Babies and broken hearts: Ukraine’s commercial surrogacy industry leaves a trail of disasters

This is the moment. I arrive at the Sonechko Children’s Home, a collection of rundown double-story brick buildings in a city south east of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

I’m here to meet a little girl I’ve been searching for over the past six months.

She’s been abandoned by the very people who paid for her to be born — her American parents.Australia surrogacy

Now she’s an orphan and has disabilities which require medical attention.

Marina Boyko, the flame-haired nurse who’s cared for the little girl since she was a baby, is taking us to meet her.

The door to the child’s room opens and the emotion hits hard.

My investigation began last year.

“Have any foreigners left a baby behind?” I asked.

It was a simple question and an obvious one.

“An American couple left one last year,” came the answer.

I hung up the phone to my source in Kiev and so began months of work to find a baby born via a surrogate in Ukraine and then abandoned by the American parents.

Sadly, I was familiar with this kind of story.

Back in 2014, I found Gammy, a baby boy whose birth was “commissioned” by an Australian couple.

They left him behind in Thailand to be cared for by his surrogate mother.

The couple only wanted to bring Gammy’s twin sister home.

Again, the child was left behind by his Australian parents after they decided they’d only take his twin sister home. I never found him.

These were just some of the horror stories which prompted Thailand and India to ban commercial surrogacy for foreigners.

As a result, Ukraine is quickly becoming the “hot” new surrogacy destination.

But while the country has changed, the story remains the same.

I’m now hearing there’s a child who’s been abandoned in Ukraine. I know that finding her won’t be easy.

Then I searched for a baby boy in India on assignment for Foreign Correspondent in 2015.

After countless phone calls, finally there’s a breakthrough.

With the help of local Ukrainian journalists, we find out the child we’re looking for is alive and being cared for in a town called Zaporizhzhya — a large industrial centre south-east of the capital, Kiev.

It’s a leap of faith, but we book flights from London and make the journey.

We don’t know what we’ll see or what we’ll be able to film, but sometimes being on the ground is the only way.

We’re directed to the Sonechko Children’s Home on the edge of the city, where some 200 children live.

When we arrive, it’s eerily quiet. There’s no children’s chatter or laughter, not a cry, not a squeal. It’s like they’ve been silenced for our benefit.

The staff know we are coming but they are wary. We know this first visit will be about building trust.

They invite us in and we interview them about a child they speak of with deep and genuine affection, but we are told we cannot see her as she is sick and quarantined in a nearby hospital.

August 19, 2019, by abc.net.au, Samantha Hawley

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They Lost Custody through adoption law. Should They Still Be Able to See Their Children?

Adoption law in New York may be changed to give more rights to birth parents, even when adoptive parents object.

Adoption law in New York may be changing.  Latoya Joyner, a state assemblywoman from the Bronx, said she was raised by a loving adoptive family after her biological parents lost custody of her. The same was true for Tracy L. VanVleck, the commissioner of human services in Seneca County. 

But that is where their similarities end. The women are on opposing sides in an emotionally charged battle over a potential change in New York state adoption law that is awaiting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature.adoption for gay couples

The legislation, called Preserving Family Bonds, would fundamentally shift the relationship that birth parents can have with their children after a court has taken the children awaypermanently and another family steps in to adopt them.

The proposed change has touched off a wide debate, some of it informed by the wrenching personal experiences of people who have not only gone through the foster care system but, like Ms. Joyner and Ms. VanVleck, now have the power to shape it.

Texas daycare denies child admission over parent’s same-sex relationship

The two mothers were told it was an issue they are ‘mates’ by Parkview Christian Academy, a Texas daycare

A Texas daycare center has denied a child admission after learning her parents were a same-sex couple, one of the child’s mothers alleges.texas gay marriage

Brittany Ready and her wife Stacey applied to enroll their girl Callie into the Parkview Christian Academy in Waco.

However, Ready wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday (18 July) that the academy refused to allow Callie to enroll because her parents are married.

The academy’s enrollment procedure says that if they do not feel the school will be in the interests of the child, the child will be dismissed.

