June 24, 2015 at 9:00 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay couple unable to leave Thailand with daughter
Gordon Lake, surrogacy, Thailand, gay news, Washington Blade

Gordon “Bud” Lake and his husband are unable to take their daughter, Carmen Santos Lake, third from left, out of Thailand because her surrogate mother objects to the fact she will be raised by a same-sex couple. (Photo courtesy of Gordon Lake)

A Florida man claims he and his husband are unable to leave Thailand with their infant daughter because the woman who gave birth to her objects to the fact they are a same-sex couple.

Gordon “Bud” Lake told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview on June 9 that he met the surrogate mother in person for the first time the day before his daughter, Carmen Santos Lake, was born in a Bangkok hospital on Jan. 17.

He said he visited her in the subsequent days, and brought his son Álvaro, who was born through a surrogate in India in August 2013, with him. Lake told the Blade that his husband, who is from Spain, did not accompany him.

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

“All seemed to be going well,” wrote Lake in an email to the Blade earlier this month. “Carmen was beautiful, happy and healthy. The surrogate was fully cooperating and I was looking forward to heading home with my family in a matter of weeks, once all the remaining paperwork was finalized.”

Lake told the Blade he first became aware that the surrogate had an issue with the fact that he and his husband are a same-sex couple a few weeks after she gave birth to their daughter.

“She had stated to our lawyer [that] she was fine helping out a couple that had problems that couldn’t have a child on their own and that we weren’t an ordinary family,” Lake told the Blade, recalling the surrogate’s objections. “That’s when I first found out about it. I don’t know if the agency told her before hand.”

Lake told the Blade the surrogate — represented by the Women’s Lawyers Association of Thailand — did not show up for a scheduled meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok where he said she was to have provided him with the necessary paperwork that would have allowed him to leave the country with his daughter. He said the surrogate was also supposed to sign for her American passport.

The surrogate made the first of several appearances in the Thai media on March 3.

Lake told the Blade that the surrogate on March 19 arrived at the Bangkok apartment building in which he and his husband had previously lived. He said they had already moved because their original lawyer told them “she could come and try to take the baby from us.”

Lake said the surrogate and her teenage daughter waited in the lobby for eight hours.

“She asked me to come downstairs and bring the baby,” he said, recalling a conversation he said he had with the surrogate over a Thai social media network. “She wanted to see the baby.”

Lake provided the Blade with a picture he said the surrogate posted to her Facebook page in which she is holding a gun. Four other pictures show guns and bullets.

Lake said the surrogate and her representative earlier this month requested a meeting with him. He told the Blade they asked to “bring her daughter, as they put it.”

“We refused because we don’t trust them at all,” said Lake. “We do think that it is possible if they had the opportunity they would do something to try to take Carmen from us.”

No parental rights under Thai law

A new law that outlaws surrogacy for foreigners in Thailand is scheduled to take effect on July 31.

Current Thai law stipulates that the surrogate has full legal and parental rights to Lake’s daughter, even though he is listed on her birth certificate as her father. Lake said he has also taken a DNA test to prove his paternity.

“I still don’t have any parental rights, according to Thai law,” noted Lake.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok 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 will not issue a U.S. passport for Lake’s daughter until they receive consent from both parents listed on the birth certificate.

Lake told the Blade that he and his husband paid their first lawyer $9,000.

He said they “let him go” after two months because of “little work and little progress” in their case. Lake told the Blade he and his husband later found out that the lawyer was a friend of the father of the woman who is representing their surrogate.

Lake said the second lawyer that he and his husband have hired “is being very productive.”

They have also launched a Fundly page to help offset their legal costs, which he said could amount to more than $25,000 once they go to court. Lake and his husband have also launched a Change.org petition in order to “have international public opinion behind us” during the proceedings.

“We are not going to hide our sexual orientation and we are presenting the case as a married gay couple,” Lake told the Blade. “This isn’t well looked upon there.”

He said he and his husband have learned the surrogate has additional children aside from her teenage daughter.

Lake told the Blade that the woman’s partner to whom she is not married has adult children of his own. He said this man pays her around $900 a month and is “not at all in agreement with her keeping” his daughter.

“It isn’t a really good family situation for a new baby,” said Lake. “We are hoping that a court will see in our favor — a stable loving family environment with gay parents versus a potential volatile and unstable environment.”

‘Challenge of our lifetime’

Lake said the ordeal has taken a toll on his family and his marriage.

“It’s taken a toll on our families that were expecting us to come home with our baby girl after just three or four weeks,” he said. “It’s the challenge of our lifetime to be raising two children, working both of our jobs and also working to try to figure out how we’re going to solve the problem that we’re having. It’s extremely stressful.”

