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The Australian – "Gay Dad in Appeal to Find Son" by AAP

December 19, 2008 1 comment

A GAY father has launched an international appeal for help to find his son, whom he believes may be living in Australia.

Michael Turberville has not seen seven-year-old son Ashley Skinner since the child disappeared with his mother, Joanne Skinner, more than a year ago after a custody battle, British media reported today.

Mr Turberville pleaded with anyone who knew the boy’s whereabouts to alert authorities.

“It is gut-wrenching not to be able to see my son,” he told the Evening Standard newspaper.

Dual US-British citizen Mr Turberville reportedly fathered Ashley with Ms Skinner after advertising in another publication for a “like-minded” lesbian. Both parents were in same-sex relationships at the time.

Ms Skinner’s mother received a letter from her in April sent from the US, but Mr Turberville believes it was written in Australia and passed on to someone in America to post.

The letter said Ashley had started school.

The UK’s top family court judge, High Court family division president Sir Mark Potter, took the unusual step of lifting reporting restrictions which apply in children’s cases in hopes the publicity would help trace Ashley.

Anyone with information was asked to contact the Royal Courts of Justice in London on +44 207 947 6200.

[Link: Original Article ]

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Categories: Co-Parenting, Sperm Donor

The Advertiser – "30 South Australian lesbian mums ‘impregnated by same man" by Tony Shepherd

October 8, 2008 Leave a comment

UNREGULATED sperm donation is leading to unusual situations in which the children of lesbians in Adelaide are mixing socially – creating a risk of incest.
One of South Australia’s foremost experts in reproductive technology – Reverend Dr Andrew Dutney – says that in one reported case, about 30 lesbians were impregnated by sperm from one man.
The mothers then organised picnics with all the children, raising the fear they might socialise with their half-siblings without realising they are related.
In another case, a man’s sperm was used to produce 29 children, most of whom are living in Adelaide. They do not know who their half-siblings are, raising concerns that in a “big country town” like Adelaide, they could accidentally commit incest.
In South Australia it has become standard practice to identify sperm donors, which has put men off donating through reproductive clinics.
Fertility treatments do not generally cater to homosexuals, because the law says it is only for infertile couples or those at risk of transmitting a serious defect.
These factors combine to push many people wanting children to seek help elsewhere – either through “turkey basters” or casual sex with friends or willing participants found online.
Assoc Prof Dutney, the former chair of the SA Council on Reproductive Technology and Associate Professor of Theology at Flinders University, says the SA regulations are at fault and should be repealed altogether, leaving reproductive medical units to comply with the national ethical guidelines.
He uses the anecdote of the “very generous” sperm donor to emphasise that when people are excluded from access to reproductive technology, it forces them to go it alone, and have children outside the normal system.
Those children were born about a decade ago, meaning they will be reaching adolescence in the next few years.
“The effect of our regulations here in SA is that they produce unregulated donor conception, whereas a system with a lighter touch would bring a whole lot more parents and children into the light,” Assoc Prof Dutney said.
“The situation at the moment is that … by adhering to the SA legislation, clinics have to be in breach of the national code.
“Under SA’s legislation, anonymity is guaranteed while under the national code of ethics, the child’s access to knowledge has to be provided.”
A different man’s sperm was used to produce 29 children, most of whom are living in Adelaide. Again, they don’t know they are related.
Leonie Hewitt is the mother of one of the children in Adelaide from the second example mentioned above. She is also the spokeswoman for the Sydney-based Donor Conception Support Group of Australia.
She says people need to recognise the “human rights” of the children in all of this.
“There needs to be consistent national legislation,” she said.
“We need to protect people who are conceived through donations whether in straight or homosexual families, we need to protect those children.
“We need national harmonising legislation that protects human rights.”
Categories: IVF, Sperm Donor

Australian Gay & Lesbian Law Blog – "QLD: Fatherhood Just Got More Interesting" by Stephen Page

September 15, 2008 Leave a comment

Stephen Page from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is a partner with Harrington Family Lawyers, Brisbane, a long established boutique family law firm. He writes a wonderful blog called “Australian Gay and Lesbian Law Blog. [Ed – Rodney Cruise]


Back in May I posted about how Queensland Attorney Kerry Shine was seeking to amend the Status of Children Act so that the position of IVF dads becamse clear- if they were to donate sperm to single mums or a lesbian couple, then they would not be dads in law.

