Change the World

New York: It's Time to Legalize Ethical Surrogacy

New York, one of only three states to prohibit compensated surrogacy, is faltering on a bill to legalize the practice in the state

With the Democratic takeover of the State Senate in the 2018 elections, legislators in New York have been busy passing any number of long-held progressive priorities, from a sweeping package of bills strengthening rent regulations to others aimed at expanding and protecting voting access in the state. But as the legislative season comes to a close, another initiative, which looked all but assured to pass just a couple months ago, now stands in limbo: the legalization of gestational surrogacy via the Child-Parent Security Act.

New York is just one of three states that doesn't already permit surrogacy in some form, but we are closer than ever before to finally legalizing this important family-building option for LGBTQ people and those who struggle with infertility. The Child-Parent Security Act has passed the State Senate, and Governor Cuomo has promised to sign it. But the legislation is now stalled in the State Assembly, where a number of legislator and advocates have unfortunately spoken out against it. Assemblywoman Deborah Glick has called the practice "pregnancy for a fee" and the "commodification of women." Gloria Steinem likened the practice to allowing "profiteering from body invasion."

But State Senator Brad Hoylman, the bill's sponsor and himself a gay father of two via surrogacy, is nonetheless pressing ahead. "My two beautiful daughters were born through gestational surrogacy," he wrote via Twitter. "They are everything to me. Every family in NY, whether LGBTQ or struggling with infertility, should have the same opportunity."

We at Gays With Kids couldn't agree more, which is why we've brought you countless stories of gay dads, like Senator Hoylman, who have realized their dream of fatherhood through the incredible medical advancements of the last several decades that make surrogacy possible.

But even more importantly: we've brought you the stories of surrogates themselves — a perspective so often left out of the morality debate surrounding surrogacy — who help illuminate the incredible and diverse set of reasons women decide to become surrogates. The joy many of these women take in helping others realize their dream of parenthood via surrogacy is truly palpable, and couldn't sound more different from the alarmist and coercive reality painted by surrogacy's critics.

Here are just a few of their voices:

  • Shelly Marsh, told us of the urge she felt after becoming a mother herself to help others who can't start families as easily. She subsequently worked with two separate gay couples to do exactly that. "My girls are my life," she told us of her decision to become a surrogate. "If I have the ability to share that love with someone else, that is what I wanted to do."
  • Heather Manojlovic told us about some of the reasons she enjoyed working to make fatherhood a reality for gay intended parents. "The fact that I was able to help someone that may have had to overcome a lot of adversity during his lifetime to fulfill a dream meant so much to me," she wrote.

  • Another surrogate we profiled told us about the experience of working with an HIV positive man, a population of people who once thought biological fatherhood would never be in their future, become a dad through the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) program. "I knew they didn't have the same number of gestational carrier match options that gay men who weren't part of the SPAR program had," she wrote. "It felt even more gratifying for me to be able to be the person who helped make their dreams come true."

To be clear: surrogacy does indeed raise any number of moral and ethical issues that should absolutely be discussed before legalizing it. Abroad, surrogacy is often left unregulated, which creates a system that does in fact take advantage of women and their families who serve as surrogates. And let's face it: surrogacy is expensive, meaning this form of family creation is far too often available to just a privileged few.

But rather than ban the practice completely, why not work to improve these shortcomings?

Many efforts are underway to help tackle surrogacy's hefty price tag. The non-profit organization Men Having Babies has been fighting for years to offset the considerable costs associated with surrogacy for gay men. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is currently vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President, has suggested insurance companies be required to cover some parts of the process, such as IVF treatments, for LGBTQ couples and others who can't get pregnant independently. And an increasing number of corporations, like Target, are offering benefits to their employees to cover some aspects of surrogacy's costs.

Senator Hoylman has also taken steps to shore up protections for surrogates by including a "Surrogates' Bill of Rights," the first of its kind in the country, as part of the legislation. Under the bill, surrogates will have guaranteed access to legal advice and extended medical benefits. By passing this legislation, New York will finally catch up to the 47 other states that already permit gestational surrogacy in some form, allowing LGBTQ people and others impacted by infertility to realize their dream of parenthood in the state they call home. But we will also have the opportunity to do something arguably more important — set the national standard for the ethical practice of surrogacy.

