and hand-offs between households have been complex.

Lo has also been challenged by some of her loved ones about having non-immediate family members in her household “pod” during the pandemic. But, she was able to take that in stride.

She said being queer has given her a lot of practice with tough discussions: “I’m used to being outspoken about things that are unconventional. I’m done being in the closet about anything.”

Rachel Farr is an assistant professor of Psychology, and she runs the FAD (Families, Adoption, and Diversity) research lab at the University of Kentucky. She said that for LGBTQ2 families, this pandemic both feeds into existing patterns of resilience and creates new ones.

“Some of the emotional dynamics I think are true for any family trying to negotiate [this pandemic],” she told HuffPost, “but there are added layers of sensitivity and vulnerability for queer families, who also face stigma and various forms of silencing through institutional discrimination or lack of legal protections.”

Huffingtonpost.ca by Brianna Sharpe, April 23, 2020

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Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births

Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births

Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births.  Andrea Hoffmann’s mad dash to America began shortly after 2 a.m. on March 12 in Munich, when her husband roused her from sleep and said, “We have to get on a plane now.”Coronavirus adoptions surrogacy

The Hoffmanns both wanted to be in Maryland for the birth of their son to a surrogate who was due in late May. But Christian Hoffmann realized their plans had to be changed after watching President Trump on television as he announced travel restrictions on Europeans to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

When Christian left Andrea at the Munich airport at 6 a.m., they expected he would join her in a few weeks.

More than a month later, Christian Hoffmann is still in Munich, working at home for a pharmaceutical company. His wife is living temporarily in an apartment in Frederick, Md., doing administrative tasks on her laptop for her job as an air traffic controller. She has spent countless hours watching the news and the first five seasons of “Game of Thrones” on Netflix, and bonding with their surrogate, who has brought her three daughters to the parking lot of Andrea’s building so she can watch them dance from a second-floor balcony.

“We are just so glad one of us is here,” she said. “I didn’t think it would come to this. I thought, ‘It will be all right; they cannot lock down everything.’ I never would have imagined this situation.”

The sweeping travel restrictions, imposed with little advance notice, have interrupted plans for prospective new families around the world. The United States has imposed restrictions on travelers who have been in China, Iran and most of Europe, as well as Canada and Mexico. Nine of 10 people in the world live in countries that have closed their borders because of the covid-19 outbreak, narrowing international travel to a trickle.

As a result, many people overseas with surrogates in the United States are either stranded thousands of miles away or stuck in the United States, unable to bring their newborns home. And Americans who were about to fly abroad for international adoptions cannot enter the countries where children wait for them, often in orphanages.

“We literally had 15 families who had tickets purchased to leave the next day or in few days, and 10 families ready to purchase tickets,” said Susan Cox, vice president for policy at Holt International, an Oregon-based Christian organization that arranged more than 500 adoptions from other countries last year.

“In some cases, their adoptions had been in process for two or three years. They were finally at the point where the child was ready to travel, and the adoption was ready to be completed. They were so close.”

Thomas Mitchell and his wife, Callie, had been waiting for eight months to bring a 3-year-old boy home from an orphanage in northern China. Mitchell built him a bed that his daughters painted and decorated his room at their home in Chattanooga, Tenn., with a mural of pandas and pagodas. They had plane tickets to China in early February, but 12 days before their departure date, the adoption was put on indefinite hold.

“At first, we thought it would be a couple weeks’ delay,” said Thomas Mitchell, a real estate transaction coordinator. “Then it snowballed. Now, nobody knows when we can go.”

Washington Post, April 16, 2020, by Carol Morello

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Phyllis Lyon, on Right, Lesbian Activist and Gay Marriage Trailblazer, Dies at 95

When Phyllis Lyon married her partner of 55 years in 2008, they formed the first legal gay union in California.

Phyllis Lyon, who when she married her partner, Del Martin, in 2008 became part of the first legal gay union in California, died on Thursday at her home in San Francisco. She was 95.

Her sister, Patricia Lyon, confirmed the death.

