Australian gay couple wins parenting right to twins

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MELBOURNE - An Australian gay couple, who had twin girls born through an Indian surrogate mother, has won a major legal case earning them the parenting rights here.

The 20-month-old girls were born in Mumbai to a woman who carried eggs from an anonymous donor impregnated with sperm from one of the men, Herald Sun reported Saturday.

In a bid to seek full parental status for the non-genetic father, the Melbourne couple approached the Family Court.

Hearing the case, Justice Paul Cronin said: “In this case, the children do not have the benefit of a mother, but they have the good fortune of having two fathers.”

“As a matter of law, the word ‘parent’ tends to suggest some biological connection,but … biology does not really matter; it is all about parental responsibility.”

Lawyer Susan Buchanan, who represented the couple at the Family Court, said the ruling could pave the way for other same-sex couples to win full parenting rights.

A gay couple told 60 Minutes last year they paid $40,000 for an Indian woman to give birth to twin girls.

“They’re going to grow up finding this totally normal until they see otherwise and then, you know, when they start asking questions we’ll give them the answers,” one of the men told the program.

The Family Court decision was welcomed by surrogacy advocates.

“It’s a major step forward having that kind of judgment because it sets a precedent, said Sam Everingham of Australian Families Through Gestational Surrogacy.

“Any judge would have seen that this is a modern family made in a fairly unconventional way.”

The case comes as overseas surrogacy booms, with 350 babies expected to be brought to Australia in 2011, compared with 50 just two years ago.

But Catholic ethicist Nicholas Tonti-Filippini said surrogacy should be discouraged because a “committee of parents” - surrogate, donors and commissioning parents - confused a child’s sense of identity.

“Parents don’t have rights, they have responsibilities. The crucial thing in all of this is that the courts make decisions in the interest of the child,” said Nicholas Tonti-Filippini.

The Family Court made “parenting orders” in three international surrogacy cases last year where couples- and in one case, a single Sydney man - returned to Australia seeking citizenship for the newborns.

India is viewed as the most popular source of surrogate babies.

Mr Everingham said over 200 surrogate babies would be born this year to Indian women, who will charge about $25,000. About 100 babies will come from the US, where the going rate is $150,000-plus, while about 50 will come from Thailand, where the charge is up to $50,000.

Filed under: Immigration, World

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