I had chased up Kerry Shine’s office- twice- as to whether the proposed changes would cover men offering sperm to their female friends, but my calls were not returned and I was none the wiser.

Last week a friend told me that he was considering donating sperm via a website: http://www.free-sperm-donations.com/ . He ultimately had second thoughts.

At the time that Kerry Shine made the announcement, he considered that part of the reason for making the changes was so that sperm donors to IVF women would not be fathers and therefore would not be required to pay child support. He proposed that the laws be retrospective to 1988- when the Status of Children Act was enacted!

Because of my friend’s situation, I looked over the weekend, and found that tucked in at the back of the Guardianship and Administration and Other Acts Amendment Bill were these proposed changes.

So what do they mean? If enacted, the Bill would make ensure that if a woman other than a married woman were to have a child by a sperm donor- if she were to go through IVF, then the donor will NOT be the father and will never have the rights of fatherhood unless and until he marries her. It doesn’t matter if the woman and the man agree that he is to have those rights- that agreement is irrelevant.

However, if the man donates sperm to the mother other than through IVF, then it is possible that he might be considered to be the father, in which case there would be certain rights under the Family Law Act, including the presumption of equal parental responsibility, and the obligation to pay child support.

Although there are two decisions of the Family Court which in part dealt with Victorian legislation which would suggest that the known sperm donor would not be a father or parent under the Family Law Act and under child support legislation, there is no guarantee that that court will follow the same approach with the Queensland legislation, especially when the Attorney expressly stated that part of the purpose of the legislation was so that donors would not have to pay child support. If the legislation that he is proposing does not include known donations other than via IVF, then this of itself raises the possibility that known donors other than through IVF might be treated as fathers and liable to pay child support (and seek to make decisions about the child and spend time with the child, maybe even equal time, relying on the Family Law Act).



[Link: Original Article]

Categories: gay, IVF, Sperm Donor

Australian Gay & Lesbian Law Blog – "Children born after donor insemination should be told as soon as possible about their conception" by Stephen Page

August 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Stephen Page from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is a partner with Harrington Family Lawyers, Brisbane, a long established boutique family law firm. He writes a wonderful blog called “Australian Gay and Lesbian Law Blog. [Ed – Rodney Cruise]

It is better for children conceived by donor insemination to be told of their origins at an early age, according to the first large-scale study of people who are aware of their donor conception. If the children are not told until they are 18 or older, they are more likely to have feelings of shock and anger, the 24th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona heard.

The study is one of the first to compare the views of offspring of donor insemination told of their origins during childhood compared with those who only found out in adulthood. The researchers recruited a sample of 165 offspring conceived by sperm donation through the Donor Sibling Registry – a US-based, worldwide website that enables donor offspring to search for their donors and their donor siblings (other donor offspring who share the same donor). The participants answered an online questionnaire consisting of multiple-choice and open-ended questions. They were aged 13-61; 148 (89%) were living in the USA and four (2%) were living in the UK; the majority (approximately three-quarters) were female.

Dr Vasanti Jadva, a research associate at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge (UK), found that children born into mother-only or same-sex parent families were much more likely to be told about their origins before the age of three than were children of heterosexual parents: 63%, 56% and 9% respectively. Indeed, 33% of children in heterosexual families were told about their conception after the age of 18, compared with none in the other two types of families. Two children from heterosexual parents only found out when told by people who were not their parents.

