This Dad Gets to Bring His 4 Month Old Baby to Work

Mark Mullaney and his husband, Jonathan Palant are 41 and 42 years old respectively, and have been married for 14 years. They have a 4-year-old son named Noah, and a 4-month-old daughter named Caroline. Mark works for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and thanks to their "Babies at Work" policy, he's able to bring his family's newest addition to the office on a regular basis! We caught up with Mark to discuss how the policy is helping the family adjust.

Gay With Kids: Before we ask about your work's Babies at Work policy, tell us a bit about the path to parenthood that you took. How was your journey?

Mark Mullaney: We began our path to parenthood about 10 years ago after signing with an adoption agency.  After waiting for almost 3 years with no results we got connected to a woman who was looking for a private adoption.  That scenario also didn’t work out due to some deception, which left us frustrated and unsure how we were going to realize our dream to become parents.  Ultimately, it was our families that recommended we take another look at surrogacy.  We had looked at it as an option years ago, but then concluded that there were enough kids in need of good homes, so adoption was the path we initially chose.  In the end we had both of our children via gestational surrogates here in the Dallas area.  We had amazing surrogates and got to be at every appointment and the deliveries of both our kids.  As an added bonus we are still friends with both surrogates and their families.

MM: Well, this isn’t our first time at this rodeo, but having two kids is very different than having one!  All our friends told us it is harder to go from one kid to two than it is to go from zero to one, or from two to three. And we agree!  While we are settling in and adjusting to all that comes with having an infant again, it was a difficult adjustment. Balancing life with a 4-year-old who wants to run and play and having a child you have to carry everywhere is a juggling act.  So is making sure that both children feel loved and paid attention to.  Now 4 months in we seem to have hit our stride.  We both have demanding jobs and travel now and then, so we have been lucky to call on parents to fly in and help when it gets too hectic.

GWK: Where do you work? What type of family leave policies did they provide you with? 

MM: I work at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. For both of my kids I took 12 weeks of FMLA so I could be home to bond with them.  I have been with UW a while so I had enough time to be able to take the full leave and have it paid.  Since having my son 4 years ago there have been more men in my office also taking time to be home and bond with their kids---beyond the typical 1 to 2 weeks a dad may more typically take.

GWK: What has your work's generous policy of allowing you to bring your baby to the office allowed you to do that you otherwise would not have been able to? What would you have done if you didn't have such a policy in place?

MM: When I had my son the Babies at Work policy was not yet in place at United Way.  Now that I have had my daughter I feel like this policy has allowed me to take the connection/bond I began to develop when I was on FMLA and sustain it since she can accompany me to the office.

Given the demand and expense for high-quality childcare, this policy has allowed me and my family to save some money as we transition to having our second child.  Our daughter will attend the same early childhood center as our 4 year old son, but knowing that I could bring her to work with me over the summer allowed me to select the reduced attendance option while maintaining her slot within the program. It has allowed us to put the money we would have spent on full time child care for the summer and apply it to the fall tuition when she will have outgrown the Babies at Work program.

The Babies at Work program has also contributed to an even more positive work environment for my colleagues and me.  When staff arrive with their babies to work it makes everyone smile and just brightens the day.  The babies make us all smile, laugh, and enjoy our environment even more than we did before.  It is also a great way to bond with colleagues on a new level and share tips and tricks when it comes to sleep deprivation, feeding issues, play groups, etc.

GWK: Why is it important to your work to provide its employees with generous family policies?

MM: United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ mission is to change lives forever in North Texas.  To do that we know that we need to start with out staff.  Wanting to help parents achieve a better work-life balance, this Babies at Work policy allows us to bring our children to work until they are six months old. Parents bring in a portable crib or a pack ‘n’ play, and set up in their cubicles. When we have meetings we will strap on baby carrier, or roll the stroller in, and go about business as usual. The company also sees that the Babies at Work policy boosts morale in the office and also helps parents save on childcare costs.

GWK: Often, businesses will have family leave policies that exclude LGBTQ families who adopt or gay men who use a surrogate. Does your work's family policy explicitly include LGBTQ people? 

MM: We have a fully inclusive nondiscrimination policy at my office which covers all other policies.  When I started working at United Way I was the first to ask about partner benefits (before we were legally married and marriage equality was the law of the land), then I was the first to have a child via surrogacy, and the HR and Senior Leadership Staff never batted at eye.  They only wished me well and asked if there was anything else they could do to help.

GWK: What was the family leave policy like at your husband's job?

