All it takes to create a loving family is two people who care a great deal for each other, though for some same sex couples the journey to a family of their own in a safe, healthy way and with health care professionals that they can trust may seem just out of reach.
Unlike heterosexual couples who are looking to become parents, those individuals of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual and questioning community face their own unique set of hurdles in starting a family. From societal pressures to those revolving around personal fertility, the road to parenthood can be as long as it is arduous.
Whether gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transsexual, a same-sex couple looking to start a family will likely require a third party or cooperative assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in order to conceive.
For lesbian couples, ART most commonly relies on one partner receiving medically assisted donor sperm insemination. Increasingly, however, couples are turning to in-vitro fertilization so that one partner may donate the eggs and the other gestates the pregnancy, a process which allows for both partners to have a biological connection to the child.
The lesbian couple may choose donor sperm anonymously from a sperm bank, or may turn to family and friends for a donation.
For gay couples, the process is not quite as simple, as they require an egg donor and gestational carrier or surrogate, although either partner can be the sperm donor, often preferring to leave the question of paternity up to chance by providing a mixed sample. While in some cases the woman who carries the baby can also be the genetic mother, gestational surrogacy uses an egg from a separate donor rather than the surrogate.
It’s important to note that Canadian same-sex couples are unique in that, unlike many other countries, they are afforded almost the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to their children. There is fine print here, however, that every same sex couple should be aware of so they can be fully prepared should they encounter any legal situation down the line.
The Children’s Law Reform Act 1990 states, “Any person having an interest may apply to a court for a declaration that a male person is recognized in law to be the father of a child or that a female person is the mother of a child,” which becomes complicated in the matter of same-sex couples who wish to be seen in the eyes of the law as the sole parents of their child. Legally, only two people can register a child’s birth, however, you can wait a minimum of seven days after the registration of the child’s birth to file a petition to change who is legally recognized as the child’s parents.
For a brief but detailed look at same-sex parental registration in Ontario, take a look at this article by Egale.ca.
While in Ontario and B.C. lesbian and gay couples who live together have the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual common law partners, which includes a right to seek spousal maintenance or child maintenance when the relationship ends, in other provinces in Canada no legislation has been passed, so the rights of common law same sex couples have not yet been clarified, though LGBT couples across the country are hoping a new NDP bill will help modernize these outdated regulations.
Unfortunately, there are some countries and cultures in the world that are still not ready or unwilling to accept the rights of same sex couples looking to start a family, and don’t offer the resources and support so sorely needed.
It is our belief, however, that families of all shapes and sizes are a beautiful thing, and we hope to do what we can to make every prospective parent’s dream come true.