Tom Daley on becoming a dad and why UK surrogacy laws need to change

Tom Daley is sitting on a sofa in a central London hotel suite with his husband, Dustin Lance Black, while their seven-week-old baby, Robbie Ray, snoozes peacefully beside them – and it’s clear the new fathers (both dressed in baby blue) are entirely besotted with their son.

“We don’t ever turn on a TV anymore, we just stare at the little one,” Tom Daley, 24, tells The Independent. “It’s been so crazy. It feels kind of surreal still, the fact that we have a…”

He stops mid-sentence to coo at baby Robbie, which I soon realise is to become a regular occurrence during our interview.surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legal

“But he’s brought so much love and joy to the family,” Daley continues.

Born to a surrogate in June, Robbie is apparently a very well-behaved newborn. “He’s a great baby,” says Black, 44. “I think we got a starter baby, I think we got the best baby on the planet.”

“But we might be biased,” adds Daley.

The Olympic diver and his Oscar-winning screenwriter husband met in 2013, married in 2017 and revealed they were going to be fathers in 2018 – an announcement which wasn’t met entirely positively by the public.

“I think that’s why we want to help educate people because I think a lot of them were under the impression that the baby was going to be ripped from his mother’s arms,” says Daley. “People will have their opinions and that’s fine. All we want is what’s best for the little one.”

The couple had their son through surrogacy but admit they didn’t know a great deal about the options open to them as a same-sex couple beforehand. “It was an education, we had to learn,” says Black. 

By Rachel Hosie, theindependent.co.uk, August 22, 2018

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As evidence supporting LGBTQ families mounts, legal hurdles loom

New studies say kids of gay parents are just as well-adjusted as those with a mom and dad. But Congress is moving to allow adoption agencies to bar LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ families made headlines twice this month, but for very different reasons.

Last week, a study found that from a mental health perspective, adult children with lesbian parents fared just as well as their peers with opposite-sex parents. This follows an Italian study released in May that found that children with same-sex parents were actually slightly better off psychologically than children with a mom and a dad.LGBTQ families

Earlier this month, however, Republican lawmakers dealt a blow to LGBTQ people seeking to become LGBTQ families. The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment allowing foster care and adoption agencies that receive federal funding to refuse to work with same-sex couples on religious or moral grounds. Though the amendment has several steps to go before becoming federal law, 10 states already have a similar law in place.

The House amendment goes even further than current state-level laws. It would cut 15 percent of child welfare funding to states that explicitly prohibit agencies from excluding LGBTQ people.

Independent and private adoption agencies that do not receive federal funding are already allowed to deny LGBTQ people.

The studies of children with same-sex parents don’t surprise advocates of LGBTQ families. Zach Wahls, who was born to a lesbian couple through artificial insemination and famously defended same-sex parents to the Iowa Legislature in 2011, said it was exciting to have studies to back up his experience.

“In our current climate, we’re at risk of backsliding on this issue,” Wahls told NBC News. “We need to be ready to contest that, and now we can do it in a scientific way.”

Scientific as they may be, the studies are unlikely to move those who advocate for allowing agencies to exclude LGBTQ families, because the objections are faith-based and do not pertain only to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

by Avichai Scher NBCNews.com, 

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Same Sex Parents Still Face Legal Complications

At gay pride marches around the country this month, there will be celebrations of marriage, a national right that, at just two years old, feels freshly exuberant to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

But while questions of marriage are largely settled, same sex parents still face a patchwork of laws around the country that define who is and who can be a parent. This introduces a rash of complications about where L.G.B.T.Q. couples may want to live and how they form their families, an array of uncertainties straight couples do not have to think about.

“There are very different laws from state to state in terms of how parents are protected, especially if they’re unmarried,” said Cathy Sakimura, deputy director and family law director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “You can be completely respected and protected as a family in one state and be a complete legal stranger to your children in another. To know that you could drive into another state and not be considered a parent anymore, that’s a pretty terrifying situation.”gay parents adoption

Adoption laws, for example, can be extremely contradictory. In some states, like Maryland and Massachusetts, adoption agencies are expressly prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation. At the same time, other states, like South Dakota, have laws that create religious exemptions for adoption providers, allowing agencies to refuse to place children in circumstances that violate the groups’ religious beliefs.

