Change the World

Surrogacy Trouble in Mexico and Thailand

More than a year since their daughter Carmen's birth via surrogacy in Thailand, Manuel Santos Valero and Gordon "Bud" Lake, both 41, are still fighting for the right to take her home to Spain. Their custody battle with Patidta Kusolsang, the surrogate who gave birth to their daughter, concluded this week. The court has scheduled a judgment for April 26.


Kusolsang gave birth on January 17, 2015 and handed the newborn over to the couple. The family left the hospital together. Then, when it came time to sign the necessary documents for Carmen to leave the country with her family, Kusolsang refused.

“We never expected this — until the night before we were supposed to meet at the embassy and do the paperwork, and our translator says, ‘She wants to keep the baby,'" Lake says. "I was in complete shock."

Kusolsang said she had changed her mind when she learned the baby would be raised by a gay couple. She has since said she believes they are involved in human trafficking.

The couple has argued in court that she always intended to keep the baby, pointing on Facebook posts she made before and during the pregnancy.

The 14 months since Carmen’s birth have turned the family members’ lives upside down. Santos has remained in Thailand with Carmen while Lake and the couple's 2-year-old son Alvaro, born via surrogacy in India, have returned to Spain. Lake, an American citizen, lives in Spain and works in marketing. Santos is a Spanish citizen who has been able to work remotely while residing in Thailand. The family has moved several times in Thailand after what they believe were attempts by the surrogate to kidnap Carmen.

Santos (right) and Lake with their children, Alvaro and Carmen. Photo courtesy of Change.org.

"We've had to make the most important decisions of our entires lives on a daily basis of how to deal with this," Lake says. "It's tested our relationship so much. Because we've just had to also, at the same time, having completely different views, had to completely trust each other."

Kusolsang and her attorney have accused the couple of human trafficking on national television in Thailand after what Lake says is their misinterpretation of some the couple's surrogacy documents. The surrogate says she "found" the documents concerning the previous implantation in the hospital room where she gave birth. But Lake says she stole them, according to documents Lake provided along with translation from Thai.

The couple's surrogacy agency, New Life, recommended Kusolsang as a surrogate after a first, failed pregnancy attempt with another surrogate.

Carmen was born using a third-party egg donor and Lake's sperm. She bears no biological connection to Kusolsang, though Lake suspects the surrogate thought she was the mother. In fact, he believes New Life failed on many fronts including properly evaluating Kusolsang's fitness to become a surrogate and neglecting to inform her that the intended parents are gay.

"We signed a contract with the agency—an egg donor contract and the surrogate contract—but we don't have the contract [between] the surrogate and the agency. We're certain that they did no background check and that the care and follow-up was nowhere near it needed to be," Lake said. "She probably never should have been a surrogate."

Thailand enacted a law to restrict commercial surrogacy on July 30, 2015, but by that time the couple had been vying to return home with Carmen for more than five months. Lake hopes Thailand's new surrogacy law will lean in their favor. Though the law prohibits surrogacy for foreign and gay couples, it also clarifies rights for those already in the process before it passed.

In the meantime, the couple has decided to fight back in the press and on social media.

"It's been this enormous, enormous communications effort," Lake says. As the native English speaker, he conducts most interviews, while Santos writes blog posts and social media posts in Spanish for Lake to translate. Two Thai women living in Europe help the couple translate their communications and other press coverage into and from Thai.

Supporters of their campaign to bring Carmen home to Spain have donated more than $37,000 to the family to assist with legal fees.

"We're hoping it's the end of a very long nightmare," Lake says.

* * *

A New Zealand couple, David and Nicky Beard, have found themselves trapped in Mexico with their three newborns amid changing surrogacy laws in the country. Twins Blake and Kelly were born to one surrogate, and Lachlan to another, in Villahermosa, Mexico.

Photo courtesy of GiveALittle.co.nz.

David Beard, 41, the children's biological father, is a lawyer and owns the Auckland law firm LegalStreet. Nicky Beard, 32, is originally from Ireland.

TheJournal.ie reports the couple says Mexico’s government has assured them they will be allowed to take their children, born in February out of the country. The couple, concerned by how slowly the process has gone and now heavily in debt, has called on the New Zealand government to intervene.

The Mexican state of Tabasco changed its surrogacy laws last year to curtail a thriving international surrogacy industry there. When the new restrictions came into effect in Mexico, the Beards' surrogates were already pregnant.

Mexico's new law followed widely reported instances of abuse in Thailand and India that prompted new restrictions in those countries. Indeed, the couple told Stuff.co.nz one of their children was born prematurely in a cockroach-infested hospital.