Dr Jadva said: “We asked the offspring how they felt at the time they found out about their conception, excluding those that found out before the age of three as they would have been too young to recall their feelings. For all offspring, the most common feeling was curiosity, irrespective of the age at which they found out. However, there were differences according to the age at which they had been told of their conception, with those told during adulthood more likely to report feeling confused, shocked, upset, relieved, numb and angry.”

For instance, 37% of those told when aged 4-11 reported feeling confused, compared to 52% told when aged 12-18, and 69% told when aged over 18. In the respective age groups, 27%, 58% and 75% respectively reported feeling shocked; 16%, 23% and 44% reported feeling upset; 6%, 26% and 38% reported feeling relieved; 6%, 26% and 38% reported feeling numb; and 12%, 13% and 38% reported feeling angry.

Examples of comments made by the participants included:

“I would have appreciated revelation of this information much earlier in my life. Learning of my biological identity at 17 years of age was a traumatic event.” A 30-year-old, found out at age 17.

“I am angry because I asked about being ‘adopted’ several times throughout my childhood and adolescence and told that I was being foolish. I knew.” Someone who found out at age 50

“Either tell your kid from the beginning or don’t tell them at all, it was one of the most shocking and upsetting moments of my life. I felt alone.” A 19-year-old, found out at age 12.

“I was so young I don’t remember feeling much more than interested and curious.” A 13-year-old who found out at age four.

Dr Jadva said: “With regards to how offspring felt towards their mother at the time of finding out, offspring told in adolescence or adulthood were more likely to report feeling angry about being lied to and betrayal. Those told as children were more likely to state that it made no difference to how they felt towards their mother compared to those told later in life.” According to whether they were told between 4-11, 12-18 or over 18, 12%, 29% and 47% respectively felt angry at being lied to, and 12%, 23% and 34% felt betrayal. There were no statistically significant differences in feelings of offspring towards their father at the time of disclosure.

When asked how they felt currently about their conception, the most common response was curiosity, reported by 69% of offspring. There were significant differences for those feeling angry, relieved and shocked, with those told after the age of 18 more likely to report these feelings. By contrast, a 15-year-old, told before the age of three, commented: “I’ve grown up knowing how I was conceived. I’ve always been accepting to it because I never knew any different. Now that I am a little older the only thing that’s changed is that I’m a bit more curious.”

Dr Jadva concluded: “This study shows that age of disclosure is important in determining donor offspring’s feeling about their conception. It appears it is better for children to be told about their donor conception at an early age. This finding is in line with research on adoption, which also shows that children benefit from early disclosure about the circumstances of their birth.

“In light of the trend toward greater openness, it is important we recognise that telling offspring of their conception may evoke a sense of curiosity about their origins which could lead them to seek out their donor relations. In fact, we have found that offspring show high levels of interest in contacting not only their donor, but also their donor siblings. Offspring from this study have gone on to find an average of four donor siblings, with a maximum of 13.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: IVF, Sperm Donor

Time Out Sydney – "Doting Dads" by Andrew Georgiou

However and whenever the calling to be a dad arises, the fact is that gay men make incredibly loving, nurturing and open-minded parents. In this special report, Andrew Georgiou looks at the different roads to gay fatherhood in Australia.

Click on the images to see full size.


Doting Dads

However and whenever the calling to be a dad arises, the fact is that gay men make incredibly loving, nurturing and open-minded parents. In this special report, Andrew Georgiou looks at the different roads to gay fatherhood in Australia.

Parental instincts. Some men are born with them, for others the desire to be a gay dad kicks in later in life. Gay Dads Australia is a national group of gay men who celebrate the joys of fatherhood through online forums, social gatherings and exchange of resources on their website which has been operating for just over five years.

Rodney Cruise, 42, runs the Gay Dads Australia website which boasts over 400 members between NSW and Victoria. While Cruise and his partner 39-year-old Jeff Chiang have experienced the joys of parenting their 15-month-old son Ethan through a surrogacy arrangement they underwent in the United States, Cruise notes that gay dads across the country have fulfilled their dreams of fatherhood through a variety of scenarios.

