Future gay fathers have a series of decisions to make in order to reach their goal of fatherhood – here’s an overview!
The societal norms surrounding the LGBT community have changed enormously towards acceptance and equality in the last couple of decades, as illustrated by the swearing-in of the first openly gay member of the President’s cabinet in 2021. Major steps were taken in recent years, including the establishment of nationwide marriage equality by the Supreme Court in 2015, giving LGBT couples a new standing in society, as well as a legal framework and protections. This progress in society’s acceptance of LGBT relationships includes the parenting of children. While gay women may have a relatively easier path to follow, since they are able to carry a child themselves, gay men have to undertake more steps before they can become fathers.
The first step for gay men who want to pursue fatherhood is to decide whether they want to follow the route of adoption, or whether they prefer to father their own genetic children. Adoption is potentially a faster and less costly way to become a father and allow parenting of children from various age groups. It also provides a meaningful contribution to society and the child whose future may be uncertain. On the other hand, an adopted child’s biological parents may change their mind before the child is born, or even soon after. The process of eventually letting the child know of its adoption status may be emotionally taxing for the parents and the child, and psychological support may be needed. Other uncertainties include the unknown genetic background or medical history of the birth parents, or the environment in which the birth mother carried the child which may affect the future health of the child.
Gay fathers may wish to father their own genetic children through the process of IVF and surrogacy. This process may be more costly and time-consuming but provides parents with more control. Contractual agreements with the surrogate, especially in California which provides among the most protective legal frameworks, ensures that the child will be placed with the parents after birth, without fear that the surrogate may change her mind.
Provided the prospective fathers choose the path of surrogacy, the next step is to decide whether one or both partners will become genetic fathers. One partner may have a strong desire to become the genetic father and the other may not, in which case it is an easy decision. If both wish to be genetic fathers, the couple may choose to have more than one child at the same time and perform IVF from each partner’s sperm. While it may be more complicated to ensure that 2 embryos implant and result in twins, it is possible to do so. Alternatively, couples may wish to undergo the process twice, choosing a different genetic parent each time, and end up with children of different ages.
The next step after choosing the genetic father is to choose an egg donor. Factors to consider are the background of the donor, her genetic and medical history, as well as self-described personality traits. Having this choice is among the most desired qualities of the IVF/surrogacy process. Typically, multiple embryos are created and frozen allowing couples to build their family over time.
In addition to choosing an egg donor, the prospective parents have to choose a surrogate, meet with her, and go through the legal procedures needed to set up a contractual agreement. An important decision is choosing the birth location, which typically corresponds to the surrogate’s state of residence. Although California has led the nation in progressive surrogacy laws, other states are now following these precedents. It is important to note that in recent years, U.S. citizen gay fathers using internationally-based surrogates have faced issues with the citizenship of their children. Also, while the genetic father will automatically be listed on the birth certificate of the newborn as the father, in some locations the non-genetic father will need to adopt the child in order to be fully considered a legal guardian. Consultation with an attorney expert in surrogacy law is critical to avoid encountering these challenges.
After establishing the biologic father and selecting an egg donor and a surrogate, IVF will be performed in order to create embryos, which will subsequently be transferred to the surrogate in hopes