According to the couple, their Cancún surrogacy agency simply disappeared in the wake of the legal change and left them responsible for medical bills including additional costs to care for premature Lachlan. The agency they worked with in North America has distanced itself from the case, saying they were only responsible for transferring payments to the Cancún clinic.

Though the Beards have appealed to New Zealand's immigration minister to issue New Zealand passports to the infants at the country's Mexico City embassy, New Zealand's Ministry of Social Development has said the couple will only receive assistance with the process of the non-biological father adopting the children once they arrive home.

A family friend has set up a fundraising campaign to help the family cover medical costs.

* * *

Our hearts go out to these families and we sincerely hope that these gay dads will be able to bring home their children very soon. 

To be sure, these two cases clearly show that there are some serious potential issues with international surrogacy, often due to poor regulation and oversight. (Unfortunately, surrogacy agencies and clinics sometimes work in gray areas of a country’s laws.)

Advice to gay men considering international surrogacy: Read our article on international surrogacy. (Please note that surrogacy in Mexico for gay men is no longer an option.) When it comes to choosing your surrogacy agency and fertility clinic, be extremely thorough in your research. Make sure your carrier and egg donor know that you are gay, and consider getting independent legal advice. For important suggestions about what to look for in surrogacy agencies and clinics in general, watch our video

Feature image photo credit: Lake and Santos family photo from Change.org (left). Beard family image from Stuff.co.nz (right).

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Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Sponsored

The Most Important Woman a Gay Man Will Ever Date

Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy gives some tips and tricks for getting to know your surrogate once matched

It's time to fine tune your dating skills because you're about to enter into the most important courtship you'll encounter. And it all starts with the biggest first date of your life.

And it's with a woman.

This woman is your gestational carrier; the woman who will carry and care for your baby until she delivers this little bundle of joy right into your arms.

Matching with a gestational carrier – or surrogate – is one of the most exciting milestones in your journey to parenthood through surrogacy. However, it can also be the most nerve wracking. Chances are you've seen a profile about your potential surrogate match so you know a little bit about her and her family. But before you commit to this woman, you'll need to meet her first – either in person or via video. And this is one first meeting you've probably never prepared for!

Circle Surrogacy has been matching surrogates and gay dads for almost 25 years. Here are tried and true tips and tricks to getting to know your surrogate...and keeping the relationship alive during pregnancy and after birth!

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Gay Dad Life

"Daddy, Which Belly Did I Come From?"

How do gay dads talk to their kids about the women that helped bring them into the world?

When you tell your kids the story of how they came to be, is the woman who delivered them identified by a face and a name? That's a decision that every gay dad has to make when it comes to having kids through surrogacy or adoption. In this episode we explored two ways of keeping in touch with the birthmother (for adoptive kids) or the gestational surrogate (for IVF and surrogacy) as part of gay dads' children's birth story.Some adoptive parents choose to have an 'open adoption,' where the child gets to meet the birthmother. Parents who go through surrogacy sometimes keep in touch with the surrogate and have their kids meet her when they are old enough.

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Popular

'Our Family is Complete': Congrats to Gay Dads on Their Recent Births and Adoptions!

Join us in congratulating all of the gay men in our community whose families grew recently!

Wishing all of these gay dads congratulations on their exciting news this month. From becoming first-time dads to finalizing adoptions, congrats to everyone in our community on their wonderful news!

Circle Surrogacy is the proud sponsor of this month's congrats post. They were founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. "For over 20 years we've helped LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!"

Congratulations to Andrew and Edward on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

For Andrew and Edward, their foster parent training plus home study took about a year. "We had a brief placement of twin girls that were four years old two months after we had been approved," said Andrew. "Then we took a break as it was a difficult process, the 'loss' aspect, when that placement ended."

Then on March 15, 2017, their case worker sent them information about two little babies - a boy and a girl - that were still in the NICU and only nine days old. "It was a foster case with an uncertain future, but we decided those little babies needed us!" They dads took a leap of faith and on July 10 this year, their twins' adoptions were finalized. Andrew and Edward have a wonderful bond with the paternal grandmother as well as a special relationship with the twins' father. "We all love these twins, and the more love they have the better their lives will be."

"Adoption is one of those experiences where one side experiences incredible joy while the other side experiences incredible loss," continued Andrew. "We are grateful to experience this joy knowing that biological family members are happy for us to experience that joy."

Congratulations to this Mt Airy, Philadelphia, forever family of four!

Congratulations to Sean and Thomas on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

Together 15 years, London couple Sean and Thomas recently finalized the adoption of their twins.