Alan Solano, a state senator in South Dakota, sponsored his state’s adoption legislation. He said he was concerned that if those groups were forced to let certain families adopt, they might get out of the adoption business entirely, shrinking the number of placement agencies in the state.

“I wanted to ensure that we have the greatest number of providers that are working on placing children,” Mr. Solano said. “I’m not coming out and saying that somebody in the L.G.B.T. community should not be eligible for getting a child placed with them. What I hope is that we have organizations out there that are ready and willing to assist them in doing these adoptions.”

But as a practical matter, lawyers who specialize in L.G.B.T.Q. family law say that in some areas, religiously affiliated adoption organizations are the only ones within a reasonable distance. Moreover, they say, such laws harm children who need homes by narrowing the pool of people who can adopt them, and they are discriminatory.

“There is a very serious hurt caused when you’re told, ‘No, we don’t serve your kind here,’ and I think that gets lost in the public discourse a lot,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal. “There’s just this narrative that absolutely ignores, and almost dehumanizes, L.G.B.T. people. They’re missing from the equation here.”

There are a number of laws that can affect L.G.B.T.Q. families, from restrictions on surrogacy to custody, and the landscape is constantly shifting.

by Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times – June 20, 2017

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Gay custody battles force law to define what a parent is

A spate of gay custody battles are forcing the law to reconsider what constitutes a parent, with one particular case in New York set to have major implications for many more LGBTI couples.

The New York Court of Appeals is to decide whether the ex-girlfriend of a child’s biological mother should have legal parenting rights – despite having never adopted the child in question, or been married to the biological mother in one a several gay custody battles that could define LGBT family law in New York and around the country.

Brooke Barone claims she acted as the child’s ‘Mamma B’ when her girlfriend Elizabeth Cleland gave birth after artificial insemination. But when the couple split up, Cleland reportedly denied Barone visitation rights to the child – which is what Barone is now fighting for in court. Cleland claims she does not feel safe leaving her child with Barone.

lesbian family law

drawing of a happy couple of lesbians and adopted child

Tangled gay custody battles

The argument against awarding parental rights outside of biology, marriage or adoption centers on the potential for opening up bogus parenting claims. These, lawmakers argue, could come from friends, nannies, or even abusive partners seeking to gain control and cause distress.

However, those in favor of broadening the definition of a parent point out heterosexual men have been recognized as parents without genetic or adoptive connections, in order to compel child support payments.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in the US has thrust the tangled legalities of same-sex families into the spotlight, with several similar cases currently being fought in other US states, including another typically gay-friendly state, Massachusetts. And in Canada, the premier of Ontario has pledged to change the law so that both parents in an LGBTI couple are immediately entered onto the birth certificate, hopefully avoiding gay custody battles. This is a huge change to the province’s current law, where a non-biological parent in a same-sex couple is forced to begin the lengthy and costly adoption process in order to be legally recognized.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Columbia Law professor Suzanne Goldberg said that ‘It’s only an accident of law that leads one of those parents to be unrecognized [in these cases].’

New York decision to set precedent

Even when a partner has adopted the child, however, a biological parent looking to disavow their former partner of parentage has legal recourse – as a recent case involving a lesbian couple in Alabama showed. The Alabama courts were eventually obliged by the US Supreme Court to find in favor of the adoptive parent, however.

Click here to read the entire article.

GayStarNews.com – June 5, 2016 by Laura Chubb

Family Estate Planning

Family estate planning addresses the greatest concern of most families with younger children: ensuring their stability and security if something happens to a parent.

No one wants to think about a worst case scenario; however, that scenario will become much worse if there isn’t  family estate planning in place. The good news is that once it is completed, parents do not have to worry live in worry anymore.

There are many types of family estate planning and I will review several that may be helpful to your family. They include: basic estate planning, trust planning, guardianship planning and securing all parental rights to a child through adoption, if applicable.

