Gay Dads and Stigmas

A new study finds that families with gay dads still face discrimination and stigma, especially in states and settings that offer fewer legal and social protections.

LGBTQ families

Public acceptance for gay marriage in America has grown since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in 2013. By May 2015, a Gallup poll reported that 60 percent of Americans approved of gay marriage.

Despite that shift in attitudes, though, a recent Tufts study found that gay fathers still feel the brunt of stigma, experiences that the researchers linked to states with fewer legal and social protections for gays and their families.  

The study, a collaboration between Ellen Pinderhughes, professor of child study and human development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and Ellen Perrin, professor of pediatrics emerita at the School of Medicine, analyzed survey responses from 732 men in forty-seven states, revealing how social contexts shape personal experiences of stigmatization. It was published last month in the journal Pediatrics.

“The key takeaway is that states’ legal protections do matter,” Pinderhughes said. “In states that provide more protections, the dads are experiencing less stigma.”

Pinderhughes said the most striking finding was that about 63 percent of respondents reported that they had experienced stigma based on being a gay father in at least one aspect of their lives. Half also reported that they had avoided situations out of fear of stigma in the past year. Forty percent of those who attempted to adopt a child said they faced barriers on their pathway to fatherhood.

More than 30 percent reported stigma in religious environments, and about one-fourth reported experiencing stigma in the past year from family members, neighbors, gay friends, and/or service providers such as waiters, service providers, and salespeople.

These encounters in settings “that are traditionally expected to be sources of support and nurturing is particularly troubling,” reported the researchers. “It is important for pediatricians caring for these families to help families understand and cope successfully with potentially stigmatizing experiences.”

To understand the influence of the social environment on responses, the Tufts researches used equality ratings that reflect each state’s lawsfor protection of LGBT families. They also used rankings of religious groups based on the explicit beliefs of each group regarding homosexuality and marriage equality.  

Among fathers who identified with a particular religion, the likelihood of having experienced stigma in a religious context was directly associated with the tolerance ranking of the religious group with which they affiliated. Almost one-third of respondents affiliated with a religious community had avoided such contexts in anticipation of stigma.

Pinderhughes said that the research also has implications on how to support gay fathers and their children. Increasing evidence, she said, links feeling stigmatized “with reduced well-being of children and adults,” including psychiatric problems.

Potentially harmful to families and children, stigma must be recognized and called out, she said. “We all have biases, and we must own them,” she said. And if one feels stigmatized, “you must resist it and learn how to arm yourself and your children against it.”

The Big Picture for Families

Pinderhughes and Perrin have been working together for more than ten years on their shared interest in sexual minority parents.

by Laura Ferguson, tufts.now.edu, March 11, 2019

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Twins Were Born to a Gay Couple. Only One Child Was Recognized as a U.S. Citizen, Until Now.

Aiden and Ethan Dvash-Banks are twin brothers who were born minutes apart.

But only one of them was considered to be a United States citizen by the State Department. A federal judge ruled this week that was a mistake.

The twins are the sons of two married gay men, an American citizen and an Israeli citizen. Aiden was conceived using sperm from his American father and Ethan was conceived using sperm from his Israeli father, court records show. A surrogate mother gave birth to the boys in Canada in 2016.

The family sued the State Department for denying Ethan citizenship, drawing attention to a department policy that says that a child born abroad must be biologically related to an American parent to become a citizen. Gay rights activists argued that the policy harms same-sex couples, who often use assisted reproductive technology to have children.

“Two kids who have almost identical life experiences and parenting,” said Aaron C. Morris, a lawyer for the family and the executive director of Immigration Equality, a legal advocacy group that worked on the case. “To treat them differently is absurd.”

In a ruling on Thursday, Judge John F. Walter of Federal District Court for the Central District of California said that Ethan should be recognized as a citizen since birth. The judge ruled that federal law does not require a child born to married parents to prove a biological relationship with both parents.

The State Department said in a statement on Friday that it was reviewing the ruling, but did not respond to questions about what it would mean for the policy going forward.

The twins, now 2 years old, were born to Andrew Dvash-Banks, an American citizen, and Elad Dvash-Banks, an Israeli citizen. The couple met in Israel and married in Canada in 2010 before having their sons with the help of assisted reproductive technology, according to their lawsuit.

