Gordon Lake and Manuel Santos faced legal fight after surrogate changed her mind when she found out they were gay
A same-sex couple have won a legal battle in Thailand against the surrogate mother who gave birth to their daughter but later refused to sign the paperwork to allow the baby to leave the country when she found out they were gay. The court ruled in favour of Gordon Lake, an American and the biological father of 15-month-old Carmen, and his Spanish husband, Manuel Santos, both 41, on Tuesday.
The surrogate is not biologically related to the baby, there was an anonymous donor. She handed over baby Carmen to Gordon & Manuel, in January but later refused to sign documents to allow the infant to get a passport. And she demanded the baby back.
Since Carmen’s birth in January last year, Lake have lived in a secret location in Thailand, afraid that she would be taken away after the surrogate mother opened legal proceedings. Lake’s husband and their two-year-old son, Álvaro, a surrogate baby born in India, moved back to Spain.
“Yes, we won!” Lake said after the ruling, which granted him legal custody.
“We are just overwhelmed with emotion. We always knew our story would have a happy ending and we just can’t wait for the four of us to be together again.”
Although Thailand does not recognise same-sex marriage, the couple chose the south-east Asian country for its high-quality medical facilities and established surrogacy industry for gay couples. However, a series of high-profile scandals – including one case involving a 24-year-old Japanese businessman who had fathered 16 children, mostly through Thai surrogates – led to a ban on the industry.
Further criticism came after a surrogate baby with Down’s syndrome was left with the Thai surrogate mother even as his parents took his twin sister back to Australia. Carmen was conceived before the commercial surrogacy ban was implemented, so was exempt from the ruling.
Lake said that the surrogate mother “said she thought she was doing this for an ‘ordinary family’ and when she found out that it wasn’t an ordinary family she was worried for Carmen’s wellbeing”.
He said the surrogate had asked several times for him to bring the baby to her.
In March last year, Patidta appeared on Thai TV, hiding her face with a hat and aviator sunglasses and saying she initially felt a moral urge to help a “legitimate married couple”.
The surrogate’s lawyer later said Patidta was not homophobic but instead “will never ever sell her baby for money”.
Lake said he had made it clear to the international surrogacy agency, New Life, that they were a same-sex couple. He criticised the company for not giving the couple enough information when its Bangkok office closed before Carmen was born.
New Life’s co-founder, Mariam Kukunashvili, said that the surrogate knew they were gay parents from the beginning of the process. She added in July that Lake and his husband did not follow New Life’s instructions and the situation had since become unmanageable.