This month’s legal update begins with the latest developments in the case of a German couple struggling to bring their twin children home to Germany after their birth to an Indian surrogate. Although the couple will have to adopt the twin children, they will now be able to bring them home after more than 2 years of legal complications. A new law in Washington, D.C. permitting same-sex couples to enter into valid, legal marriages was passed. Washington, D.C. became the sixth place in the nation to take this step. In another item of interest to homosexuals, Florida has taken yet another small step toward lifting the ban on homosexual adoptions. The Florida Senate has allowed debate on an amendment which would prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Lastly, a Vermont man attempted to set fire to his house in order to obtain funds for his wife’s fertility treatments and a controversy was created by a Virginia infertility clinic that held an educational seminar about egg donation and assisted reproduction in London.
In February’s Legal Update, I discussed a German couple’s struggle to bring their twin babies, born to an Indian surrogate, home to Germany. Surrogacy is illegal in Germany and Germany was refusing to grant the twin children citizenship. On March 17, 2010, the Indian Supreme Court ordered India’s Central Adoption Resources Agency to make an exception and allow the German parents to adopt the twin children in India. Once completed, the adoptions would allow the German couple to bring the twin infants home to Germany. The Court wants the entire adoption process to be finalized within four months and the Agency has been directed to consult with the German government in order to expedite the process. The twin’s father, Jan Balaz, has been fighting this case in the Indian court system for the last two years.
Washington, D.C. will now allow same-sex couples to enter into legal marriages. Adrian M. Fenty, Mayor of the District of Columbia, signed this measure into law in December of last year but, because the District of Columbia is not a state, its laws must undergo review by the U.S. Congress. That review concluded on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 and couples lined up outside the city’s courthouse just after 6 a.m. on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. The law has been hotly contested. In fact, the law survived attempts to block it in the U.S. Congress as well as a request made to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking delay of the law’s passage which was rejected by Chief Justice John Roberts. On average, ten marriage licensed are processed by the District’s office on a typical day. On Wednesday, March 3, 2010, more than 140 couples filed to be married in the District.
Over the last several months, there have been strong indications that Florida is moving toward allowing same-sex couples to adopt. In the last four years, Florida State Senator Nan Rich has repeatedly attempted and failed to pass bills which would abolish Florida’s 33 year old ban on gay adoption. In the meantime, the Florida First District Court of Appeals is expected to issue a decision soon about whether a homosexual Florida man should be allowed to adopt two foster children who he has had in his care for many years.
A small step forward was made recently in the quest to overturn this ban. On March 16, 2010, the Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater allowed Democrats to debate an amendment that would prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Senator Rich commented that although no one expected the debated amendment to pass on that day, it was the first time in four years that there has been any debate on this issue in any official Senate proceeding and 33 years since this issue was debated on the floor of the Senate chamber.
It is no secret that infertility treatments can be tremendously expensive and people can go to extremes to find the means to pay for them. Police in Bennington, Vermont suspect a forty-one year old resident of the town, named Ralph Brown, of setting fire to his own home in order to obtain funding for his wife’s infertility treatments. Police allege that Brown tried to set fire to his home on two occasions. The first attempt took place on Friday morning when Mr. Brown attempted to cross the house’s electrical wires. The second attempt took place the following evening when he tried to set fire to the house with a torch. The house is in Mr. Brown’s wife’s name. Mr. Brown has pled not guilty to arson and other charges. Interestingly, Mr. Brown was a volunteer with the local fire department and assisted in securing fire scenes.
The Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, Virginia stirred controversy in London recently when, in connection with an informational seminar, the clinic offered one of the seminar’s attendees a free ovum donation cycle. The clinic described the offer as a promotion intended to introduce “new options” for people hoping to start a family. Critics of the promotion condemned the apparent raffling off of human eggs. British laws on egg donation are far stricter than those in the U.S. In Britain, women cannot be compensated for egg donation but can be reimbursed for their travel expenses and lost wages. The total reimbursements to a British egg donor cannot exceed 250 pounds, or the equivalent of $384, per donation. Egg donors in the U.S., in contrast, receive significantly higher compensation amounts, sometimes exceeding $10,000.
By: Melissa B. Brisman is an attorney who practices exclusively in the field of reproductive law and is considered by her peers to be a leader in her profession. Ms. Brisman’s experience and qualifications are unparalleled. She employs an experienced and qualified staff of legal and administrative professionals and is licensed to practice law in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Ms. Brisman has a practice, Melissa B. Brisman, Esq., LLC, located in Montvale, New Jersey, offering a full range of legal services in connection with gestational carrier arrangements, ovum, sperm, and embryo donation, and adoption. In addition, Ms. Brisman is sole owner of Reproductive Possibilities, LLC, an agency that facilitates gestational carrier arrangements, and Surrogate Fund Management, LLC, a company that manages escrow in connection with reproductive arrangements.
By: Lauren Murray is an attorney licensed to practice in New York and New Jersey. She is an associate at the firm, Melissa B. Brisman, Esq., LLC, and focuses her practice solely on transactional and litigation work associated with reproductive law. Ms. Murray can be reached at .