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.