Basic Estate Planning – In most states, a valid Last Will and Testament is the only legal way to name a guardian, other than the other biological or adoptive parent of a child, when one parent dies.  It is critical to have a Will in order to make this designation.  Most couples are concerned about something called a “simultaneous death event,” which is defined as a single event, or series of related events, that takes the lives of both parents.  A competent attorney will be able to prepare for this possibility in a Last Will and Testament, the cornerstone of a basic estate plan.estate planning , estate planning trust, glbt estate planning, lgbt estate planning, gay family law, wills, trusts

Basic estate plans should also include health care documentation known as Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney, or Healthcare Proxies. A Living Will states exactly what measures a person wants or does not want if certain specifically outlined medical conditions arise. It does not, however, authorize another person to make those decisions for the Principal of the Living Will.  A Medical Power of Attorney allows a designated person to have access to medical records and make specified medical decisions for the Principal.  For more information on basic estate planning, read my article here.

Trust Planning – A family estate planning trust is useful for parents who may not want to pass significant amounts of money to their minor children upon the parent’s deaths.  Trusts allow a parent to spread payments out over a longer period of time, appoint a trustee to manage those payments, provide for investment suggestions or advisors and include provisions to protect a beneficiary child if they have a substance abuse issue.

Trusts can also be useful tools to either bypass the probate process, which in many states can be long and complicated (a revocable trust), or to avoid estate taxation in the form of an irrevocable trust. For more information about how a family estate planning trust can help your family, read my article here.

Guardianship Planning – There are two general types of Guardianship Designations that are important parts of any estate plan.  The first is an adult Guardianship Designation, the second, a Guardianship designation for your children.  A child’s Guardianship Designation allows the parents of a minor to legally give another person the right to be designated by a court as the guardian of the child’s property and person.

Unless you are naming your child’s other biological or legal parent as their guardian, you must name a guardian in your Last Will and Testament. Once named, the designated guardians will still have to go to court to be legally designated the child’s guardian.  Without your nomination in a Will, that person would not be able to seek guardianship.

Securing Parental Rights Through Adoption – While most parents are secure in their parentage to the children living in their homes, many situations do not fit into that norm and basic protections become a vital part of family estate planning.  Same-sex couples must secure rights to the children born into their relationships through parentage order or second or step parent adoption.  Homes where children are living with step parents must pay particular attention to naming a guardian should both biological parents die.  The second or step parent adoption process in New York  is described in detail in this article.

When family estate planning becomes a priority for you, please consider me a resource. For more information on family estate planning, contact Anthony M. Brown at Time for Families and speak to a specialist family lawyer to secure your and your family’s future.

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Gay Parents Adoption – New Possibilities

Gay parents adoption used to be unheard of.

While certain countries still struggle with the concept of our families being equal to all others, in America, the foundation for gay parents adopting has been set and the legal protections for these families are available and critical to creating security in these family structures.  There are several means by which gay parents adoption can occur. I will review the most common: private adoption, public adoption and second or step parent adoption.

Private Adoption – There are several reasons that parents looking to adopt a child may look into private adoption, sometimes referred to as domestic adoption. The availability of children is higher than most people expect.  In the most recent year for which accurate data exists, there were over 18,000 domestic non-relative adoptions of newborns within the United States. Although the number of people placing their children for adoption has fallen dramatically since the 1970s due to the stigma of single-parenthood thankfully decreasing, there are still many birth parents making the painful but loving choice to look for a family for their biological child.

The adoption of the child can be done in one of two ways. The first is to engage an agency to walk you through the process and to help you with paperwork and the emotional upheaval that such a big life decision will inevitably bring. The benefits to involving an agency are numerous; for example, having your own ‘Adoption Specialist’ who will help you communicate with the various other professionals who need to be involved in the process such as social workers, physicians and lawyers. Financial assistance may be available to help cover legal fees, and agencies often do not charge to process the adoption.

lesbian family law

drawing of a happy couple of lesbians and adopted child

The second is a private arrangement whereby a birth mother and prospective parents arrange the adoption between themselves. They will have to hire lawyers and meet the legal requirements of adoption such as age, ability to care for the child and other important aspects. Parents who want to adopt are able to ‘advertise’ for a birth mother, and mothers who have chosen adoption for their child are able to do the same for an adoptive family.

