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Surrogacy Lessons Learned | The Texas Gay Fathers Case

June 26th, 2014 | 3 min. read

By Amy Demma

What Happened with the Texas Gay Fathers Case? 

Jason and Joe Family Photo
Photo via GLAAD, courtesy Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs

On Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 the HUFFPOST Gay Voices published a story about Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs, the fathers of twins delivered via a surrogate in Dallas, Texas. The story addressed the legal hardships endured by Jason and Joe, a couple who married last summer in Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal, and the roadblocks they are currently facing as they pursue legal parentage of their sons.

Following the birth of Baby Lucas and Baby Ethan (Jason and Joe are each the biological/genetic fathers of one of the twins), these proud and thrilled fathers petitioned a Dallas court to have their names placed on the birth certificates of the babies and further sought to co-adopt the other’s genetic son. The Dallas court denied Jason and Joe’s petition, leaving them without legal recognition as the babies’ parents.

At this time, the gestational carrier/surrogate is the only person listed as “parent” on each of the boys’ birth certificates. The carrier/surrogate has no genetic connection to the twins.

Surrogacy Laws | Choosing a State, County or Judge

While the current status of this matter is both disturbing and very sad, and while our hearts and hopes are with Jason and Joe, it is important for those who are considering family building through surrogacy to know there is much that can be done to safely and effectively achieve the legal protection sought as parents.

  1. Because the laws and legal proceedings related to assisted family building are very state specific, especially for gay couples, the first and best step is to be sure that carrier candidates live in a state where the attorney is experienced.
  2. The attorney needs to be able to advise on parentage in the state where the candidate resides.
  3. Beyond familiarity with state requirements and restrictions, the attorney should have an understanding as to previous rulings related to surrogacy births in counties local to the carrier candidate.
  4. He or she should be familiar with which courts are the most “surrogacy friendly” within those states that do allow for family building with a carrier.

Relationship Recognition for Same-Sex Couples in the U.S.

Prospective parents are fairly educated in understanding that surrogacy is easier in certain states than others, and most know that there are states that are “best for surrogacy” and others where surrogacy is not allowed. My guess is that there is less of an understanding, even within those optimal states, there may be counties and judges who are more experienced with complex/assisted family building and who are more accommodating to parents of surrogate delivered babies.

Questions to Ask a Reproductive Attorney | Gay Surrogacy & Adoption

Typically, prospective parents will engage an attorney prior to identifying a gestational carrier (although some may be working with a surrogate whom they already know). Here are some questions to ask your reproductive attorney:

  1. If the attorney is assisting with finding a carrier, ask about his or her experience with babies delivered where a particular candidate lives.
  2. Going further, ask the attorney about where you will petition for parentage orders, or whether or not that attorney has ever been successful in petitioning a court local to the candidate.
  3. Does the attorney have experience with a particular judge?
  4. Ask if there is any history of denial of parentage orders.
  5. Ask about the law, and then specifically the process and procedures related to birth certificates, and discuss adoption.

There are so many considerations when choosing a gestational carrier, some that are highly personal and others that are much more practical. Particularly in light of the roadblocks Jason and Joe are facing, inquiring about where and to which judge your attorney will be petitioning is certainly a best strategy in carrier selection.

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