By Alex Temblador
A gay couple, Gordon Lake, an American, and his Spanish husband, Manuel, found a surrogate in Thailand. Using Gordon’s sperm and an egg donor, a Thai woman carried the baby for the couple and finally gave birth to their baby daughter, Carmen, in January. She handed the daughter over to the two dads but before they could return to the U.S. with their new child, the surrogate refused to sign documents for Carmen’s passport after discovering they were a gay couple. Now Lake and Manuel are in a lengthy court battle with the Thai government to return home with their daughter.
This is the stuff of nightmares: being stuck in a foreign country with your family, unable to leave, and fearing that someone might take your child. In Thailand, surrogacy laws favor the surrogate whether or not she is the biological mother. Thai law states that the surrogate has legal parental rights over the child, even though in this case, Lake is the biological father of Carmen, and the American Consulate has issued a Consular Report of Birth Abroad which recognizes Carmen as a U.S. citizen. Carmen can’t leave the country without the signature of both parents listed on the birth certificate.
Unfortunately, the surrogate isn’t the only thing that Lake and Manuel have to fight to get their daughter back to the States. Before Carmen was born (but still in the womb), the military overthrew the government and outlawed surrogacy to foreign couples, amidst many high-profile surrogacy scandals in Thailand. However, the coup created a provision for those surrogates who were already carrying. It reads:
Husband or wife executing to surrogacy, . . . has right to file a complaint to the Court for ordering a person who was born by surrogacy before this act enforced be legitimate child of husband and wife executing to surrogacy.
The problem with this provision is the words “husband” and “wife” and since Thailand doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, Lake and Manuel will have to fight for this provision to apply to them, a same-sex couple, in addition to fending off allegations by the surrogate. The surrogate claims that she did not know that Lake and Manuel were a same-sex couple though Lake claims the agency they used, New Life, was aware of their sexual orientation. New Life also claims that the surrogate knew of their same-sex relationship.
The surrogate also said she didn’t understand the contract which she says was in English and that she would never “sell a child for money.” New Life states it was a bilingual contract and the surrogate understood the contractual agreement. The surrogate has also said that she had to pay for her own medical bills, though Lake and Manuel state they paid US $35,000-$47,000 for the entire process.
The court case could take up to a year and a half to complete and until then, Lake, Manuel, their almost two year old son, and their daughter Carmen are hiding out in an undisclosed location in Bangkok. They have raised $24,000 for the trial in a crowdfund campaign and are using the hashtag #BringCarmenHome. In addition to the crowdfund campaign they are requesting help from Hilary Clinton and President Obama.
“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. Obviously prolonging this whole situation isn´t in the best interest of the Carmen, which is what we believe the Thai authorities will give top priority – what’s in the best interest of the child – in making their decisions.”