If you live in New York State, please take a second to send a message to your representative asking them to support the bill.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

David and Ben Met on the Dance Floor — and Are Now Grooving Their Way Through Fatherhood

David and Ben, who became fathers with the help of Northwest Surrogacy Center, live in Melbourne with their daughter, Maia.

In 2003, while both studying at Reading University in the UK, Ben Suter and David Cocks met after locking eyes on the dance floor and then being introduced by a mutual friend. Ben, a meteorologist and Operations Manager, and David, an Assistant Principal, have been together ever since. They moved to Australia together in 2010, seeking a different life, and an overall better work-life balance. The chose Cairns in Queensland as their new home, between the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforest, "taking life a bit easier," said David. The couple were also married in June 2016, back home in England.

While David always wanted kids, Ben took a little convincing. So they started their parenting journey with a dog, Titan, who quickly became like their first born. From there, Ben came around rather quickly.

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News

New York Will Fight 'Repugnant' Trump Rule on Adoption, Says Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York promises legal action of the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to allow discrimination against LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents

Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents — but he may face a legal fight from (former) hometown. In a tweet, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said the proposed move "isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values,— it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home." If the proposal moves forward, he continued. "we'll take legal action to stop it.

Governor Cuomo's office followed up the tweet with a lengthier statement posted to their website:

Once again the Trump administration is attacking the hard-earned rights and protections of the LGBTQ community, this time proposing a new measure that would give foster care and adoption agencies license to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Trump's proposal isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values — it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home. If he moves forward with this rule, we'll take legal action to stop it.

No matter what happens in Washington, New York State is and will continue to be a beacon of equality in this country. Our Human Rights Law and adoption regulations expressly prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including when it comes to adoption. I encourage any LGBTQ New Yorker who feels they are a victim of this discrimination to contact the State Division of Human Rights for assistance.

Our message to the Trump administration is simple: there is no place for hate in New York or in our nation, and we will not allow this noxious proposal to stop LGBTQ New Yorkers from becoming parents or providing care to children in need.

Change the World

A Gay Fertility Doctor Opens Up About His Own Path to Parenthood

Parenthood is the "one and only job" held by the majority of the population, wrote gay fertility doctor Mark Leondires in a recent op-ed for The Advocate

Dr. Mark Leondires, founder of the fertility clinic RMA of Connecticut, has helped thousands of LGBTQ people become parents over the years. But in a recent op-ed for The Advocate, he discussed his own path to parenthood as a gay man, and some of the lessons he's learned along the way.

"Similar to most gay men I struggled with the coming out process," Dr. Leondires wrote. "I strongly desired to be a parent. And as a fertility doctor I knew this was possible. What was enlightening was after we had our first child is that in the eyes of my community, I went from being a gay man or gay professional to being a parent just like most of my straight friends."

Dr. Leondires goes on to say his reasons for opening up about his parenting journey is to offer some perspective LGBTQ people who are considering parenthood. "Once you have a family you will have this common bond with the vast majority of our population and something they can relate to — having children," he wrote. "You are no longer someone living this "special" lifestyle, you are a parent on a shared journey."

Being a parent is the "one and only job" held by the majority of the population, he continued. "It is also the only job you can't be fired from."

Understanding this commonality helped Dr. Leondires in his coming out process, he said. "I had to be proud of my family because I want them to be proud of our family," he wrote. "It wasn't about me anymore. The reality is that 5-7% of patients identify as LGBTQ+, and there may be a greater likelihood that your child might be LGBTQ+ because you are. Therefore, you need to be proud of who you are and who your family is, establish and maintain this foundation unconditionally."

Read Dr. Leondires entire essay here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Single Gay Dad and the City

When Kyle decided to take his four kids, ages 6-11, to New York City on vacation, his friends thought he was crazy.

"You're crazy, Kyle."

"You can't be serious? A single dad taking four kids to the Big Apple? Think again."

"That's bold. There's no way I'd do that."

