Meet the Babymaker 

How one same-sex couple turned its struggle to make a family into a mission

Page 3 of 5

THE NEW NORMAL: Preston is surrounded by a “village” of well-wishers at HippoHopp for his first birthday party. - JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
  • THE NEW NORMAL: Preston is surrounded by a “village” of well-wishers at HippoHopp for his first birthday party.

Part of her confusion had to do with their unspoken relationship roles. Though Thompson prefers the term "androgynous" to the stereotypical "stud," the bow ties and button-downs she wears to Sunday service stand in stark contrast to Allen's preference for high heels and formfitting dresses. As the less effeminate of the two, Thompson says other so-called studs questioned her about her decision to carry. The resulting hormonal changes Thompson faced during pregnancy compounded their role reversal.

"She still dressed like Alana," Allen says, "But she cried like Tonya, and she wanted to be held like Tonya. I had to figure out how to be Alana to her." Thompson, on the other hand, dismisses the dichotomy. "We're all still females," Thompson says. "It opened the doors for the studs to say, 'Hey, if she can have a baby, then I can have a baby."

Allen refers to her partner's "gold-star lesbian" status, meaning one who's never slept with a man, as another reason why getting pregnant the hetero way was a no-go. Plus, they're a monogamous couple in love, and having sex with someone else would have been tantamount to cheating.

The only option, as they saw it, was to find a healthy man willing to donate his sperm for free. That, too, would come with an unforeseen price.

The sperm donor agreements their donor signed are meant to protect both parties. But a January ruling in Kansas, where at-home artificial insemination is also illegal, has exposed how weak such agreements can be in a court of law.

Despite agreeing to terminate his parental rights and responsibilities, a Kansas man is being forced by his state to cough up child support after the same-sex couple he donated sperm to sought welfare assistance for the child. Because the same-sex couple didn't utilize the services of a physician for the artificial insemination, the judge ruled that the sperm donor wasn't entitled to the same legal protections afforded to those who lawfully give through a clinic.

The same thing could happen in Georgia.

It's part of the reason why Atlanta-based family law attorney Kathleen Womack strongly advises her LGBT clients to steer clear of at-home artificial insemination. While she doesn't know of any such cases that have ever been prosecuted in the state, most people considering it don't know it's illegal, she says. When she informs clients that it's a felony, she either doesn't hear back from them or "they rethink their strategy and decide to do it through a clinic."

Another legal protection comes in the form of second-parent adoption, which can enable both partners in a same-sex couple to establish parenthood over their child. Allen still remembers how powerless she was when Preston was born prematurely in the hospital.

"I've got a baby that's fighting for his life and a wife in the room that's cut open. And I'm not legally binded to either one of them; I can't make decisions for either one of these people. And I'm alone," she says. "Nobody in our circle or our community had had a baby, definitely not a preemie baby. It was so difficult."

But obtaining second-parent adoptions for LGBT couples is no cakewalk in Georgia. Even with a termination of parental rights from the donor, the process can be ambiguous from county to county and sometimes even judge to judge. In the end, the legal web in which same-sex couples find themselves entangled amounts to an LGBT tax.

"It costs a lot to be gay," says Womack, who offers estate planning to LGBT couples that covers wills and power of attorney to secure inheritance and health care directives for visitation and decision-making. "All that stuff that [heterosexuals] get free with [their] $50 marriage license, gay couples have to pay a lot of money for."

While there's currently no way around such prohibitive legalities, there are affordable and legal local resources to help couples become pregnant. The nonprofit Feminist Women's Health Center offers fertility and artificial insemination services via private donors supplied by sperm banks for a "far less expensive" price than for-profit clinics, according to Marketing and Communications Manager Jaime Chandra. The clinic started in the '80s to offer an alternative for single women and lesbian couples who "were having problems going to fertility clinics and getting treated because they didn't have a husband," Chandra says. "It was a very uncomfortable space."

Since the Supreme Court's historic decision in 2013 to strike down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), marriage equality may soon become the new normal around the nation. But the decision still concedes power to states, which puts Atlanta in a unique position. According to 2010 census numbers, metro Atlanta's gay population is the nation's fifth highest. Unlike the other four metropolitan areas — Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco/Bay Area, Chicago — Atlanta is the only one located in a state where same-sex marriage still isn't recognized. (Illinois will lift its ban this year.)

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