Gay couple denied baby via surrogate challenge law

Utah state Supreme Court Justice Thomas R. Lee questions attorney Edwin Wall who represents a married Utah gay couple that contend that a state law prevents them from from having biological children through surrogacy Tuesday Sept. 12, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune, via AP, Pool)

Attorney Edwin Wall speaks before the state Supreme Court, Tuesday Sept. 12, 2017, in Salt Lake City, for a married Utah gay couple over a law that prevents married gay men from having biological children through surrogacy. A gay couple denied the chance to have a baby using a surrogate challenged a Utah law's reference to heterosexual parents, which illustrates the legal complications LGBT couples can face when starting families amid a national patchwork of surrogacy laws. (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune, via AP, Pool)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A gay couple denied the chance to have a baby using a surrogate challenged a Utah law’s reference to heterosexual parents on Tuesday in a case that illustrates the legal complications LGBT couples can face when starting families amid a national patchwork of surrogacy laws.

The case came before the Utah Supreme Court after a judge refused to approve the couple’s surrogacy agreement. The judge in southern Utah cited references to a mother in the law’s requirement that prospective parents prove a woman can’t have children without health serious risk before they turn to surrogacy.

That discriminates against male same-sex couples who want to start a family, said Edwin Wall, an attorney for the two men who want to remain anonymous.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes won’t stand in the couple’s way. State lawyers didn’t appear before the high court, but said in court documents the law should be read as gender-neutral.

Some state supreme court justices, though, questioned whether that is enough or part of the law should be struck down.

“It seems to me we have to resolve this on constitutional grounds,” said Justice John Pearce. The panel did not immediately rule following the Tuesday hearing.

While LGBT couples still sometimes face legal challenges on parenthood, the Utah case appears unique in barring a pregnancy before it begins, said Susan Sommer with the national gay-rights group Lambda Legal.

Nationwide, surrogacy laws are a patchwork even for heterosexual couples, she said.

“Really, the situation is crying out for better, current up-to-date statues that reflect the reality that people are using gestational carriers,” she said.

The case from southern Utah’s Washington County was first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.

It isn’t the first high-profile case involving lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender parents in Utah.

A lesbian couple successfully sued after the state refused to put both their names on their child’s birth certificate in 2015, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

Later that year, a judge briefly ordered a baby girl removed from another lesbian couple’s foster home so the child could be placed with a heterosexual couple for her well-being. He reversed the decision after a national outcry.

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