Public Adoption – Foster children are in the legal custody of a commissioner of a social services district. That district may give responsibility for the care of the child to a voluntary authorized agency. When a child is in foster care, decisions must be made regarding the long-range permanency plan for the child. If the social services district decides that it would not be in the child’s best interests to return home and that the child should be adopted, steps must be taken to legally free the child for adoption.

There are three ways a child can become legally free for gay parents adoption: 1) the birth parents can sign a voluntary surrender agreement; 2) the social services district responsible for the child can bring a case in court asking the judge to terminate the parental rights of the birth parents; or 3) if both birth parents are deceased, or one parent is deceased and there is no other parent whose consent to the adoption is required, the child is automatically free for adoption.  Read more at the NY State Office of Children and Family Services, the source of this information.

Second or Step Parent Adoption – One increasingly popular methods for gay parents adoption is when one parent has a biologically related child of their own and their partner or spouse adopts that child.  If the couple is not married it is referred to as a “second parent adoption” and if they are married, it is referred to as a “step parent adoption.”   For both gay and lesbian couples, securing the legal rights of a non-biological parent is crucial to create the kind of emotional, and legal, security that most other families take for granted. The legality of both parents relationship to their child is often assumed. Parents are parents, regardless of the biological connection to your child.

While recent case law is catching up to our families, it is still lagging in the ability to create complete security without adoption, or a birth order from a competent jurisdiction.  Whichever path you choose to having your family, It is critical to speak with an attorney with experience in the field.  When you consider gay parent adoption, please consider me a resource. For more information on family estate planning, contact Anthony M. Brown at Time for Families and speak to a specialist family lawyer to secure your and your family’s future.

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Louisiana surrogacy bill to protect surrogacy arrangements advances, despite opposition from both sides of aisle

Louisiana surrogacy is legal, but right now, there are no protections for either the biological parents or the birth mother. In the eyes of the law, the woman who gives birth to a baby is the mother, so a surrogate could ultimately decide to break an agreement and keep the child, and the biological parents would have no legal recourse.

Similarly, the biological parents could decide midway through a pregnancy they no longer want the child, and the surrogate mother would be legally responsible for the child, another wrinkle in Louisiana surrogacy arrangements.

Loren McIntyre is in the process of adopting her firstborn son.

Born in January, he is 100 percent genetically her and her husband’s offspring, but the couple used a gestational carrier, or surrogate, to give birth. And in Louisiana, legally she is not the mother until the adoption is finalized this June.

gay surrogacy

Pregnant woman belly with rainbow symbol LGBT

McIntyre, who has severe endometriosis, is unable to give birth to her own children. She underwent seven unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization before deciding to seek surrogacy.

McIntyre shared her story on Monday with a legislative House committee in the State Capitol in hopes lawmakers will pass a bill that creates legal safeguards in Louisiana surrogacy, where virtually none exists.

House Bill 1102 sets up a legal framework for surrogate arrangements, which bans compensation to the surrogate mother, sets age requirements, requires medical testing and counseling, and mandates background checks. Importantly, it ensures the surrogate mother cannot make a legal claim to the child, and it forbids the biological parents from being able to back out on the agreement.

An identical version of the bill was passed by the full Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. On Monday, the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure advanced the measure without objection. It goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

But the measure had ample opposition from both sides of the aisle.

On the left, LGBT groups opposed the language that defines the intended parents as a “man and a woman,” preventing same-sex couples from being able to use surrogacy as an avenue for parenting. The bill also requires that the embryo come from the egg and sperm of the intended parents, which again, precludes same-sex couples.

LSU Law Professor Andrea Carroll testified that while she believes there’s a need for HB1102, she believes that wording would render it unconstitutional, per last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

On the right, conservative anti-abortion groups testified that the act of surrogacy often requires multiple unused embryos that are frozen or discarded.