MM: My husband is a musician and so has a few jobs with community choirs he leads as well as being a professor, author, and traveling clinician. That said, there is no leave policy for his work. Given that I have the “traditional” job it was great that I was able to shift my schedule a bit, and given that he is his own boss for most of his jobs he can flex his schedule when I cannot flex mine.

GWK: Anything you want to add?

MM: The only thing I would add is that we all have our own journey to becoming parents, and no one path is better than the other.  Thankfully there are so many resources out there (like Gays With Kids) to help.  Also, when it comes to policies at work to help LGBTQ families---just ask. I know that a large corporate environment may be different than a nonprofit with less than 100 people, but if you never speak up and say that there is a need, then nothing will ever change.

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Supreme Court to Hear Major Case Concerning LGBTQ Foster Care Parents

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether cities are allowed to exclude tax-funded adoption agencies from foster care systems if they refuse to work with gay couples.

In 2018, city officials in Philadelphia decided to exclude Catholic Social Services, which refuses to work with LGBTQ couples, from participating in its foster-care system. The agency sued, claiming religious discrimination, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously ruled against the agency, citing the need to comply with nondiscrimination policies.

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, follows a 2018 Supreme Court decision regarding a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In that case, the court narrowly ruled that the baker bad been discriminated against, on religious grounds, by the state's civil rights commission. It did not decide the broader issue: whether an entity can be exempt from local non-discrimination ordinances on the basis of religious freedom.

The court — whose ideological center has shifted to the right since the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in fall 2018 — may choose to do so now. Advocates quickly called on the court to consider the potential impact on the more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system:

"We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. "Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse. We can't afford to have loving families turned away or deterred by the risk of discrimination."

"It is unconscionable to turn away prospective foster and adoptive families because they are LGBTQ, religious minorities, or for any other reason unrelated to their capacity to love and care for children," said HRC President Alphonso David. "We reject the suggestion that taxpayer-funded child welfare services should be allowed to put discrimination over a child's best interest. This case could also have implications for religious refusals that go far beyond child welfare. The Supreme Court must make it clear that freedom of religion does not include using taxpayer funds to further marginalize vulnerable communities."

The court may choose to override a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which created the current standard for carving out religious exemptions. In that case, the court ruled that laws that target a specific faith, or express hostility towards certain beliefs, are unconstitutional — but this standard has long been abhorred by religious conservatives, who think it doesn't offer enough protections for religions. If the court does overrule Smith, it could have far-ranging consequences. " As noted on Slate, "it would allow anyone to demand a carve-out from laws that go against their religion, unless those laws are 'narrowly tailored' to serve a 'compelling government interest.'"

The four members of the court's conservative wing — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh —have all signaled an openness to reconsider Smith. The ruling's fate, then, likely rests in the hands of the court's new swing vote, Chief Justice Roberts.

For more, read the full article on Slate.

Gay Dad Life

Dads Tell Us Their 'Gayest Moment Ever' as Parents

We may be dads — but we're still gay, damnit! And these "gayest moments ever," sent to us from our Instagram community, prove it.

Did your child know all the lyrics to Madonna songs by age 3? Do your kids critique all the red carpet lewks from the Tony Awards? Do you often have baby food, diapers, sparkling white wine, gourmet appetizer, and fresh cut flowers in your shopping cart — all in one trip? If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, you just might be... a gay dad.

We asked the dads in our Instagram community to share their gayest moments as a dad, ever, and their responses were just as hilarious as they were relatable.

Here's a great way to start the week...

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Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

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Utah Bill Would Allow Gay Men to Enter Surrogacy Contracts

Rep. Patrice Arent of Utah is sponsoring a bill that will remove a provision that currently prohibits gay men from entering into commercial surrogacy contracts in the state.

Though Utah is not one of the three states that currently prohibit commercial surrogacy contracts, the state's current policy does specifically exclude gay men from doing so. That may soon changed, however, thanks to a bill in the state's legislature that was unanimously voted out of a House Committee that would remove that restriction.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, a Democrat, was created in response to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court this past August that found the ban on gay men unconstitutional.

Gay men have been excluded from legally entering surrogacy contracts due to a provision in the current law that requires medical evidence "that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child," Rep. Arent told the Salt Lake Tribune — a requirement that clearly excludes gay male couples.

The state's original surrogacy law dates back to 2005, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state, which accounts for the gendered language. Though the state's Supreme Court already ruled the provision unconstitutional, Rep Arent further told the Tribute that, "People do not look to Supreme Court opinions to figure out the law, they look to the code and the code should be constitutional."


Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Image: NWSC Clients

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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