After the twins were born, their parents went to the United States Consulate in Toronto to certify the children’s American citizenship and get United States passports. But they were told that the twins had to take a DNA test to prove a genetic connection to Andrew, the lawsuit said.

Ethan was denied citizenship because Andrew was not his biological father, according to a copy of a letter from the State Department included in the lawsuit.

by Sarah Mervosh, New York Times, February 22,2019

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Gay parenting ‘boot camp’ moves to Asia to meet growing demand from China


The world’s largest “boot camp” to help gay men become parents will stage its first Asia event next month to address growing demand for surrogates from China and the region, organizers said on Thursday.

Men Having Babies
Men Having Babies Chairman Emeritus, Anthony M. Brown, speaks
at the New York City Gay Parenting Conference.

New York-based non-profit Men Having Babies (MHB) stages events across the world to provide advice and support to all LGBT+ people who want to become parents and plans to stage its first annual Asian event on March 9-10 in Taipei, Taiwan.

“We have been witnessing over the last three years, a growing interest from Asia – mostly Chinese – intended parents coming to the United States for surrogacy,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, founder and executive director at MHB.

Socially conservative attitudes prevail across most of Asia where Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei outlaw sexual relations between men, and Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBT+ people.

But changes are happening, with India moving to scrap Section 377 outlawing same-sex relations last year, and Taiwan this week proposing a draft law to allow same-sex marriage.

The issue of lesbian and gay couples having access to medically-assisted reproductive treatments like IVF has stirred political debate recently in several countries.

Many countries, including Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, and Britain, ban for-profit surrogacy, although they allow some form of surrogacy if no payment is involved. In the United States, the legality of surrogacy is determined by each state.

Gay couples are banned from applying for surrogacy in countries such as Nigeria and Russia.

Poole-Dayan, who has 18-year-old twins with his husband, began MHB in 2005 with monthly workshops giving advice to gay men interested in becoming biological parents and now holds about seven conferences a year.

The two-day events, which are held across the United States, Europe, Canada and Israel, have made MHB the largest “boot camp” for gay parenting in the world, said Poole-Dayan.

He said the internet was flooded with people trying to push surrogacy information but it was hard to know where to start so the two-day events involved surrogate mothers and egg donors, doctors, lawyers and local clinic representatives.

“Our conferences are not meant to persuade to become parents … they are meant for people who already want to become parents (and) to make the process more accessible and easier,” Poole-Dayan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“People are starting to realize .. the fact that they’re gay doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be able to have a full life including starting a family and having children.”

Reuters.com, by Michael Taylor, February 21, 2019

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The Right Way to Legalize Surrogacy in New York State


New York State is on the brink of replacing an outdated and prohibitive law that criminalizes the practice of compensated surrogacy, one of only two states that does so.

Legislation to reverse the law has been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature, and Governor Cuomo has demonstrated support for it by including it in his Executive Budget.

As a law professor who focuses on gender equity, I’ve taken great interest in issues related to surrogacy in the United States and abroad. I’ve closely reviewed laws in multiple states as well as internationally and I support New York’s legalization of surrogacy.

When a woman chooses to support a couple or individual by serving as a gestational surrogate (where she is not genetically connected to the child because she did not contribute her egg), I believe she must have the autonomy to do so – provided she is protected by the law to ensure that any power imbalance between her, on the one hand, and the intended parents, surrogacy agencies and doctors, on the other hand, is mitigated.

The proposal the New York Legislature is considering and that Governor Cuomo is advancing, the Child-Parent Security Act, does protect surrogates in many ways. While the bill clarifies the parentage of all children born through third-party reproduction, here I focus only on how it legalizes and regulates gestational surrogacy arrangements.

Protections provided by the bill include: giving the surrogate the sole right to make decisions regarding her own health or that of the fetus or embryo she is carrying; giving the surrogate the sole right to terminate the pregnancy; and ensuring that the surrogate is represented by her own legal counsel. These types of commonsense protections are critical to creating a successful and effective program. If the New York Legislature passed the Child-Parent Security Act, New York’s law would be more protective of women who choose to be surrogates than laws in many other states.

Reexamining current law is long past due as technological advances and changes in acceptance of various family structures have made surrogacy much more commonplace. When lawmakers first implemented a ban on surrogacy in New York in 1992, they did so for several reasons that are less relevant today.

For example, when the restrictive New York law was enacted, there were ethical concerns about what was then nascent medical treatment — in vitro fertilization (IVF). Today, IVF is commonly-accepted as treatment for infertility and is also used in the gestational surrogacy process.