Phyllis Lyon

Phyllis Lyon on the left with life long partner Del Martin

It was not their first wedding. In 2004, despite state and federal bans on same-sex marriage, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ms. Lyon and Ms. Martin were the first to receive one, but that union would be short-lived. The California Supreme Court invalidated their marriage a month later, arguing that the mayor had exceeded his legal authority.

Four years later, the same court declared same-sex marriages legal and Mr. Newsom invited the couple back as the first to be married under the new ruling. Ms. Martin died shortly after.

“I am devastated,” Ms. Lyon said following her wife’s death. “But I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed.”

The mauve and turquoise-blue suits that the couple wore to their weddings are in the permanent collection of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.

Mr. Newsom, who is now the governor of California, said on Twitter: “Phyllis — it was the honor of a lifetime to marry you & Del. Your courage changed the course of history.”

Phyllis Ann Lyon was born on Nov. 10, 1924, in Tulsa, Okla. to William Ranft Lyon, who was a salesman, and Lorena Belle (Ferguson) Lyon, who was a homemaker. The family moved to Sacramento, Calif., in the early 1940s.

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1946 with a degree in journalism, Ms. Lyon worked as a reporter for the Chico Enterprise-Record in Chico, Calif. She moved to Seattle in 1949 to work at a construction trade journal, where Ms. Martin was also employed. They began dating and, on Valentine’s Day in 1953, moved in together in San Francisco.

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New York State Legalizes Gestational Surrogacy

 

New York State Legalizes Gestational Surrogacy

A protracted battle over the future of compensated gestational surrogacy in New York was resolved on April 2 when state lawmakers approved a budget that included legislation proposed by out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman and Westchester Assemblymember Amy Paulin that legalizes gestational surrogacy once and for all.legal surrogacy in New York

Although New York was one of just a small handful of states that had yet to legalize the practice, which entails a surrogate carrying a baby who has no biological relation to her, the campaign to pass such legislation in the state was stymied last year by concerns that the surrogates who carry babies — as well as those women donating eggs — were not afforded sufficient protection and rights. The bill put forth by Paulin and Hoylman, who had his two daughters via surrogacy, cleared the upper chamber last year but never reached the Assembly floor following resistance from some women in the lower chamber, including out lesbian Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who told The New York Times that gestational surrogacy was “pregnancy for a fee, and I find that commodification of women troubling.”

Among other issues with last year’s bill, Glick and others expressed uneasinessabout the reality that most working people could not afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have children through gestational surrogacy. The bill primarily benefits wealthier individuals in addition to those who are looking for financial compensation by donating eggs or carrying babies.

Hoylman, however, told Gay City News in February that he hopes the push towards universal healthcare means that such reforms could eventually alleviate some of the healthcare costs of surrogacy.

The dispute over the future of surrogacy in the state continued into this year when Manhattan State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Didi Barrett of Dutchess and Columbia Counties introduced a separate surrogacy bill that would have included, among other provisions, a controversial eight-day window during which the surrogate and intended parents would share legal responsibility for the child — raising questions about whether the surrogate might refuse to turn the child over or seek some ongoing legal relationship with them — something Hoylman described in a February interview with Gay City News as a “non-starter.”

The eight-day window was not included in the final version of Hoylman and Paulin’s bill, but some elements of Krueger’s legislation appear to have been incorporated, such as additional protections for the surrogate and the egg donor. Hoylman and Paulin had long defended their own bill as boasting the “strongest protections in the nation for surrogates” by placing significant responsibility on the intended parents to pay for her healthcare, legal representation, and other costs tied to the pregnancy. Additional protections for egg donors were also included in this year’s bill.

By Matt Tracy, Gay City News, April 2, 2020

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Legal Surrogacy in New York – Albany lawmakers pass landmark legislation

Legal Surrogacy in New York – Albany lawmakers pass landmark legislation

Legal Surrogacy in New York – Albany lawmakers pass landmark legislation, The Child Parent Security Act.  In a marathon budget session, New York lawmakers passed The Child Parent Security Act, the most protective and forward-thinking surrogacy legislation in the country.  Only Michigan and Louisiana continue to ban gestational surrogacy for LGBT individuals and couples, Michigan banning gestational surrogacy for all Michiganders.legal surrogacy in New York

While legal surrogacy in New York seemed doomed after it failed to be brought to the floor for a vote last year in the Assembly after passage in the Senate and vocal support of the Governor, this year the Child Parent Security Act was tied to the budget.  This move forced lawmakers to affirmatively support or oppose the Bill, something that they had been reticent to do in June of 2019.  The bill becomes the law of New York on February 15, 2021.