"About 3 years ago we started meeting adoption agencies and were approved as prospective adopters the following spring," shared Thomas. "We were anticipating a long wait, but quite quickly were matched with our twins. At the time they were nearly five."

After a fairly long transition period for everyone to get settled in, the adoption was formalized the day after Father's Day. "Two years after matching, at times it seems like the kids have been with us forever and other times a blink of an eye. But it is certainly the most life-changing, transformative experience and we cannot imagine life without them. It's wonderful that our family is now official!"

Congratulations to Phillip and Clinton on the birth of their daughter Madison!

Little Madison joined her dads on July 1, 2019, after coming into the world via surrogate.

"I caught Madison as she was born," said Phillip. "I have never felt such an exhilarating rush in my entire life! We were genuinely in love at first sight!"

Now that we Phillip and Clinton are dads, they say they feel a "sense of wholeness" in their lives! "We have a new motivation and purpose in life! It's truly the greatest blessing!"

These new dads and the apple of their eye live in Texas.

Congratulations to Michael and Tyler on the birth of their twins, Elliot and Oliver!

Herriman, Utah, couple Michael and Tyler have been together for 9 years, and married for 3. "In the beginning of our relationship we knew how important family was and how much we wanted to be dads," said Micheal. "After we got married we met with a couple surrogacy agencies and were advised to meet with an IVF clinic before proceeding. In doing so, we found that going through a surrogacy journey independently was very possible."

So the dads decided to shift gears and work in that direction, booking a follow up appointment with the clinic. "We met with their 3rd party coordinator over the surrogate process and she did not have any inquiries of any surrogates." Serendipitously, and unbeknownst to the husbands at the time, their future surrogate made an appointment to talk about being a gestational carrier for a same-sex couple. "The next day we got the unexpected call that someone was interested and open to meet. From there the rest was history as we continued with the surrogacy process."

Over a year later, the dads welcomed their two sons. "The first time we got to hold the boys, it felt so natural to us, as if nothing else in the world existed and time stood still as we got lost in the moment."

Congratulations to Adam and Josh on finalizing the adoption of their daughter!

Adam and Josh got engaged on Good Morning America on Valentines Day, and welcomed their Christmas miracle baby into their lives on December 26th. On July 12 this year, they celebrated becoming a forever family of three.

"For an event that always seemed like it would be the end of our adoption journey, Baby K's Finalization Day felt more like the beginning of a greater adventure," shared Adam. "Since day one, Baby K was always loved and 100% part of our family, but we are so filled with joy to see this day come and make it officially official. We cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives not only watching Baby K grow and develop, but also to see the two of us learn and grow in this new role as parents."

Congrats to these Dallas dads!

Congratulations to Dan and Martin on the birth of their son Herman! 

Copenhagen couple Dan and Martin welcomed their second child through surrogacy on July 11 this year in Florida, USA. Herman joins big sister Ellen, born March 1, 2015, in Vermont via surrogacy. Here's a little more.

"Two amazing American women and their families took us in as their own and we're forever bonded," said Dan about their path to fatherhood experience. "It has been an amazing journey with both of them, our family is complete."

Congrats to the Danish family!

This post is sponsored by Circle Surrogacy

Circle was founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. To this day, that belief is at the core of everything we do. For over 20 years we've helped straight and LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!

We're an agency comprised of social workers and lawyers, accountants and outreach associates, and program managers and coordinators; but, more importantly, we're an agency made up of parents, surrogates and egg donors, who are passionate about helping people build their families, and invested in each and every journey.

Circle is proud to have helped so many gay families achieve their dreams of becoming parents. Together, we make parenthood possible.®

News

Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

"This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

"I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

"I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

"Rollercoaster and Sons," Explores the Journey of One Single Gay Dad Through the Foster-Adopt System

When it comes to the foster-adopt system, "there is no roadmap," said single gay dad Chase Turner

Guest post written by Chase Turner

Many of us thought long and hard about what avenues were best to pursue being a dad. For me, fostering to adoption was the selected road. There is no roadmap here, many things that came my way were learned by doing. Along the way, I started wishing I had a better support group or people who could understand what it's like to be gay and attempting to adopt. Often we (people who are LGBT) feel scrutinized and judged for choices that the majority makes but for us there is pushback. Once my adoption was complete, I felt it was necessary that I put pen to paper and write this story, from a gay male perspective.

My goal was to provide a voice in the space of foster care and adoption where there is a void. Additionally, I wanted to provide an authentic look at all facets of the process, from the kids, to the obstacles and challenges that happened within my personal life. I do hope you enjoy and more importantly can relate or prepare yourself for a similar journey.

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Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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