By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
In a landmark decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on January 5 that a gay male couple who wanted to have children and used a gestational surrogate are the children’s legal parents, and that the state must permit both men’s names to be placed on the birth certificates.
“It is instances like this landmark court decision that make me truly value and appreciate residing in the state of Connecticut,” said Jenn Tracz, CABO Executive Director. “Connecticut shows time and again that support for LGBT individuals and families are a top priority. I am even more proud that Victoria T. Ferrara has been and is a proud member and supporter of CABO since inception. It is stories like this that validate the work that CABO and its members do for the LGBT community.”
Shawn and Anthony Raftopol have been together for 16 years and married in Massachusetts in 2008. When they decided to expand their family, they entered into a contract with a gestational surrogate – a surrogate who carries a child, but is not genetically related, who gave birth to twin boys, Sebastian and Lukas, now 2, in April 2008. Following the birth, Connecticut’s Department of Public Health would not allow the names of both fathers to appear on the birth certificates. The Supreme Court’s ruling affirmed the lower court’s order confirming their parentage and requiring the state to issue corrected birth certificates. The couple used the same egg donor and gestational carrier for the birth of their daughter Zoe in 2006.
“We are relieved with the Court’s decision,” said Shawn. “Now, we have the security of knowing that the law reflects our children’s reality.” Anthony said: “As a couple, we chose to create a family. We assumed the responsibility for bringing them into the world, with the understanding that we would love, support and nurture them in every way. In other words, to be what parents are supposed to be.”
“This is the single most important decision in the history of gay men having children through surrogacy,” said John Weltman, Esq., president of Circle Surrogacy, and author of an amicus brief in the case. “For a state high court to recognize the right of two gay men to be legal fathers of a child from the outset of the surrogacy process sets an incredible precedent. Furthermore, it positions Connecticut as one of the best states in the country for couples – gay and straight – to pursue gestational surrogacy with egg donation to create their family.”
The Raftopols were represented in _Raftopol v. Ramey_ by attorney Victoria T. Ferrara.
GLAD submitted an _amicus_ brief on behalf of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys, Connecticut Fertility Associates, and New England Fertility Institute. “This historic decision honors the intentions of everyone involved in bringing these children into the world, and provides those children with the protection of having two legal parents from the moment of their birth,” said GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Karen Loewy, who co-authored the brief. “This ruling has special significance for same-sex couples using assisted reproductive technologies like gestational surrogacy, because there will always be one intended parent who is not a genetic parent. It is now clear that Connecticut law honors and protects those intended families.”
The decision will mean that all couples, gay and straight, who enter into a valid agreement with a gestational surrogate to bring a child into the world are the legal parents of that child, regardless of genetic connections.
GLAD’s amicus brief highlighted some of the serious harms that could result from not recognizing the legal parentage of both intended parents for a child born through gestational surrogacy, and argued that the Legislature had provided a means to affirm that parentage in exactly the way the plaintiffs in this case did: by entering into a valid gestational agreement and by asking the Superior Court for an order of parentage and for a birth certificate reflecting their parentage.
Additional counsel on GLAD’s brief were local counsel Ken Bartschi and Karen Dowd from Horton, Shields, & Knox, P.C., Tom Ude of Lambda Legal, and of counsel John Weltman and Scott Buckley of the Weltman Law Group.
Ude noted that it was a “very important case for parents, whether they’re straight or gay who choose to have a child with the help of a surrogate because it allows them to protect their family relationship and get a birth certificate reflecting the true family, at or before the child is born. It’s a tremendous step forward for families.”
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.