Ready said the couple were informed there was a place available at the academy, and they went to see the academy for themselves.

‘The director was super sweet and welcoming to us and Callie!’ Ready wrote in her post.

However, this did not last. After the couple filed administrative paperwork, they were called into the academy administrator’s office to discuss their application.

gaystarnews.com, July 21, 2019 by Callum Stuart

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Florida Anti-gay policies vex school voucher program

Anti-gay policies haunt local schools eligible for the school voucher, known as Florida Tax Credit Scholarships.  They say on their web sites that they will not admit, or would expel, gay students or children of same-sex couples.

News reports that private schools receiving state-subsidized tuition vouchers have anti-gay policies against gay students has roiled the program, alienating some donors, including in the Tampa area.florida anti-gay voucher

At least a handful of local schools eligible for the vouchers, known as Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, say on their web sites that they will not admit, or would expel, gay students or children of same-sex couples.

Responding to questions from the Times, a few Tampa-area companies that donate to the program said they were concerned about discrimination.

But state officials and officials of the largest non-profit corporation that helps run the program say they aren’t discriminating — they simply provide the money for tuition subsidies to low-income families, who are free to use it where they wish.

In an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel this week, Doug Tuthill, president of non-profit Step Up for Students, says the program has provided thousands of disadvantaged students education opportunities they couldn’t otherwise afford.

He said the program aids any family that meets the income guidelines, “no matter their race or ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those families can then use the money at any of 1,800 participating private schools that will admit the student.

Tuthill said the corporation has found 38 of those schools that “express disapproval of homosexuality in their codes of conduct.”

He also said in his 11 years as Step Up president, “I’ve never seen evidence of a single LGBTQ+ scholarship student being treated badly by a scholarship school. And I’ve looked.”

The state Constitution prohibits spending state money on religious endeavors including schools, so the program uses corporate income tax credits as a work-around. Corporations who donate to Step Up or a similar organization get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit; Step Up then distributes the money as scholarships, or vouchers.

TampaBayTimes.com, by William March – July 8, 2019

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“This is Quite Gay” – Gay Shame

Social media has become a space where my own family and friends have turned into censors, denigrating me for being gay from thousands of miles away casting gay shame.

On the quiet, promising first morning of June, I received a text message from my brother in Abuja, Nigeria. “Please, refrain from all these shameful acts,” he wrote.  Gay shame.   “Everyone is tired of you. Mummy is crying, Daddy is crying. If you don’t value relationships, we do!”gay shame

My brother had written after I had posted a picture on Facebook that showed me hugging a male friend. A mixture of anger, sadness and fatigue erupted in my body. “Block me if you are tired of my shameful acts,” I replied. “I won’t be the first or last person to be rejected by his family.”

I had the audacity to start a queer publication in Nigeria and was disowned by my country as a gay man, writer and activist. After a vicious homophobic attack in Akwanga, my hometown in central Nigeria, I moved to the United States and sought asylum here in the summer of 2018.

In a certain public rendering I could come across as a brave activist. But I have lived with intense private pain and discomfort after homophobic shaming from people like my own brother.

Social media can be a delightful way to connect with loved ones far away, but for me it has also become a space where my own family and friends have turned into censors, distorting my life, denigrating my being gay from thousands of miles away.

In Nigeria, I lived with the knowledge that my secret life as a gay man would eventually crumble under the weight of parental expectations. I could see clearly how it would pan out: After turning 30, I would have to marry a woman who might know I am gay but would prefer marrying me to being unmarried at a certain age. We would have three children in quick succession, as procreation is a duty I would be expected to fulfill promptly, duty being the bedrock of familial relationships.

My wife and I would suffer dutifully and receive the blessings of our parents. On seeing my wife and me in matching outfits, my father’s expressionless face would break into a rare, full smile. He would present us to his friends and colleagues at parties. My mother would carry around my children and make her friends, whose children were yet to bear them grandchildren, look on in envy.

But I walked out the door. I chose safety and freedom over years of pain and trauma that would come with such societal and parental approval. In Washington, where I live on the little that is left of my savings, the homophobia of my home and family follows me through social media, through emails and text messages.