Despite the ban, today New Yorkers do work with surrogates to build families. They are just required to employ surrogates living in other states. This results in legal challenges, risks, and costs for the intended parents, including confusion regarding what laws are applicable to the situation.

GothamGazzette.com, February 21, 2019 by Sital Kalantry

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Embryo Donation May Be The Answer For You

If you are asking what to do with your extra embryos, embryo donation is a viable, and ethical, option.

Individuals and couples who have turned to IVF to help them have their families are now confronting a confounding question: what do we do with extra embryos?  Embryo donation is becoming the method of choice for many of us, myself included.  Every year when the embryo storage bill arrives, the ethical dilemma comes again.

The Process

Each clinic will have a different protocol to follow for directed embryo donation.  Most require an Embryo Donation Agreement between the donor parent/s and the recipient individual or couple, as well as a clearance for transfer, which includes such details as spousal consent (if one donor parent is not genetically related to the embryo) and which clinic’s cryopreservation equipment will be used.  Once all the pieces are in place, the process goes pretty fast.

To be prepared, it is a good idea to collect all of this information in advance from your fertility clinic.  They will provide you with your own health related information and, if a HIPAA waiver is prepared, the clinic may coordinate directly with the recipient’s clinic to streamline the process.

Embryo Donation Agreements

The requirement of an Embryo Donation Agreement makes good sense for all parties.  Most physicians require that an agreement is reviewed by legal counsel and executed before discussing this as an option with their patients. This agreement spells out the details of the transfer.  These details include: confidentiality and sharing of health information, physical and psychological screening of the donor/s and the recipient/s, custody of the embryos, intention regarding parentage of a child born through the embryo donation, the duration of the agreement timing and legal disclaimers as to the uncertainty of the law around embryo donation.

While the last item may cause alarm for some, it is generally understood that Embryo Donation Agreements are created to define the intention of the parties so that if, at some point in the future, there is a disagreement about the disposition of the embryos, there will be a document that anchors the intention of the parties to the original transfer date.

My Story

My husband and I were recently alerted to the closure of the fertility clinic that helped us have our son through egg donation and surrogacy.  As many gay men who turn to surrogacy know, with a young egg donor, you are likely to have more than one viable embryo.  We kept them in storage until now, but when confronted with the choice of transferring them to another facility or “discarding” them, we asked ourselves if embryo donation would be the best option.

We needed more input.  Our choice, when we had our son, was to remain involved in the lives of our egg donor and our surrogate mother.  We were fortunate enough to find two amazing women who wanted this type of ongoing relationship as well.  We wanted to include our egg donor in this “embryo” conversation because of our relationship.  When we emailed about the idea of embryo donation, she thought it was wonderful.  The thought of “discarding” our remaining embryos just didn’t feel right for any of us.

We agreed that we would try to find either a couple or individual who had been trying to have a child but could not.  Luckily, through our network of friends, we found the perfect person who was looking for a sibling for her son.  The thought of helping someone else have, or grow, their family makes me understand how surrogate mothers must feel.  I am in no way comparing our donation to the journey that is surrogacy, but I do feel that spark of love and hope that a child can bring.  Embryo donation doesn’t have to be a mystery.  It can offer peace of mind to families who find themselves asking what to do with extra embryos.  And you might be surprised whose dream of a family you can help come true.

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A new study suggests an LGBTQ millenials ‘Baby Boom’ is in our future

LGBTQ millennials are leading the way when it comes to the growth in LGBTQ families according to a new survey from the Family Equality Council, an LGBTQ rights organization.

LGBTQ millennials

The survey found that 63% of LGBTQ millennials between the ages of 18-35 are looking at starting a family or adding to their current one. What’s more, results from the LGBTQ Family Building Survey show that 77 percent of LGBTQ millennials are either already parents or are considering having children. This is 44 percent higher than LGBTQ people over the age of 55. 

The data points to a shift in the LGBTQ community in the wake of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which secured marriage equality in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling fueled speculation that we’d see a dramatic shift in LGBTQ family growth as a result.

Additionally, the survey revealed that 48 percent of LGBTQ millennials are actively planning to grow their families in the future, narrowing the gap between them and the 55 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents. In a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, only 35 percent of LGBTQ adults were shown to be parents, compared to 74 percent of non-LGBTQ adults.

