In an event that would give pause to any person hoping to parent a child with the help of a surrogate, last year saw a Thai surrogate mother refuse to allow a newborn baby girl to leave Thailand with her family, reportedly because she objected to the fact that the baby would be raised by a gay couple.
Gordon Lake and his husband Manuel Santos chose Thailand as the best place to start their surrogacy journey thanks to its excellent medical facilities and – back then – well established surrogacy market for gay couples looking to become parents. Thailand has since put a ban on commercial surrogacy.
Baby Carmen, now 14 months old, is the biological son of Mr Lake and an anonymous egg donor, so the surrogate mother – Patidta Kusolsang – is of no biological relation to Carmen.
According to the Telegraph, Ms Patidta did hand over baby Carmen to the couple after her birth but later refused to sign the necessary documents to allow her to get a passport in order to leave Thailand.
It was claimed her refusal stemmed from her worry about Carmen’s upbringing with gay parents and that she had initially believed they were a so-called “ordinary family”, not knowing they were a gay couple until after the birth. Regardless, Carmen has been living with and financially supported by Mr Lake and Mr Santos in Bangkok, with their almost two-year old son, as they await the trial. The surrogate has reportedly asked for Carmen to be brought to her multiple times.
The surrogacy agency used by Mr Lake and Mr Santos – New Life – has since shut down since commercial surrogacy was outlawed in the country, although Mr Lake said it was made clear from the start that he and Mr Santos were in a same-sex relationship and that they were the intended parents.
The co-founder of New Life, Mariam Kukunashvili, told the Guardian that they were trying to help with the issue and that Ms Patidta was told of the couple’s sexual orientation from the start and was provided with a bilingual contract, a fact denied by Ms Patidta’s lawyers.
Confusingly, however, Ms Patidta’s lawyer has since told the Guardian that her primary reason for wanting Carmen returned to her is because “she will never ever sell her baby for money”, even speculating that Carmen could be biologically related to her and not the anonymous egg donor.
The trial began yesterday at Bangkok’s Juvenile and Family Court. Although same-sex marriage is illegal in Thailand, the couple hope they have a sympathetic judge who recognises the benefit of Carmen living with her biological father.
“It’s the day we’ve been waiting for – for a long, long time. Today is one of the most important days of our lives,” Mr Lake said outside Bangkok’s Juvenile and Family Court.
“The court should give us custody of Carmen because it’s the right thing to do.”
Mr Lake and Mr Santos have been raising money to cover their legal fees here, and have managed to so far raise US$36,467 under the campaign #BringCarmenHome.
The trial continues.
Featured image is of Mr Lake, baby Carmen and Mr Santos (via The Guardian/Gordon Lake/Facebook)