There are days when I forget I am gay; those days are my happiest. I hang out with friends, not as a gay man hanging out with other gay men, but as friends having a good time. I return to my apartment with beautiful pictures in my phone.

Yet when I am about to post my pictures on social media, I examine them through the searching eyes of my staunchly evangelical Christian parents, through the prying eyes of my childhood friends who still remember me as the boy who would recite chapters of the Bible. I swipe through my pictures. “This is very gay!” “This is super gay!” “This is quite gay!” I judge my own images and delete the pictures. I am my own censor.

A few days after the exchange with my brother, a cousin sent me a message: “Jesus loves you, bro! Come back to him. He is ready to forgive you and take you back as his lovely child.”

I climbed back in bed and rolled myself into a ball as my heart sank into the hollow of my gut. My stomach gave a loud, nervous growl. I longed for death. These messages pull me back to the existential orbit I am always trying to escape. I ask myself, “Is this really worth losing loved ones over? ”  All this gay shame.

I should relish the freedom America offers me, but it feels like I am running in the middle of a busy highway or breathing under water. Hiding in the closet is all I have known.

Some days ago, I was at a pride event for gay Africans in Washington, in a West African basement restaurant. I was chatting with a few Nigerians when a charming photographer raised his camera toward us. They instinctively ducked as if dodging a bullet. “You can never tell where those pictures will end up,” someone said. I nodded in agreement.

NYTimes.com, July 6, 2019 by Richard Akuson

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Parents can use sperm harvested from their dead son to make grandchildren, judge rules

West Point cadet Peter Zhu, who was unmarried, died after a skiing accident on February 23, Judge allows parent to use harvested sperm.

He had been found unresponsive on a ski slope on the grounds of the military academy in upstate New York.  Zhu was then taken to a hospital, where he was declared brain dead days later.  Judge now rules that parents may use their son’s harvested sperm.harvested sperm

In March, his parents petitioned the court to allow the hospital to have their son’s  harvested sperm retrieved and frozen at the same time harvest his organs for donation.

The petition was granted and the sperm was preserved at a sperm bank after the retrieval.  His organs were also harvested to help those waiting for a lifesaving transplant before he was buried in the West Point Cemetery.

According to CNN, the Supreme Court Justice John Colangelo’s ruling gave Zhu’s parents the ability to attempt conception with a surrogate mother using their late son’s sperm.  “At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes,” Colangelo wrote.  “They shall possess and control the disposition and potential use of their son Peter’s genetic material.” 

Zhu’s case isn’t the first incident of this type, according to AP.In 2007, a court in Iowa authorized recovery of a man’s sperm by his parents to donate to his fiance for future procreative use.  In 2009, a Texas woman got a judge’s permission to have her 21-year-old son’s sperm extracted after his death, with the intention of hiring a surrogate mother to bear her a grandchild.

StandardMedia.com, May 30, 2019, by Charles Odero

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Which Box Do You Check? Some States Are Offering a Nonbinary Option

As nonbinary teenagers push for driver’s licenses that reflect their identity, a fraught debate over the nature of gender has arrived in the nation’s statehouses.

Ever since El Martinez started asking to be called by the gender-neutral pronouns “they/them” in the ninth grade, they have fielded skepticism in a variety of forms and from a multitude of sources about what it means to identify as nonbinary.nonbinary

There are faculty advisers on El’s theater crew who balk at using “they” for one person; classmates at El’s public school on the outskirts of Boston who insist El can’t be “multiple people”; and commenters on El’s social media feeds who dismiss nonbinary gender identities like androgyne (a combination of masculine and feminine), agender (the absence of gender) and gender-fluid (moving between genders) as lacking a basis in biology.

Even for El’s supportive parents, conceiving of gender as a multidimensional sprawl has not been so easy to grasp. Nor has El’s suggestion that everyone state their pronouns gained much traction.

So last summer, when the Massachusetts State Legislature became one of the first in the nation to consider a bill to add an “X” option for nonbinary genders to the “M” and “F” on the state driver’s license, El, 17, was less surprised than some at the maneuver that effectively killed it.