“We have dads who have become fathers through known donor arrangements, co-parenting agreements, surrogacy and those with children through previous relationships with women”.

Each situation varies, but the fact remains: a greatly loved child is the ultimate outcome.

Surrogacy

Mostly exercised through surrogacy agencies in the United States, this process is proving to be increasingly popular with gay men in Australia with the desire to be full time dads. Surrogacy sees a gay man or gay male couple firstly choosing an egg donor through a clinic and fertilizing that egg with one of the couple’s sperm. With the assistance of a surrogacy agency, the male couple are introduced to a surrogate whom through IVF, will be implanted with the fertilized egg and carry the baby for the couple to full term. The surrogate is in no way linked to the child, leaving the biological father and his partner as the legal parents to raise the child in Australia.

In 2006 Cruise and Chiang were blessed with their first son Ethan through the assistance of US based Surrogacy agency Growing Generations, which has helped over 500 couples become parents. Their affection and connection with their chosen surrogate developed so strongly during her pregnancy with their son, Rodney and Jeff extended their family network to include Kelly into their now 15 month old son Ethan’s life.

“Even though they are in the US and we live here, Kelly and her family are now a part of ours”, says Jeff.

“Women like her, do this because they genuinely want to help people become parents”. Cruise’s partner Jeff comes from a traditional Taiwanese family which has a long history of basing family on geography rather than biology.

“Jeff’s extended family is made up of people who have descended from his parents village who are often not biologically related. When you think about it these were the first alternative families, and Jeff and I continue that tradition by creating our sense of family as loving and devoted fathers to Ethan” says Cruise.

It’s inspiring to see that a traditional Taiwanese culture can embrace the concept of gay parenting, while negative sensationalism perpetuated in the local media can feed intolerance from with Australia’s wider community. While the costs involved in becoming parents reached the $150,000 mark, Rodney and Jeff’s natural paternal instincts will see them extend their family again when the surrogate for their next child is chosen in May.

“The concept of the traditional family is rather outdated,” says Cruise, “the genetic make up of a family is irrelevant to us. We believe a family is about love.”

Known Donor

The flipside to the surrogacy scenario is the known donor situation where a gay male provides the sperm to single lesbian or a lesbian who is partnered. The basis of this arrangement sees the single or coupled lesbians raise the child with any parental rights or responsibility placed on the biological father. Individual arrangements may be made where the father sees the child throughout his or her upbringing, as either an uncle, family friend or even as dad, though the parental rights are reserved exclusively for the lesbian couple. Known donor cases are usually carried without issue as they have taken on a specific role, which takes a step back from the role and responsibilities of raising the child. 39-year-old Allan from Sydney’s inner West is the very proud known donor to nineteen-month-old Zara.

While Allan spends quality time with Zara and enjoys a close friendship with her lesbian parents, he has maintained the agreement, which sees Zara’s mothers as her full time parents. “I’m very close to the girls and Zara and see them every week. My reward for the gift I have given the girls is seeing the immense joy Zara has brought to everyone’s lives, including grandparents,” says Allan.

“I guess I am seen as a satellite figure or even uncle, and that has worked out incredibly well for all of us. All of our friends have been extremely supportive of the situation.” Last month the NSW Government made its long awaited announcement that it would commit to amending laws to give same-sex parents of children conceived through artificial fertilization the right to officially registered the names of both mothers on a child’s birth certificate.

Co-parenting

Sees the single male or gay male couple act as a co-parent, along side a single or couple lesbian. This arrangement may see a child with two mothers and two fathers, which ultimately provides a double dose of devotion and love for the child. “The biggest issue for gay dads in co-parenting is working out a reasonable arrangement with a lesbian couple and maintaining it,” say Gay Dads Australia’s Rodney Cruise. “Often couples may site down prior to the arrangement and figure out who will see the child and when.”