Those were a few of the responses I heard from my friends as I told them I was thinking of booking a trip to New York City with four kids, ages 11-6. My children's fall vacation from school was approaching and I wanted to get out of the house and explore. Was the Big Apple too much of an adventure?

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News

National's Pitcher Cites Wife's Two Moms as Reason for Declining White House Invite

"I think that's an important part of allyship," Doolittle said of his wife's two moms.

Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Washington Nationals, declined an invitation to the White House after his team won the World Series this year. In an interview with the Washington Post, he listed his numerous reasons for staying home — and a main consideration, he revealed, was his wife's two moms.

"I want to show support for them. I think that's an important part of allyship, and I don't want to turn my back on them," Doolittle said during the interview.

Trump's treatment of a minority groups, generally, factored into his decision as well. "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked or the way that he moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."

Doolitttle clarified that his decision had little to do with policy disagreements with the White House. "There's a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we've done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the 'shithole countries.'"

He concluded by saying he respected his teammates decision to attend the White house ceremony. "I want people to know that I put thought into this, and at the end of the day, I just can't go."

Read more of the Washington Post interview here.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

'Men Having Babies' to Make Case for New York Surrogacy Reform

Come this Friday to hear how Men Having Babies and other advocates plan to pass surrogacy reform in NY

Three MHB members lobbying in Albany, with Senator Brad Hoylman, who led the passage of the Senate version of the bill

Since it's very first meeting in the form of a 2005 support group for biological gay dads and dads-to-be, Men Having Babies (MHB) has been advocating and educating folks on surrogacy. This has taken place in the form of many elements including conferences for those considering surrogacy, their Gay Parenting Assistance Program which helps fund many gay men undertaking the expensive surrogacy journey to fatherhood, and their extensive directory and review system on surrogacy agencies and clinics.

MHB has recently moved further to make their conferences a meeting place for committed surrogacy and gay parenting supporters, including parents, surrogates, researchers, professionals, and policymakers by creating the Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). The program provides opportunities for formal and facilitated discussions about topics and developments relevant to parenting through surrogacy and / or by LGBT parents.

Now, in the aftermath of the stalled Child Parent Security Act (the CPSA bill), which was set to reverse the ban on compensated surrogacy in the state of New York, Men Having Babies have gone a step further. As part of the ARF initiative, this Friday November 8 in New York City, Men Having Babies welcomes folks to join them at an open to the public event: The Case for NY Surrogacy Reform.

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Gay Dad Life

The Suburban Gay Dad

Are you intimidated by the suburbs? This gay dad was — but then he moved there.

In a recent article for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Steve Jacobs says the thought of living in the suburbs as a gay dad "intimidated" him. But when he started fantasizing about garages, he began to question that notion. Any apprehension he had soon evaporated, he said, one winter morning while trying to navigate the snowy streets of New York City with a stroller.

While "pushing the stroller through snow banks and pools of slush with snowflakes stinging our faces," he wrote, "a vision came to me: I pictured us walking into a garage, hopping into a car, and arriving at a diner with 10 times less drama. This image planted the seed of moving to the 'burbs that I couldn't shake."

Soon, the family of four found a house in a town a half hour outside the city. "It had grass and a beautiful yard for our spirited kiddos. The schools were good. There were even good restaurants. The only red flag: Census data estimated only 0.1 percent of the population was gay male."

There were some "growing pains" while trying to make friends in this environment. "When we attended our first dinner party, within minutes the hostess went to the kitchen and the other wives followed her, while the husbands settled into the living room. Ira and I froze, looking at each other. In the city, our straight friends hadn't separated out like this for the evening. Should we stay with the dudes, exert our masculinity, and blow off the mom we liked? Or does one of us go with the wives and accept the personal branding that comes with that? We did a quick rock paper scissors in the foyer. Ira went with the wives."

But ultimately, "being a parent defined me more than I ever imagined it would," he wrote, and he settled in nicely to his new suburban life.

Have you had a similar adjustment, from city life to the suburbs? Tell us about it at dads@gayswithkids.com for an upcoming piece!

Fatherhood, the gay way

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