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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gay couple seeks help from U.S. officials in surrogacy case

A Florida man and his husband continue to urge U.S. officials to support their efforts to leave Thailand with their infant daughter, even though the woman who gave birth to her objects to the fact they are a same-sex couple.

The Bangkok Post reported that Gordon “Bud” Lake and Manuel Santos Valero on Oct. 8 submitted more than 160,000 signatures they collected through their petition to Secretary of State John Kerry and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Lake told the Washington Blade in a previous interview that he met the surrogate mother in person for the first time before she gave birth to his daughter, Carmen Santos Lake, at a Bangkok hospital on Jan. 17.

Lake said he visited the surrogate mother in the hospital with his son Álvaro, who was born through a surrogate in India in 2013, after his daughter was born. Lake told the Blade that his husband, who is from Spain, did not accompany him.

Lake said the surrogate — who is not his daughter’s biological mother — agreed to list him on her birth certificate as her father. He told the Blade during the same interview that the surrogate also signed a consent form that allowed him to take her from the hospital.

Lake said he found out a few weeks later that the surrogate objected to the fact he and his husband are a same-sex couple and “weren’t an ordinary family.”

The embassy has issued a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or CRBA — which certifies a child who was born overseas is an American citizen at the time of their birth. Officials have yet to issue a U.S. passport for Lake’s daughter because the surrogate mother — her legal guardian under Thai law — has not given her consent.

“Carmen is an American citizen but we are not able to leave although it is obviously in Carmen´s best interest,” reads Lake’s petition. “We hate to say it, but as far as we know the United States has done next to nothing to help us.”

“While the embassy will answer emails and requests for meetings, there has been little moral support and we are made to feel more like a problem to them than American citizens in a horrible situation that needs to be resolved,” it adds.

A new law that outlaws surrogacy for foreigners in Thailand took effect in July.

The Thai government over the weekend did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Niles Cole, spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, told the Blade on Oct. 9 that U.S. authorities have “urged” Thai authorities to “grandfather in essential surrogacy cases and resolve the outstanding ones.”

Cole told the Blade that embassy officials have also worked with Lake to document his daughter’s U.S. citizenship. Cole said U.S. law nevertheless prevents the United States from issuing an American passport to a “U.S. citizen minor absent the legal consent of the guardian or the legally recognized guardian.”

“The protection of U.S. citizens abroad is always one of our top priorities,” Cole told the Blade. “That’s what we focus on. That’s what we try to provide to U.S. citizens. In this particular case we provided all possible consular assistance that we can.”

“The real challenge again is the absent permission from the guardian,” he added. “[Without it] the U.S. government is unable to issue a passport.”


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