“Life starts at the embryonic stage,” said Ben Clapper, with Louisiana Right to Life. “It’s a human life that needs to be protected.”

State Rep. Stuart Bishop, the Lafayette Republican who sponsored the bill, stressed that in vitro fertilization and surrogacy already are legal.

April 18, 2016 – TheAdvocate.com by Rebekah Allen

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Jason and David: Gay Dads Before They were 30

 

Gay dads David and Jason Bragg-Sutton are a different kind of gay dads. Living north of Tulsa, Okla., in America’s heartland, they have become the parents of three children adopted through the foster care system.

But that’s not what’s different about them. What is? The fact that both did so while under the age of 30.

 

For David Bragg-Sutton, it was a no-brainer. He and his husband became a couple some six years ago, when they were 21 and 26, respectively. Soon afterward, they decided they wanted to start a family, and soon.

Adopted in infancy by a pair of older parents, David says he knew that he wanted to be an active participant in his kids’ lives, when they’re young children and as well as adults. In short, he wants to experience the world with them.

Gay dads

“I want to hang out with them,” he said. “I don’t want to say no to going on a vacation [because of physical limitations]. That was important to me. I want to grow with my children,” David says. “I want to live my life with my children.”

But when David and Jason embarked upon their journey to create a family, they had to change plans and adjust expectations in a big way. They knew they wanted multiple children, for example, but they planned to add them gradually. They also wanted to raise an infant.

After plans for surrogacy with a mutual friend didn’t pan out, they found themselves looking at Oklahoma’s foster care system, and facing some hard truths.

“When we got into the foster care system, our worker told us, ‘You are going to face barriers, as gay parents and as gay parents seeking an infant,’” David says.

Their initial experiences seemed to bear this out. After filling out reams of paperwork, David and Jason opened their home for potential children. And then they waited for 13 months.

Most gay dads have experienced that wait, in one way or another. Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter if the wait is three months or three years. It’s still a period of reflection and anxiety. For the Bragg-Suttons, it was a time of adjusting their expectations, of rethinking what they were willing to do.

At the beginning, they were only interested in seeing children who were young and available to adopt on their own.

But then their social worker began to prod them to change their approach. Eventually they said they were willing to consider sibling groups and somewhat older kids.

They began spending hours at the offices of the Department of Human Services, looking through packets of children who were legally free for adoption.

“We wanted to be very researched,” Jason says. “We really dug into what we signed up for.”

Finally, they were connected with a sibling group of three children, Taylor, 10; Madelynn, 6; and William, 5. On Oct. 5, 2013, they heard they were matched. On Oct. 17, they met the kids at a pizza parlor in Tulsa.

via GaysWithKids.com – February 19, 2016

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How to teach … LGBT history month

February is LGBT history month – the annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – LGBT Families and people and the impact they have on the world. It’s a topic that staff and students can find difficult to discuss; a recent report found that more than half of England’s teachers feel there is “a reluctance to confront the issue of same-sex relationships and a clear heterosexist assumption”

This makes LGBT history month all the more important. The theme for this year is religion, belief and philosophy, and how all three intertwine in the experience of LGBT families and people. This activity pack from the Proud Trust offers a series of lesson plans and resources on the topic, which can be adapted for students of all ages. Here are some other ways to explore the subject with your classes.
LGBT Families

Primary

Addressing feelings of “otherness” is key in discussions of LGBT rights. This poster from Stonewall gives your class a visual representation of the many different kinds of family set-up. The simple animated images show a variety of families, along with the slogan “Different Families, Same Love”.

The charity has also put together a film called FREE, which follows the lives of four children as they experience family and friendship, and work out what it means to be yourself (including the quote: “when you’re strong enough to be yourself, you free everyone”). The accompanying activity pack includes tasks that ask pupils to write a letter, song or poem and analyse stereotypical statements about gender and identity, such as “girls should play with dolls”.

The Guardian
February 18, 2016
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