That means in the last five years, the gap between queer and non-queer people wanting families went from 39 percent to 7 percent. Likewise, transgender survey respondents were found to be equally likely to grow their own families as their non-transgender peers.

by Gwendolyn Smith, LG BTQNation.com, February 10, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.


The long wait for legalized surrogacy may soon end in New York


A bill legalizing the practice is backed by the governor, fertility groups and LGBTQ activists, but opposed by some feminists and the Roman Catholic Church.

On a September evening in 2015, six weeks before their twins’ due date, Michael and Melissa Musman got an urgent call from the surrogate carrying their children. The babies needed to come out, the surrogate said, and if the Musmans wanted to be there for their birth, they had to come right away.

The Musmans, both 43, live in New York, one of only three states that currently ban paid surrogacy contracts. As a result, residents of the state must look elsewhere if they want to hire a surrogate; the Musmans found theirs in Pennsylvania.

Hoping they could pull off the nearly 400-mile drive from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh in time, they quickly packed a suitcase, made arrangements for someone to watch their older child and started driving.

“We knew there would be a chance that we would not make the birth,” said Melissa Musman, a teacher who turned to surrogacy after radiation for tumors in her pelvis and abdomen compromised her fertility. “With Pittsburgh, it’s not around the corner.”

Still, the couple was hopeful. They were not new to surrogacy. Using an egg donor and Michael Musman’s sperm, they had their first child, Sean, via a surrogate in Peoria, Illinois, in October 2008. It took two planes to get to Peoria, but they had made it for his birth.

This time, as they drove through the night, their twins arrived via an emergency Cesarean section in an operating room hundreds of miles away.

Advocates say it’s a way of helping infertile and gay couples start families. But commercial surrogacy has a slew of detractors, many of whom say it amounts to women selling their bodies.

For decades, the detractors in New York prevented it from becoming legal. Now, New York is on the brink of changing its policy, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, publicly declaring his support last weekend for a bill — called the Child-Parent Security Act — that would remove the ban. Cuomo also included the bill in his state budget proposal.

New York’s long-held resistance stems from a tumultuous surrogacy battle in neighboring New Jersey, known as the Baby M case. In 1985, a woman who was struggling financially, Mary Beth Whitehead, agreed to be a surrogate and be inseminated with sperm from William Stern, a man whose wife had multiple sclerosis, for $10,000.

by Elizabeth Chuck, NBCNews.com, February 7, 2019

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ABA Adopts Resolution Taking a Stand for LGBT Parents

The American Bar Association, ABA, the nation’s top voluntary bar association for lawyers, has adopted a resolution taking a stand for LGBT parents in the aftermath of states enacting laws enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption.

ABA resolution

According to the LGBT Bar Association, Resolution 113 was adopted at the ABA midyear meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. The 14-page resolution says although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 same-sex couples have the right to marry, they still face discrimination in adoption in forms of anti-LGBT state laws and policies.

Among the laws cited the resolution are recently adopted state laws allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBT homes over religious objections. Those laws exist in North Dakota, Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi, South Dakota, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Carolina.

The resolution also cites continued litigation in which the rights of LGBT parents are in jeopardy. Among those cases is Pavan v. Smith, in which Arkansas refused to place the names of lesbian parents on their child birth certificates. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that policy violated its decision on same-sex marriage (although U.S. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch penned a lengthy dissent containing the ruling didn’t apply to birth certificates.)

The ABA resolution adopts the resolution in the wake of the Trump administration granting a waiver to South Carolina allowing religious-based adoption agencies in the state, including Miracle Hill Ministries, to continue receive funding from the Department of Health & Human Services even if they refuse to place children in LGBT homes or with other families contrary to their beliefs.

ABA resolution

“Any discriminatory law which restricts an LGBT individual’s right to parent not only disregards these precedents, but also contradicts longstanding research,” the resolution says. “Decades of medical, psychological, sociological, and developmental research overwhelmingly conclude that sexual orientation has no bearing on an individual’s ability to be a fit parent. This resolution therefore reaffirms the equal parenting rights of LGBT individuals.”

According to a study from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, LGBT families are significantly more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to have adopted or foster children. One in five same-sex couples, or 21.4 percent, are raising adopted children, compared to just 3 percent of different-sex couples, and 2.9 percent of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4 percent of different-sex couples

The resolution states adoption of the resolution sends the message ABA “stands with LGBT individuals and their families against the increased threat to their ability to raise children.”