Beyond the catchall “X,” Representative James J. Lyons Jr. (he/him), a Republican, had proposed that the bill should be amended to offer drivers 29 other gender options, including “pangender,” “two-spirit” and “genderqueer.” Rather than open the requisite debate on each term, leaders of the Democratic-controlled House shelved the measure.

“He articulated an anxiety that many people, even folks from the left, have: that there’s this slippery slope of identity, and ‘Where will it stop?’” said Ev Evnen (they/them), director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, which is championing a new version of the bill.

As the first sizable group of Americans to openly identify as neither only male nor only female has emerged in recent years, their requests for recognition have been met with reservations that often cross partisan lines. For their part, some nonbinary people suggest that concerns about authenticity and grammar sidestep thornier questions about the culture’s longstanding limits on how gender is supposed to be felt and expressed.

“Nonbinary gender identity can be complicated,” said Mx. Evnen, 31, who uses a gender-neutral courtesy title. “It’s also threatening to an order a lot of people have learned how to navigate.”

And with bills to add a nonbinary marker to driver’s licenses moving through at least six legislatures this session, the expansive conception of gender that many teenagers can trace to middle-school lunch tables is being scrutinized on a new scale.

NYTimes.com, May 29, 2018 by Amy Harmon

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Case against State Department for refusing to recognize citizenship of child of binational lesbian couple goes forward

A district court said Wednesday that a case filed against the U.S. State Department for refusing to recognize the birthright citizenship of the son of a binational lesbian couple will go to trial, and he denied the government’s motion to dismiss it.

The case, filed by Immigration Equality, the country’s leading LGBTQ immigration rights organization, on behalf of Allison Blixt and her son Lucas Alexander Zaccari-Blixt challenged the U.S. State Department’s refusing to recognize birthright citizenship in children of lesbian parents.lgbt family planning

Blixt, who’s American, met her wife, Zaccari, a citizen of Italy, when she was on vacation in New York City. They wanted to stay together, but because of the Defense of Marriage Act (which was later struck down), Blixt could not sponsorZaccari loved for a permanent visa, so they decided to move to London. They got married and started a family, giving birth to their two boys, Lucas and Massi.

They conceived their children using their own eggs and sperm from an unknown donor.

U.S. law allows American citizens to pass citizenship onto their children, even when they are born abroad. The State Department recognized Massi as a citizen because he had been conceived and carried by Blixt; but denied his brother Lucas the same birthright, because he had been carried by his other mother.

Immigration Equality stepped in and filed a complaint with the U.S. State Department in behalf of the Zaccari-Blixt family. The lawsuit, which was filed in Jan. 2018, claimed that the policy disregarded the dignity of same-sex marriages by the birthright citizenship of the children of married same-sex couples. The State Department responded to the lawsuit by opposing the group’s demand that it acknowledge Lucas’ citizenship.

On Wednesday, Judge Emmet Sullivan decided that the case should go to trial.

“[He] didn’t rule on the merits, only that the couple had made allegations at this stage that were enough for the case to go forward. But the judge made clear that he had a problem with the real-world consequences of the State Dept’s position,” BuzzFeedNews reporter Zoe Tillman tweeted. “The govt argued the same rules would apply to an opposite-sex couple in this situation (one citizen + one non-citizen who have a kid overseas). The lawyer for the plaintiffs said the problem is this broadly affects same-sex couples (given practicalities of how they can have kids.)”

 
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US Department of State Fighting Citizenship of Gay Couple’s Son

Pompeo, Department of State, appeals court ruling that bi-national family’s children are American

More than a year after the US Department of State shrugged off existing same-sex marriage and immigration laws and rejected citizenship for a child of two gay dads, the agency is now appealing a federal judge’s ruling that the child is an American citizen.department of state

As it turns out, the Department of State has stuck to its posture in this kind of case for years — dating back before the Trump administration.