Many Australian children may have four heterosexual parents through divorce and new marriages, the child of four gay parents often grow up with the extended family from birth. Co-parenting may see the child living with either sets of parents on a full or part time basis based upon a mutal agreement between the male and female couples.

Adoption

Adoption ofr gay singles and couples is legal in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands, Australia has failed to catch up to speed. In 2007 a WA couple made Australian history by being the first gay couple granted the right to adopt, however since the landmark ruling no other couples have been allowed to follow suit. Though inter-country adoption between Australian and co-adoption countries such as China exist for heterosexuals, the same rights are not currently extended to gay and lesbian singles or couples wanting to adopt.

Previous relationship

Like countless other gay fathers across Australia, 45-year-old Gregory Duffy, from Sydney’s East has enjoyed the riches of fatherhood through children born out of a previous heterosexual relationship. “I was married, in love and ultimately wanted to start a family and have children of my own,” recalls Duffy.

After the birth of his second daughter, Duffy came to terms with his own sexuality. “I came out to myself toward the end of 1993, and left the marriage when my children Victoria and Georgia were five and two-and-a-half years old. All they really knew was that Dad had left but not for a deeper reason. I did not officially come out to my wife till at least 6 months later.”

“Finally, we began to talk about a whole lot of issues we never touched on before.”

Although Duffy did not come out to his eldest daughter Victoria for another seven years, he recalls his eldest girl struggling with the decision more than his youngest.

“Victoria was quite upset and didn’t fully understand what it was for me to be gay, but after numerous long chats she slowly adjusted and actually felt it was quite cool to have a gay dad!”

Today Greg enjoys a wonderful relationship with Victoria, 19 and Georgina, 16. “Having two beautiful daughters that accept me for who I am and have never judged me for being gay has enriched our relationship. It has been an interesting and emotional journey, but to know I have had their love and support has made the road much easier to travel.”

For more information on Gay Dads Australia and advice on surrogacy go to http://www.gaydadsaustralia.com.

[Link: Original Article]

Relationship and Parent Rights Question & Answer – Jenni Millbank

April 22, 2008 Leave a comment


Jenni Millbank is a Barrister and Professor of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney. Jenni has an extensive background in family law and same-sex relationship recognition.

This is an extract of the advice provided on the GLRL website (www.glrl.org.au)

Please note that this column is information of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice.
*NEW* Questions Answered this Month:

* Both I and my same-sex partner want to migrate from our home country to Australia. Can we do this together as a couple under the skilled migration program?
* The federal government lacks the constitutional power to introduce civil unions (as the power it is granted in the constitution is over “marriage”, “divorce” and “matrimonial causes”). What are some options available to get around this problem?
* Are fertility clinics in NSW and Qld prohibited from providing access to lesbians?
* Is it possible to become a parent through surrogacy in Australia? What is the law with regards to payment to the surrogate mother by the donors?
* What is the age of consent in NSW?

Previously Answered Questions:

Adoption, Surrogacy and Parenting

* Are agreements between donors and mothers binding?
* What is the legal position of known and anonymous donors?
* Is second parent adoption possible in Australia, ie can a lesbian co-mother adopt children born to her partner?
* Would marriage give the right to adopt? Or would civil unions or de facto status do so?
* What is the legal standing of surrogacy in Australia for gay men wanting to be fathers?

Civil Unions and Marriage

* What federal rights available to married and de facto couples are not available to couples under a state-based civil union?
* Do married couples have more rights than de facto couples at federal level?
* Some people are against marriage because historically marriage treated women as property. Are women disadvantaged in any way in modern day marriage?
* What is the difference between relationship registration and civil unions?
* If I register my relationship in Tasmania or have a civil union in the ACT, will that be recognised in federal law – eg for immigration purposes will I be treated as married rather than as interdependent?

