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Virginia Poised to Make Surrogacy Easier for Gay Intended Parents

The bill, which is awaiting the Governor's signature, will make Virginia's surrogacy statute gender neutral, but improvements are still needed.

A bill that would make Virginia's surrogacy statute gender neutral has passed through both chambers of the state's legislature, and is now awaiting Governor Northam's signature. The state's surrogacy law, as currently states, extends only to married heterosexual parents. The proposed change in HB 1979 will erase the words "father" and "mother" from the law.

Currently, Virginia has some of the most arcane restrictions on surrogacy in the country. The changes to modernize the state's surrogacy laws have long been championed by Del. Richard Sullivan, who was inspired to introduce legislation after learning of the legal troubles facing a gay couple, Jay Timmons and Rick Olson, in his district who formed their family in part through surrogacy. After learning that they would be unable to establish their parenting rights as a same-sex couple in Virginia, the couple worked with a surrogate in Wisconsin, where the experiences of gay men was more positive. However, a local judge ruled the couple as "human traffickers" and stripped them of their parental rights.

"To have an activist judge come in and completely ignore the Supreme Court of Wisconsin and judicial precedent was a vivid example of being treated differently," Timmons said in an article in Washington Blade. "No family should have to go through that type of mistreatment by the judicial system or frankly by anyone."

Inspired by their story, Del Sullivan introduced legislation to make it easier for gay couples to gain legal status as parents following a surrogacy journey. Though a vast improvement, however, it does not fix all the problems intended parents in Virginia may face. Couples forming their families via surrogacy are still unable to gain a "pre-birth parentage order," for instance, which allows intended parents to establish legal parenting rights before their surrogate gives birth. As it stands, surrogates have to sign away their rights after the birth of the child. Though unlikely, this could allow surrogate to complicate the process post birth.


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Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Asks: Is Destroying an Embryo Similar to Abortion?

It's a question many LGBTQ parents using advanced fertility treatments will need to face — what to do with "left over" embryos.

Let me start off by saying that I have always been pro choice and support all laws that allow people to have full reproductive rights including safe and legal abortions. This is a complicated subject and not one that I ever thought I would really have to deal with on a personal level, especially being a gay man.

I remember a very heated discussion on abortion in my biology class back in university. I was young, idealistic and had very strong convictions about abortion. I was debating with a female classmate who was pro life. She felt there was no reason for an abortion ever, not even if raped by your own parent or sibling. I could not really understand her position, then or now. Don't get me wrong, I still don't agree with her, but now that I'm older and wiser, and also a parent, I have come to respect and accept opinions other than mine.

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Expert Advice

What's It Like When You're NOT the Bio Dad to Your Baby

Lauren Mello of Circle Surrogacy breaks down some of the challenges facing the gay dad who will *not* become the biological parent.

If you're a gay couple considering surrogacy, one of the first decisions you'll need to make together is who is going to be the biological father. When it's time to create your embryos with your egg donor's eggs, you have a few choices when it comes to which dad will be providing his biology: one dad only can provide his biology, both dads can provide their biology and leave the fertilization to chance, or both dads can provide their biology and fertilize half of the embryos with each dad's sperm. Some gay dads choose this third option if they plan to have twins, or more than one baby through surrogacy.

Once embryos are created, you'll decide which embryos will be transferred into your surrogate mother. Hopefully a pregnancy results, and you'll be on your way to fatherhood!

The question is: what's is like when you're NOT the bio dad to your baby? We spoke with a few dads through surrogacy from Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation, about the emotions surrounding being a bio dad...and not being one.

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News

Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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