In spite of their ongoing difficulties, Lake told the Blade he remains hopeful that he and his husband will be able to leave Thailand with their daughter.

“We are without a doubt 100 percent coming home with our daughter,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

42 Comments
  • They had a girl.

  • Children from white Westerners are sold on the market for 2-3 million baht. Fact. Our laws concerning the biological children of Americans overseas support child trafficking altogether. even encourage it.

  • Dad & Dad, this does not compute. Leave the kid in Thailand where she belongs.

    • I guess brain is that limited for rational thought.

    • This does not compute???? Why does she belong in Thailand if her biological mother/ egg donor wants nothing to do with her and her biological father does? She should be with her biological father, who does not live in Thailand. The surrogate just did this for money. It’s not her baby.

      • She belongs in Thailand, because the law says she does. They were fully aware of the legal aspects beforehand, that the woman needed to sign over custody or no transfer would happen. They proceeded anyway, most likely to save money from doing it stateside. This is a risk they gambled with and lost. It’s a shame there is a child potentially suffering because of their gamble, but that’s why they should have done it stateside.

  • Should have hid you orientation get the woman’s consent and be yourself outside Thailand, that what everyone else does, TIT buddies

  • Frankly those website ideas by your lawyer will do nothing

  • “We are without a doubt 100 percent coming home with our daughter,” – more like 100% they won’t. This is Thailand and the new law which goes into effect July 31 prohibits surrogacy and was made just to stop this type of happenngs. No court will order her to sign the US permission slip and the US embassy will not try to overule Thai law. In Thailand he has NO paental righjts even if he can prove paternity. If not married to the mother even if listed on birth certificate as the father in Thai law the man has no rights. Thailand is not the US different laws.

  • To go to different countlry and assume that you will have similar laws and similr cultural, religious and other beliefs is what i call stupid. Maybe he should also complain that the food was too spicy for his American taste.

    • But most likely he got schemed. Mixed kids (half-white) are big deal in Thailand. Half of TV celebs there are mixed race.
      If you want to do it right – take surrogate to your home to your country and be safe with local laws.

      • Possibly, but what I think is more likely is that either they knew this was a possibility and proceeded anyway, OR the agency they used did not disclose it. Both situations would have been avoided if using an agency in their home country.

  • If full disclosure was utilized there should have been no problem. it appears as if they tried to pull a fast one and failed. Could they not find a surrogate here in the states? This is what happens when you try and complicate things. I’m sure the cost would have been significantly less, not to mention the hassle and heartache. Their hubris and arrogance has impacted an innocent child’s life. Speaks to a selfish character.

    • Agreed. Many people try to go abroad for the lower costs, but almost always the women are being exploited at best, or kept uninformed at worst. There should be international laws keeping western wealthy people from exploiting poor women abroad.

      And I say that as a gay man with a child via surrogacy.

      • The surrogate is not a “poor woman” nor is she the biological mother. She did this to make money. It’s not her baby.

        • You have no idea if she is poor or not. The reason people go to the “cheaper” countries is to save money. That money is coming from somewhere, and the main area is all the extra people and system in place in the US, Canada, England and other nations where the women site altruism as their main reason, whereas women in India/mexico/thailand cite monetary reasons as their main motivation.

          If they had used a US surrogate, the chances the woman didn’t know they were a gay couple are nearly zero. This whole situation would be avoided.

      • Hi Ben,
        I hope you will take the time to consider some of the facts instead of rushing to judgement. Our surrogate is economically stable. She has a job and a steady income. She didn’t want to become a surrogate for money. How much do you know about Bangkok? Do you know their unemployment rate is only at 1%? This is not a third-world country. People have rights. When we came to Thailand, surrogacy was legal. Now we are caught in the middle of the country transitioning. We thought the agency informed the surrogate we were a gay couple, and we didn’t expect the surrogate to have a problem with it. Many Americans become surrogates for altruistic reasons as well. I understand your concern about her welfare, but in this instance, the surrogate who gave birth to Carmen had full agency.

        • I’m not rushing to judge. I’ve been there, and done that. Another human being carried our son for us, I’m half of a married gay couple. I understand 100% the situation.

          I painted a bit of a broad brush in trying to be brief lumping Thailand in with Mexico/India/Nepal, but the fact remains that the cut-rate countries sacrifice something to make those lower price points, and in this case it was not making sure the surrogate was vetted.

          In addition, I honestly cannot imagine asking another human to bear the health risk for pregnancy for my family’s desires without actually knowing her well enough that she understands I’m a gay man. It sounds like you treated her like a rent-a-womb. Money goes in, baby comes out. In addition to feeling like I have a new family member and best friend in our surrogate, we have/had custody of our surrogates offspring if something should happen to her, because we realize that childbirth can carry a legitimate health risk, especially the more births a woman has had.