De Facto Relationships

* What relationship rights do I have at the moment?
* How is de facto recognition different from marriage or civil unions?
* I read that the De Facto Relationships Act applies 11 tests to determine the legal validity of a de facto relationship, and that typically gay men can only satisfy 4 of these 11 criteria. Is this so?
* How do I prove I am in a de facto relationship?
* Would federal recognition of same-sex couples as de facto relationships take away any of our current rights at state level?
* Would de facto recognition at federal level allow a government that did not like same-sex relationships to ban same-sex relationship recognition, like the marriage ban?

Protecting your Relationship Rights

* What rights do straight couples have that I don’t have?
* What can I do to get legal rights and protection for my relationship now?
* What is a “domestic relationship agreement”?
* How can I enter into a domestic relationship agreement and how much will it cost?

Sex

* What is the age of consent in NSW?

Superannuation

* How do I prove my relationship for superannuation

To find out the answer to these questions and more, visit the GLRL website at http://www.glrl.org.au or click here.

SX – "One State, One Mother" by Jenni Millbank


There’s no reason for New South Wales to be dragging the chain in same-sex parenting rights, writes Jenni Millbank.family-250.jpg

The majority of same-sex families in Australia are formed by lesbian couples having children through assisted conception.

In some families this is with anonymous sperm, while in others it is with the help of a known donor or biological father who is often a gay man.

Men in these arrangements occupy a wide variety of roles, from a ‘donor’ with little or no contact with the child, to an on-going relationship that is friendly and may or may not involve him being called ‘Dad’.

Children in all of these families have two mothers but have the protection and security of a legal relationship with only one parent: the birth mother. These children may also be deprived of a legal relationship with their sister or brother. Even if they have the same biological father but are each born to a different mother in the couple, NSW will not record the children as siblings.

A very simple way to solve this situation is to open up the existing presumption of parental status for heterosexual couples and apply it to lesbian couples.

A man who consents to his female partner conceiving through donor insemination or IVF is the legal father of the child regardless of his lack of genetic connection to the child. This presumption, in existence for more than 30 years in Australian law, renders social fathers the legal fathers of children whom they intended to raise.

A sperm donor, whether known or anonymous is (like an egg donor) not a legal parent.

This rule recognises the importance of children having a legally protected relationship with both of the parents who actually live with and care for them, regardless of genetic connection.

Such parents can then make important medical decisions for their children, can travel with them overseas, and can pass on property to them in the absence of a will. Legal recognition also ensures that both parents are equally placed if they later separate and have a dispute.

The biological connection of one parent in these situations should not be used as a weapon to exclude the other.

Providing automatic recognition to the second female parent in lesbian families should not be seen as something that competes with, or detracts from, the rights of a known donor/biological father.

Firstly, known donors are not legal fathers in Australia, so they do not lose any rights by co-mothers gaining parental status.

Secondly, in the vast majority of families, children live with their mothers and some have a contact relationship with their biological father, which does not necessarily require full parental status.

Furthermore, if biological fathers have, or wish to have, relationships with children, the Family Court has attached great importance to both the social relationship and their biological connection with the child, regardless of the lack of legal parental status.

Legal recognition of lesbian co-mothers is not about devaluing the role of involved gay fathers; rather it is about providing a clear legal support for the primary caregiving unit.

In 2002 Western Australia was the first Australian state to extend a presumption of parentage to lesbian partners, followed by the Northern Territory in 2003 and the ACT in 2004. This parental status will be extended to both female parents in Victorian law later in 2008.

Equivalent reforms have also been in place in South Africa since 2003, New Zealand since 2004 and were introduced in most Canadian provinces from 2002-2006.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission recommended similar provisions for all federal law in their report into same-sex families last year.

Yet last week the NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos announced that NSW will not follow the lead of WA, the ACT, NT and Victoria, and will instead continue to prevent children in lesbian families from having the protection and care of two legal parents.

This stubborn resistance to the tide of change is lamentable: NSW was the first to introduce same-sex couple rights in 1999, don’t let us be the last to pass parenting rights.

Jenni Millbank is a Professor of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney.

[Link: Original Article]