“This ABA policy position would enable further advocacy in this area by providing authority for other organizations, legislatures, and courts to consult when confronted by LGBT parenting issues,” the resolution says. “The policy would also allow the ABA to directly advocate on behalf of LGBT families and make clear its stance that laws which permit discrimination against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional.”

by Chris Johnson, pride source.com, January 29, 2019

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New York’s surrogacy laws may get a major update to be more inclusive of queer families – Child Parent Security Act

A broad coalition of organizations has come together to support the passage of the Child Parent Security Act this year.

The Child Parent Security Act would change New York law, allowing for better protections for those using modern reproductive strategies such as in vitro fertilization.

The law would legalize the right to use paid surrogates in the state. At current, New York only allows unpaid surrogacy while also declaring invalid any contracts between surrogates and parents. This puts both parents and surrogates at risk

“New York is known as a place where every type of family is welcome. Unfortunately, our state’s progressive ideals fall short when it comes to supporting LGBTQ people and so many others who want to become parents,” said Family Equality Council CEO Rev. Stan J. Sloan.

“New York’s outdated laws lag far behind most other states in easing the burden for families who rely on assisted reproductive technology to become parents. Fifty years after Stonewall, it’s time to protect all New York families.”

Calling themselves the Protecting Modern Families Coalition, the group is advocating on behalf of families who rely on medical advances to have families. The push to support the passage of the Child Parent Security Act is their first formal act.

The Family Equality Council formed the council. It is made up of eleven groups, including LGBTQ advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal, plus other organizations like the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Union Theological Seminary. 

New York banned the use of paid surrogates in 1992, a reaction to New Jersey’s “Baby M.” case where a surrogate mother, Mary Beth Whitehead, had a change of heart and asserted her parental rights. The court ruled that the surrogacy contract Whitehead entered into with William and Elizabeth Stern was invalid. 

In the years since that case, both medical advances and societal change have driven a new look at surrogacy. The New York Department of Health’s Task Force on Life and the Laws recommended that the law be changed in December of 2017.

UK surrogacy law embraces single parents from today

UK surrogacy law embraces single parents from today

compassionate surrogacy

Today the clock also starts ticking on the six month window during which existing single parents through surrogacy can apply for a parental order retrospectively. The window will close on 2 July 2019, with applications beyond that possible but more complicated. If you are a single parent of a child born through surrogacy and would like more information about whether and how to make an application then contact us by emailing hello@ngalaw.co.uk or calling 0203 701 5915.

To mark today’s law change, we wanted to reflect on our campaigning journey of the last ten years. It all started in 2008 when, as part of making UK fertility law more inclusive, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill 2008 proposed broadening who could apply for a parental order from just married couples to married, unmarried and same-sex couples. Single parents remained excluded so, through her work as part of a stakeholders’ group supporting progressive reform, NGA Law founder Natalie Gamble proposed and drafted an amendment to the Bill which would have included single parents too. Her amendment was tabled by Dr Evan Harris MP when the Bill was in Committee, but not pursued when it became clear the government did not support it. On behalf of the government Dawn Primarolo MP said:

Surrogacy is such a sensitive issue, fraught with potential complications such as the surrogate mother being entitled to change her mind and decide to keep her baby, that the 1990 Act quite specifically limits parental orders to married couples where the gametes of at least one of them are used. That recognises the magnitude of a situation in which a person becomes pregnant with the express intention of handing the child over to someone else, and the responsibility that that places on the people who will receive the child. There is an argument, which the Government have acknowledged in the Bill, that such a responsibility is likely to be better handled by a couple than a single man or woman.

There was no evidence basis for such a statement, but it was clear that discrimination against single parents was government policy rather than oversight.

At both NGA Law and Brilliant Beginnings we continued to help single parents through surrogacy as we have always done. The lack of availability of parental orders hasn’t stopped single mums and dads having children through surrogacy. It has, however, made things harder and restricted the legal recognition of their families. All but two of the single parents we have worked with have had to go overseas to find a surrogate and almost all have then lived under the radar, without parental responsibility and with their surrogate remaining their child’s legal mother in the U.K., hoping that no one would ever question their authority to parent. We have shared their frustration about how unfair and discriminatory the law was.

By Natalie Gamble, NGA Blog, January 3, 2019

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