          In addition we wanted it to be more than just an exchange of money (in our situation it was altruistic surrogacy, but I’m not apposed to transferring money), because it’s a really intense thing to ask of a person. I’d want to at least have a friendly relationship with a person, enough to know for absolute sure she isn’t being exploited, the risks glossed over, or me and my husband’s life and parenting style understood. If the agency didn’t explain you’re a gay couple, what else might they have skipped over? Health risks? Maybe payouts to her aren’t what they said? Are they telling you she’s better off financially than she is? Can you be certain the contract was fully translated to her native language and gone over with someone available to answer questions?

          Surrogacy is a situation that is rife with moral perils, it is paramount that anyone deciding to engage in it be as informed as possible, and engaged in everyone, from the doctors to the egg donor (if there is one) to the surrogate, and not just her stats on paper, but *her* the living being with a personality, life, and desires of her own, who is deciding (whether it’s money or altruism or a blend of the two) to help one form a family.

          • And that’s not to say I am not sympathetic, believe me I am. As we were playing with our son last night, thinking more about this case, we would have been heartbroken if his birth mother had changed her mind and he wasn’t ours to raise. But that is why we made sure as much as possible, to know her before we even started, that that situation would never happen.

  • To be blunt, I don’t see this as a gay rights issue at all; it’s an “rich, arrogant Americans think they’re above the laws of other countries” issue. These men are in Thailand disputing the custody of a Thai child in a situation where Thai law clearly states they have no legal standing, and they’re trying to drum up moral support for their cause by demonizing the child’s mother for daring to say no to rich white Americans.

    • The surrogate is not the biological mother. She did this to make money. She is certainly not being exploited.

      • So any time a person is paid, they cannot be exploited? The children sewing Nike shoes are getting paid something, guess they aren’t be exploited and no intervention is necessary.

        • The surrogate mother is not being exploited. I’d say the biological father is. She entered a business deal and is now going back on her word because she doesn’t like same sex couples.

          • Exploitation implies duress. While the desire to have children is real, there was no duress forcing them to go to Thailand to do it. If she was now demanding money or something else in order to finally sign, sure, I’ll say the couple is being exploited, but there is no information pointing to that happening. A couple traveling from the US, with the money to pay for a multiple tens of thousand dollar surrogacy arrangement, already with one child, is statistically unlikely to have any basic human needs forcing them into a financial arrangement. The reverse in many nations allowing commercial surrogacy is not comparable. If the choice is between not being able to support oneself or family, or risking your health to carry a child, it’s very likely duress and exploitation is involved in some way.

            It seems from other information from the father’s, that if they are to be believed, she is middle class and has work, so it’s unlikely this particular woman was exploited, but a single case doesn’t prove a rule. We need international surrogacy laws to ensure women in poorer nations are not being taken advantage of or exploited.

            And no contract can over rule national law. The nation’s law says that before everything is finalized, she has to sign over custody. If she doesn’t, it’s not legal. A contract entered into to sell her own kidneys can no more be enforced than this one, against her wishes.

            It’s very likely her decision is motivated by anti-gay animus, that doesn’t overrule her rights or the laws of the nation regarding custody. Her reasons would have ruled her out as a potential surrogate if the couple had gotten to know her in a level that a surrogacy arrangement should necessitate.

      • The surrogate mother is the mother. The laws in Thailand are clear. If you do not respect the law of the land then stay away. Quite simple.

    • agreed there are hundreds of thousands of children waiting to be adopted all around the world. They have gone to India and now Thailand for surrogates. PLEASE

      • There is nothing wrong with wanting a biological child. I certainly do! PLEASE!

      • You are mixing arguments. Do you guilt trip every straight couple you know about adoption when they tell you that they are expecting?

        That’s ignoring that many countries make it illegal or incredibly difficult for gay couples to adopt.

        The problem is not that they went the route of surrogacy, the problem is that they went across the world to another country, and failed to create a relationship with the woman risking her health to help them have a child.

    • “rich, arrogant Americans think they’re above the laws of other countries”??? Do you know this couple to make such a statement? And regarding custody, that surrogate has as much biological ties to that baby as I do. On the other hand one of the men does and is the biological father. The surrogate is being frivolous.. She had no problems accepting the money and carrying the baby and now back pedals? That is just insane! She should have thought about what she was doing before going into this.

  • It sounds to me like they tried to hide they’re gay couple status I am from US but when iam in Thailand I support Thailand’s laws and rights

  • They should have made it clear in the beginning that they are a gay couple. Very unfair to the surrogate mother who may have been mislead into participating in something she disapproves of.

  • I do not agree with going to third world countries and buying babies. Adopt or find a surrogate who isn’t living in poverty dependent on gay men’s money to survive.

