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Families through surrogacy
by Matthew Hetznecker
There's a quiet revolution going on, a revolution that's changing a fundamental unit of our society: the family. It's been covered by major news outletsCNN, 20/20, MSNBC, and NPR—all with positive reports. What is this revolution? Surrogacy. Surrogacy has been receiving world-wide acceptance in helping infertile couples create biological children. However, the revolution at hand is not surrogacy itself, but rather its service to the gay community. At the forefront of this developing epoch is an agency called Growing Generations.
Growing Generations is the first and only gay-owned surrogacy agency that serves the gay community world-wide. It was founded in 1996 by lesbian mom Gail Taylor as "just me and a dream." Corporate attorney Will Halm, himself having gone through the surrogacy process, became the firm's chief executive officer in the spring of 1998.
In the past, parenting options for gay men have been limited primarily to adoption and co-parenting arrangements. But with recent advancements in reproductive medicine, having biologically related offspring is now an option for gay men.
There are two surrogacy programs offered at Growing Generations. The "traditional" program entails a surrogate mother using her own eggs, who is then inseminated with the sperm of the future father. The surrogate mother then carries the child to term. The second program is called "gestational" surrogacy. This involves one woman serving as an egg donor and another woman serving as a gestational surrogate. Through the process of in vitro fertilization, eggs provided by the donor are fertilized with the sperm of the future father. The embryos are then transferred to the gestational surrogate, who carries the child to term.
Growing Generations' offices are located in Los Angeles, just outside of Beverly Hills. Taylor and her life partner of eight years, Trish Absher, have a 3-year-old daughter. For five years, Taylor worked for the largest "mainstream" surrogacy agency in the world and learned every facet of the business. While working there, she saw how gay couples were turned away on a daily basis. "I saw a few gay couples that were accepted through the process, but oftentimes they were just dismissed day in and day out.
"Being a parent is innate. It's a part of our being as humans. This work, I think, is the ultimate form of activism. It's just so human. Many gay men have grieved the idea that they'd ever become parents and are now reclaiming it right before our very eyes."
Halm and his partner of 13 years, Marcellin Simard, now have two children who were conceived through the surrogacy process. They learned through trial and error that the process can be very complex. "There are disreputable people who prey upon gay people because they tend to be vulnerable," Halm says. This led to Halm's interest in becoming involved with Growing Generations.
Halm has made another major contribution in the gay parenting world. In a 1998 landmark decision handed down by the California Superior Court, Halm and Simard were granted the first pre-birth paternity judgment on behalf of a gay couple and a woman serving as a gestational surrogate. It named the two men as the legal parents to their son Luc prior to his delivery. Until this decision, gay couples using surrogates to create and carry children were forced to petition the court for co-parent adoption after the birth of the child in order for the non-biological parent to be legally recognized as a parent. "The second parent adoption process treated us as if we were foster or adoptive parents and adopting a third party's child. So we got the idea of going to court and both being declared legal parents prior to the birth. We won, and we are elated. I mean it was history making and now other gay couples can avoid the adoption process. The process now legitimizes you the day your child is born," Halm says.
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