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Gay Couple Wins Case; Gains Custody Of Baby Born To Thai Surrogate

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This next story is about the lengths one same-sex couple has gone to have a family. They hired a surrogate mother in Thailand who carried a donor egg that was fertilized by one of the partners in that same-sex marriage. When the child was born though, the woman claimed custody because she said the baby should not be raised by a gay couple, even though she is not the biological mother.

After a legal battle that went on for months, a court in Thailand has granted custody to the biological father. His name is Bud Lake, and he joins on us now the phone. Mr. Lake, thanks so much for being with us.

BUD LAKE: Hi Rachel. Thank you.

MARTIN: So to be clear, we are talking to you - you are in Spain, but your husband and baby Carmen are back in Thailand. So when do you expect to be able to be reunited?

LAKE: We're just waiting for some final paperwork from the courts. And we hope in a week or two they'll be able to come home.

MARTIN: Last week, Bangkok Family Court ruled that you are Carmen's sole legal guardian. Does that mean this is the end of this fight?

LAKE: I mean, it could be the end. Obviously, legal processes always have an appeal process to them. So the surrogate could decide to appeal. But we're very hopeful that that doesn't happen.

MARTIN: Can you describe what life has been like these past 15 months since Carmen's birth? Obviously, you did not think that you were going to have to climb over all these obstacles.

LAKE: No, definitely not. I mean, there was no problem with surrogacy in Thailand and would be a fairly straightforward three-week exit process. We were mentally prepared to be there for three weeks.

We took our son Alvaro, and then, you know, the nightmare started the day before we were supposed to meet at the American Embassy to sign for the passport. And we got a message from our translator saying that she wanted to keep the baby.

MARTIN: And the mother - what claim did she have since she wasn't the biological parent?

LAKE: Well, in Thailand, the law says that a single woman that gives birth to a child is the only legal parent to that child. So the science has outpaced the laws. So legally, she was the only single parent.

MARTIN: And did it complicate things that Thailand doesn't recognize same-sex marriage?

LAKE: Yeah. I mean, it complicated things in the sense that we had no idea what to expect from the court process. Fortunately, in our case, with the child being involved, the primary thing that the judges look at is what would be in the best interest of the child. And fortunately, they also interpreted that the best interest of Carmen was to be with the parents that always wanted her.

MARTIN: What would be your advice to other couples who are looking at having a child through surrogacy?

LAKE: I mean, my main piece of advice would be to vet your agency very well. That obviously was one of the biggest breakdowns here because this woman never should have been a surrogate. On many levels, she did not meet the criteria - basic criteria of someone that should be allowed into a surrogacy program.

MARTIN: Do you have the nursery all ready?

LAKE: Oh God, yeah. Yeah, it's - we've been ready for her since - for 16 months.

MARTIN: Bud Lake, speaking to us from Spain. Thanks so much for talking with us this morning.

LAKE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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