  • So the woman who bore the child for nine months is just a “womb for rent” without any right to have her own feelings in this matter?

  • I know Bud and his husband personally and am horrified by the comments here. They would never have become involved with the agency they did in Thailand if they thought something like this would happen. They are not “rich, arrogant Americans” who treated anyone like a rent-a-womb. They worked through what they thought was a reputable agency. They are wonderful parents to their son and have provided stability, safety, and love to baby Carmen since the moment she was born. Taking her away from them at this point would be detrimental. There’s no tragic, loving, exploited mother in this story — there is a misinformed surrogate (with NO biological relationship to the baby) who should never have been put in a position so against her personal views, and a couple who walked into a situation that they couldn’t have foreseen. I fully blame the agency they worked with. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about foreign surrogacy but in this case what’s best for the baby is staying with the loving parents who uprooted their lives to bring her into the world. And the “law of the land” was actually different when they started this process — they didn’t go into this situation with the expectation of flouting any Thai laws. Please think about how you would feel in this situation as a parent. You would do anything you could to fight for your child.

    • One can be sympathetic while still having something to say. Money should never ever trump a person’s health, and writing a law that says a contract must be honored no matter what, that involves health risk, is a very slippery slope. That is what for-profit surrogacy involves. That is why it is imperative to do as much research as possible.

      I don’t think *they* specifically are arrogant, but to not know enough about the surrogate to reach post birth without her knowing they are a gay couple definitely is a problem. That woman, regardless of her anti-gay animus or putting it ahead of the child’s best interests, just literally risked her life for them. There should never be a case where a surrogacy is undertaken where the woman carrying the child and the intended parents don’t have a relationship at least close enough to know something that big. To be otherwise that disconnected is indeed toeing the boundary of treating her as a “rent a womb”.

      There needs to be international surrogacy laws. There needs to be a way to ensure, every time, that the women are not exploited or treated as rent a wombs, to ensure they aren’t kept in the dark about the intended parents, about their health risks, about their compensation or legal rights in the event of changes or complications. That is currently not the case, as evidence by the fact she apparently didn’t know they were a gay couple til the end. Is that not a problem? With stricter laws, or the couple being more proactive about ensuring the woman knew them (the least they could do, imo) this situation would never have happened.

      I can simultaneously sympathize, want the child to be raised by them, be pro surrogacy, while still thinking that the current way people engage in surrogacy needs a major overhaul to prevent problematic situations like this in the future.

      • I don’t know how a better system would look, but when all that happens is that a couple picks a photo and a list of statistics and writes a check, that is a slippery slope to commodifying women’s bodies, yet again.

        There should be some kind of enforced sit down or arbitration, at the very least. So that the couple knows more about the birth mother, and the birth mother knows more about the couple. Anything else is unacceptable.

    • Thanks Sophie. I lived in Thailand for 5 years and I know the surrogate is either motivated by money and/or drama. Many Thais have ethical standards. Others will get their advice from lawyers and friends that promise them a fortune if they hold the baby hostage for more cash.

      A deal is a deal. They should be able to get their baby and go home to America. Bud is the victim in this, not the segregate. Unfortunately, Thai law alone may not bring about justice, although I hope it does for the sake of the baby and the gay parents.

    • Absolutely right ( i am from Thailand ) and i support them both to get little Carmen home . And most of Thai people are supporting them in any ways too. Legal adviser ( surrogate mom ‘s adviser ) focus on the human trafficking point ,
      But nowadays we know that the surrogate mom wanna have half-caste baby and she has been planning for long time ago before baby Carmen was born ( followed her face book account ).
      As i m a Thai woman , in fact i should support the surrogate (Thai woman like me ) if she was right to be Carmen biologically mother and Mr. Lake is human trafficking .But i am at Carmen ‘s parents side because i know they really love and wanna have a baby ( i follow their face book & twitter ) .
      I am the one of 130,000 names that was passed to Thailand government for supporting them to bring Carmen home .

  • Jason Carter Hatcher-Levinger

    I cannot believe all the bile being spewed in these comments. Shame on you, you narcissist Monday-morning quarterbacks, for throwing a gay family under the bus while they are already suffering a traumatic and heartbreaking nightmare of a situation. I’ve been through the surrogacy process in Bangkok and I am a lawyer. Stop relying on Hollywood stereotypes of rich-country-versus-poor-country blah blah blah because frankly, your facts and assumptions are bullshit. The woman wants cash and fame and sympathy. None of you know what you’re talking about. Put yourself in this family’s shoes and show a little compassion. Get a life. And if you must shove your pseudo-intellectual two cents somewhere, how about some words of encouragement? Or some empathy, at the very least? Assholes.

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