The reality of legal surrogacy in New York is the product of a massive effort on the part of many organizations and individuals.  From Men Having Babies to The Women’s Bar of New York, several organizations have stepped up to the plate to make legal surrogacy in New York a reality.  Ron Poole-Dayan, Executive Director of Men Having Babies, the non-profit organization that has spearheaded educational and ethical surrogacy initiatives around the world, said, “The CPSA is the most comprehensive, thoughtful and ethical surrogacy legislation ever drafted. It is particularly important now in the midst of a health crisis, to pass this legislation that provides New Yorkers an ethical and affordable path to the realizing their parenthood dreams.  This is landmark legislation and we are proud of our lawmakers for taking this important step to help LGBT families prosper.”  “It’s an amazing day and it’s nice to be able to celebrate in these dark times.  The bill only passed when the issue grew into a moment and everyone played an important role,” stated Denise Seidleman, the New York attorney who was instrumental in drafting the legislation.

“We are overjoyed for New York families, as they finally are able to access gestational surrogacy if they need it to build their family.  This has been a marathon, with many teammates along the way.  This kind of win takes people raising their voice and advocating – we thank everyone who did just that.  A huge thanks to RESOLVE advocate Risa Levine, and the Protecting Modern Families Coalition that got this over the finish line. We are honored to work alongside an incredible coalition,” said Barb Collura, CEO and President of RESOLVE, The National Fertility Association.

“This is a game changer!  It will bring so much opportunity for our local IP’s, as well as our local clinics and potential surrogates.  Being an east coast based agency, Circle has a lot of intended parents who live in NY and the entire tri-state area,” said Jen Rachman, the New York Representative for Circle Surrogacy, a Boston based surrogacy agency.

How This Law is Unique

legal surrogacy in New YorkThis legislation is unique in several ways.  First, it contains a Surrogates Bill of Rights, which is the first of its kind in the country.  It provides specifically for independent counsel, health and welfare decision making authority during the pregnancy and full medical and legal informed consent of all New York women acting as surrogate mothers for intended parents.  It also provides for psychological counseling, life insurance and the ability of the surrogate to terminate the agreement prior to embryo transfer. 

The Child Parent Security Act also creates two formal, but voluntary, registries, one for egg donors and the other for surrogate mothers, which tracks information on the number of times someone has served as a donor or surrogate, their health information and any other information that the Health Commissioner deems appropriate.  The legislation also allows for consultation with The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) to develop the best medical screening guidelines for potential surrogates.

Establishment of Parentage

The Child Parent Security Act, while creating legal surrogacy in New York, also provides for the establishment of parentage for intended parents of surrogacy, as well as lesbian couples who use a known sperm donor to assist them in having their families.  The process is known as a Pre-Birth Order and allows a court to issue a court order which terminates the rights of the surrogate and her spouse, or the known sperm donor, and affirms the legal parentage of the intended parents in a fully recognized court order which goes into effect at the moment of birth of the child.  The law also officially recognizes parentage orders from other states, ensuring that NY parents who have previously had children with surrogates in other states and obtained birth orders in those states to establish parentage, can rest assured that the other state’s order will be recognized by statute in New York.

Before this law’s passage, intended parents who resided in New York had few options to establish parentage.  Second or step parent adoption, a time consuming and somewhat invasive process, was the only way of establishing parental rights in New York.

The Ethics of The Child Parent Security Act

Regulation is the key to achieving ethical surrogacy. The Child Parent Security Act provides for more than just baseline protections and suggested protocols for an ethical journey.  The Surrogates Bill of Rights is a huge step toward ensuring that the process is balanced and that the woman acting as a surrogate mother has agency and support throughout the process.  The law also provides for the security of parentage, which assures that all parties are working toward a single goal of creating a family for the intended parent or parents. 

