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After Daughter’s Birth, Gay Dad Can’t Leave Thailand

A gay family from Florida finds itself in a horrible predicament that should concern couples of all stripes who have turned to surrogacy to create their families. Gordan Lake and his husband connected with a surrogacy agency in Thailand, and on January 17, their dream of fatherhood came true when a Thai surrogate gave birth to their daughter Carmen.

According to reporter Mel Spencer, who broke the story for Gay Star News, that dream of fatherhood soon became a nightmare of red tape and legalized discrimination after the surrogate discovered that Lake’s spouse is a man. Uncomfortable with two men raising the baby, the surrogate withdrew her commitment to the arrangement, refusing to sign any papers after Carmen’s birth.

Thailand’s laws do provide some protections for intended parents but only if those parents are “husband and wife,” a gender-specific requirement that left Lake and his daughter in the lurch, without a clear path to return home to the U.S.

As Lake explains in the GSN article:

“In principle the provision is written to do the right thing and give parental rights to [intended] parents, but since it says ‘husband and wife’ we don’t know how [the Thai courts] will rule given we are ‘husband and husband.’

“We will be forced to go through this court procedure, facing another year and half in Thailand, with complete uncertainty of how [the statute] will be interpreted.”

In order to cover the mounting costs of legal proceedings, and accommodation in Thailand, the couple are appealing for donations, but they also hope to change the phrasing in the new Thai law so it does not only include “husband” and “wife.”

As things stand, [Lake] says the U.S. embassy is unable to take any further action, so he and his husband are campaigning to get Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on their side in order to help speed the decision-making process along.

“We are involving Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama because we think they will be sympathetic to our call and be able to reason with the right people to be able to initiate this engagement with the Thai authorities,” [Lake] said.

“Carmen is an American citizen, and she should be protected by the U.S.”

Lake’s horrific predicament should serve as a warning to all couples seeking to expand their families through surrogacy. First, couples should know that surrogacy arrangements abroad can present unexpected challenges, especially in nations where opposition to surrogacy and opposition to gay rights run high. Second, you can protect your family by working with experts that — like our firm, Vorzimer Masserman — bring to the table a comprehensive knowledge of the surrogacy laws in the surrogate mother’s home state.

Laws on surrogacy vary wildly from state to state and from nation to nation, and if you’re not working with experts who know those laws, your dream of parenthood could quickly become the nightmare that the Lake family is now facing.


6 comments for “After Daughter’s Birth, Gay Dad Can’t Leave Thailand”

  • Kenneth Lee Foon

    So they weren’t up front about the arrangement and are now shocked and surprised that there are complications? I am having a hard time feeling any mote of sympathy for their plight. Did they expect that the surrogate was just some autonomous baby oven machine?

    Another country, different laws. Yes, in a perfect world we wouldn’t have any discrimination, but welcome to reality.

  • M Rhyannon Morrigan

    I think that this case illustrates one of the many dangers of international surrogacy- the fact that intended parents often trust in third party agencies or facilitators precisely because they know that the process is complex and carries a lot of risk. What they do not realize is that these agents/facilitators and agencies often have little to no ability to influence the process or provide assistance if things go sideways. Many Ips were sold on Thailand’s advanced healthcare system while having the very real issues presented by the surrogate retaining custodial rights minimized. While I understand the desperation that drives intended parents to international destinations, we need to be honest with them about the horrendous risk that international surrogacy poses- not only to their rights as a family, but also to the health and safety of their babies and surrogates.

    • You point out important issue, world wide, as the most critical risk for parents, is when things go wrong, especially at exit stage, no Agency or individual who owns the Agency or Clinic is held accountable for anything that goes wrong. When they abandon you, you have no recourse, no medical or ethical body is there that you can complain to, or if there is one, your doctor probably is on the board and will pay them off! In Nepal you have Indian business men and Indian doctors taking your money for Surrogacy, so you leave yourself open to exploitation as Nepalese don’t take kindly to Indians or their business practices in Nepal, now we have perfect example of this playing out.

    • Magg

      Oh God! How much people should overcome to become happy((( I understand all desperation(( It is so difficult to cope with it. I am in the same boat. And the Governments don’t make it easier for us. I was also looking for international surrogacy. But what I can say surely that Thailand is not a place for children making. There is also a big probability of newborn abnormalities. It is very important to check properly a health of a surrogate. I finally went in Ukrainian clinic Biotexcom (very popular among foreigners). They have very loyal prices. Clinic takes responsibility for everything you need in a foreign country. And I was satisfied with service and final result.

    • Cathie2027

      it’s not just international ones. it happens in the US as well, as not every state has the same rules. Most recently a surrogate moved to another state that recognized her as the birthmother, and the parents couldn’t do anything about it. Surrogacy in general can lead to complications because of the variying laws everywhere.

  • Similar outcome is happening in Nepal now, not because the Surrogates want to keep the babies, but the issues are with the false ID papers or marriage status of the Surrogates, which is fault of the Agencies that recruit the Surrogates, so some Embassies are rejecting Citizenship applications, rendering babies stateless. No one know how long it will take the Embassies to finally accept Citizenship, in mean time there are a growing number of parents stuck for months now, as Nepal won’t issue Exit Visa’s. No one could have foreseen this disaster.

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