Israeli citizen Elad Dvash-Banks and American citizen Andrew Dvash-Banks were married in Canada in 2010 and had two sons via surrogates there in 2016 before moving to California. Andrew is the biological father of Aiden and Elad is the biological father of Ethan, but both fathers are legal parents of both kids. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) stipulates that the children — born in Canada — should both be American citizens because at least one of their parents is an American citizen.

Yet, the Rex Tillerson-led State Department argued otherwise, saying that Ethan — the boy whose biological father is not an American citizen — is also not American. In deciding the question of US citizenship for the two Canadian-born children, the State Department went so far as to order DNA tests on both of the boys.

The State Department conclusion would leave young Ethan as the only member of the Dvash-Banks not eligible for permant residency in the US; his father qualifies as the spouse of an American citizen.

Andrew and Elad, represented by the LGBTQ-focused legal group Immigration Equality, decided in January 2018 to challenge that finding in federal court in the Central District of California. The court ruled in February of this year that the boy is a “US citizen at birth” and gave the State Department — now headed up by Mike Pompeo — 60 days to appeal.

On the 60th day, the Trump administration moved forward with an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, despite that court having twice ruled that the INA should be interpreted that there need not need be a biological link between children and their legal parents in order for them to be recognized as US citizens as long as one parent is an American citizen.

gaycitynew.nyc, May 12, 2019 by Matt Tracy

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Parental Rights In New York To Graduate From The Dark Ages, Hopefully

The changes, if they go through, will significantly improve the state of New York law, and protect parental rights and donors’ rights.

New York parental rights

Many New York parents are currently in a very scary legal environment, and they may not even know it. Did you know that a hopeful single parent who turns to a known sperm donor to conceive in New York has no way to sever the donor’s parental rights? That’s right. And that means that a sperm donor can, at any time, seek parental rights to the child. Vice versa, the parent can seek child support from the sperm donor. That’s concerning! The situation is also true for egg and embryo donations.

New York attorney and adoption and assisted reproductive technology powerhouse, Denise Seidelman, spoke to me about the current problematic legal environment, as well as her ongoing efforts to fix the situation, and to protect parents and children. Seidelman and her law partner, Nina Rumbold, are among those in New York zealously advocating for the passage of the Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA).

Even The Governor Wants It!

The CPSA was introduced in 2013 by Assemblymember Amy Paulin and State Senator Brad Hoylman. Hoylman is himself a parent of two children born through surrogacy. Hoylman and his husband were forced to go outside of New York to have their children through surrogacy because, in addition to the bleak donor situation, compensated surrogacy is illegal in New York.

The CPSA has undergone a number of revisions since its initial proposal, and is still undergoing a few finishing touches. But not until this year did anyone have as much hope that this legislation could pass. Key among factors giving New Yorkers newfound optimism is the vocal support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Governor has publicly supported the bill, explaining that “New York’s antiquated laws frankly are discriminatory against all couples struggling with fertility, same sex or otherwise.” Even more exciting, the Governor initially included the CPSA in his executive budget plan. However, it was removed in the last few weeks — possibly out of an interest in letting the legislature pass the bill with the latest updates.

What’s So Special About This Bill?

It protects children, for one! No kid should be stuck in the middle of a legal battle questioning who his or her legal parent is, merely because New York’s laws are decades out of date. Specific protections for families and those who help them include:

  • Clarifying and protecting parental rights when a sperm donor, egg donor, or embryo donor assists with conception. About time! Seidelman explained that while the surrogacy aspects of the bill are getting most of the attention, she is especially excited about the positive impact of the donor-related provisions. The bill provides that those who turn to a donor can be assured that they are the legal parents of their child, and that a donor can’t claim parental rights to the child. And, on the other side, that donors can rest easy that their good deed of helping another family no longer opens them to the risk of later being sued for child support for the child. This protection could encourage more couples to donate remaining embryos to others to form their families, rather than destroying them or donating them to research.
  • Legalizing compensated gestational surrogacy. At the moment, New York is among a small minority of U.S. states which dictate that a woman is not permitted to receive compensation if she chooses to act as a gestational surrogate for another. In fact, it’s criminal.

AboveTheLaw.com, by Ellen Trachman, April 10, 2019

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