New York Adapts to Modern Family Creation

New York, in the midst of a global pandemic, and under the powerful and consistent guidance of Governor Andrew Cuomo, has brought its family law into the 21st century.  Many, myself included, could not comprehend how such a progressive and diverse state could lag so far behind the rest of the country in its recognition and support of assisted reproduction.  I was fortunate to sit on the Governor’s commission for the passage of The Child Parent Security Act and am a constituent of Assemblyperson Deborah Glick, who had opposed the legislation until last June.  To her credit, she met with me to discuss the legislation and I was able to correspond with her staff about surrogacy on several occasions. 

The passage of this legislation was truly a collaborative effort and the hard work of every person who worked on the coalition to pass the Child Parent Security act deserves credit for making legal surrogacy in New York a reality.  Whether a cancer survivor, an infertile couple or an LGBT New Yorker, this law now allows for the option of remaining in New York to create a family.  Finally, I want to thank Governor Cuomo for having the confidence in this law’s wisdom to add it to the budget bill.  This strategy was instrumental in its passing and the Governor deserves a great deal of credit and gratitude.  Legal surrogacy in New York!  I have waited to celebrate this moment for years!

April 2, 2020 by Anthony M. Brown, Esq.

Contact Anthony at anthony@timeforfamilies.com

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy, Foster Care and Adoption

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – The pandemic is not just impacting parents and pregnant people — all prospective parents are facing new challenges.

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has upended life for those who are or hope to become pregnant in the United States. Fertility doctors have indefinitely postponed all advanced fertility treatments, and some major hospitals in hard-hit areas are trying to ban partners and doulas from delivery rooms.

But the pandemic is affecting expectant parents forming families through surrogacy, foster care and adoption as well.

Global travel restrictions have left surrogacy agencies in the United States scrambling for exemptions for their international clients — particularly for those whose surrogates are scheduled to give birth in the next month or two.How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

Circle Surrogacy, an agency based in Boston, has 15 international clients with due dates before May 1. “We’ve had our legal team prepare letters for each of these families, which has gotten many of them into the country despite travel bans,” said Sam Hyde, the agency’s president. Still, he said, his foreign clients were at the mercy of individual immigration officials. “Some have been sympathetic to the plight of our clients, others have not — it’s really been a case-by-case basis.”

 

Some intended parents, as clients of surrogacy agencies are known, who are currently struggling to gain entry into the United States are hoping to do so after completing a 14-day quarantine in a country with less severe travel restrictions.

Last week, for instance, Johnny and Patty — a Chinese couple working with a surrogate living in South Carolina — traveled from Shanghai to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to begin two weeks in isolation at a local hotel. The couple, who work for an international company and use these westernized names, asked that their last name be withheld since surrogacy is still relatively uncommon in China. They hope to complete their quarantine in time to witness the birth of their daughter, who is due in mid-April, and claim guardianship over her.

But with travel restrictions tightening seemingly daily, they worry their effort may still be in vain. “First we bought plane tickets to travel through Thailand, but now travel is restricted there,” Johnny said in an interview from their hotel on the second day of his quarantine. “Then we tried Dubai, but that is now also restricted.” Traveling via Cambodia, he said, was the couple’s “last hope” to reach the United States in time for their daughter’s birth.

Though they would be disappointed to miss the delivery, the couple said they were even more concerned, in that scenario, about the baby’s well-being in the ensuing days before they are allowed to travel. “Who will take care of our baby if we can’t arrive before she’s born?” Patty said.

Will Halm, a managing partner at International Reproductive Law Group, said surrogacy agencies were creating contingency plans for clients living abroad who may be prohibited from entering the United States over the next few months. “Plan A is absolutely to have parents in the U.S., joyfully watching their child being born,” he said. “If they can’t get into the country in time, that’s when we look to plans B, C and D.”

 

In one of the better scenarios, agencies hope friends or family members living in the United States can temporarily assume guardianship of the baby until the intended parents are granted entry into the country. As a backup, however, caseworkers are also preparing strangers — health care professionals, child care providers and even surrogates themselves — to care for the newborns until travel restrictions are eased.

“These babies will not be abandoned,” said Dr. Kim Bergman, founder of Growing Generations, a surrogacy agency with dozens of international clients who may be impacted by travel bans in the coming months. “We have an army of former surrogates who are ready and eager to act as helpers and guardians for as long as necessary.”

The ongoing crisis has created an uncertain environment for foster care parents and children as well. “Basically, everything is on pause until things are back to normal,” said Trey Rabun, who works as a services supervisor at Amara, a foster care agency based in Seattle, Wash. — one of a growing number of states ordering its citizens to work from home.

Amara, whose staff members are included in the state’s proclamation, has been able to continue some aspects of the licensing process for foster parents online, such as initial interviews. But other critical components, like home inspections, need to be done in person, Rabun said.

As a result, the number of foster homes, already all too scarce in Washington before the crisis hit, will remain static for the state’s over 10,000 foster care children until the pandemic subsides and business returns to normal, Rabun said. Of bigger concern to him, and other foster care professionals throughout the country, is the impact that “stay at home” orders may have on children not yet accounted for in the system.

“We know abuse and neglect happen more in high-stress situations,” Rabun said. But the people who would normally notice and report these sorts of problem, like teachers and doctors, will be unable to do so in the days and weeks ahead. “No one has eyes on them,” he said.

With courts and other government offices closed in many states, parents who had hoped to finalize adoptions within the next couple of months are also now navigating a drastically changed landscape — particularly for parents completing adoptions abroad.

 

Early in the year, when the coronavirus was barely registering as a news story outside of Asia, Holt International — an agency that facilitates adoption placements between Chinese orphanages and adoptive parents in the United States — was already closely monitoring and responding to the outbreak.

NYTimes.com, by David Dodge, April 1, 2020

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The UK Supreme Court awards damages for commercial surrogacy

A landmark ruling by The UK Supreme Court awards damages to a woman for Californian commercial surrogacy following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies.

Louisa Ghevaert provided expert evidence on surrogacy to the UK Supreme Court, donor conception and fertility law in this case and comments:UK Supreme Court

“This legal ruling from the UK Supreme Court is an important watershed in the development of medical negligence, fertility and surrogacy law in the UK. It enables a ‘surrogacy’ head of claim in cases where a person’s fertility and ability to conceive a child has been lost or impaired through medical negligence, including claims for overseas commercial surrogacy in appropriate cases. It marks a real step forward in recognising the value and importance of individual fertility and surrogacy. However, there is still more that needs to be done to preserve and protect people’s fertility and their ability to have children”.

Background

The Defendant admitted failing to detect signs of cancer from smear tests in 2008 and 2012 and biopsies in 2012 and 2013. As a result, the  Claimant developed invasive cancer of the cervix which required chemo-radiotherapy treatment that rendered her infertile and caused severe radiation damage to her bladder, bowel and vagina.

Due to the late cancer diagnosis and the increased size of the tumour, the Claimant was unable to have fertility sparing surgery and suffered a complete loss of fertility. This was a devastating blow as she had always wanted a large family of her own.  She was so devastated by the diagnosis that she postponed her cancer treatment twice to obtain further medical opinions about the viability of fertility sparing surgery. On learning this was not available to her, she underwent a cycle of ovarian stimulation in June 2013 and harvested and froze 8 mature eggs.  A few days later, she underwent surgery followed by chemo-radiotherapy. This caused irreparable damage to her uterus and ovaries so she could not conceive or carry a pregnancy and it caused her to enter premature menopause.

The Claimant therefore sought damages to enable her to enter into a commercial surrogacy arrangement in California to have a much wanted family of her own. In contrast to the informal and legally restricted nature of surrogacy in the UK, commercial surrogacy in California operates through a well established system which offers legally binding surrogacy arrangements and pre-birth orders in the Californian court.

Legal Ruling

The case was first heard in the English High Court in June 2017, where a limited damages award for two altruistic UK surrogacies was made in the sum of £74,000.  

Louisa Ghevaeart Blog, April 1, 2020

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