Gay couple win Thai surrogate custody battle

A kathoey or transgender Thai on Soi Bangla in Phuket. Thailand is generally extremely tolerant. Source: Flickr

A gay couple from the USA have won an appeal for parental rights over a baby born through a surrogate mother in Thailand in a case that began before Bangkok banned commercial surrogacy in 2015.

The legislation became law last July to ban “rent-a-womb” tourism following a series of high-profile surrogacy cases involving foreigners. The most controversial case involved an Australian couple who in 2014 abandoned their Down’s syndrome baby with his birth mother in Thailand while taking his twin sister. Another case involved a 24-year-old Japanese businessman who fathered 16 children, mostly through Thai surrogates.

Thailand had been a popular destination for surrogacy partly because of the lower prices asked and because of the lack of regulations. It also has high-quality, private medical services and an established surrogacy industry for gay couples.

US citizen Gordon Lake and his Spanish husband, Manuel Santos, both 41, arranged for their baby, called Carmen who is now 15 months, to be born through a Thai mother before the Thai ban on commercial surrogacy took effect.

But when surrogate mother Patidta Kusolsand found out the couple were gay she refused to grant parental rights to the couple, leaving them forced to remain in Thailand with their daughter.

Lake said last year that Patidta “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 Patidta asked repeatedly for them to return Carmen.

In March 2015, Patidta appeared on Thai television, hiding her face with a hat and sunglasses, and said she had felt a moral urge to help a “legitimate married couple”.

In an attempt to clarify her concerns, Patidta’s lawyer said she was not homophobic but instead “will never ever sell her baby for money”.

Santos told the media outside Bangkok’s family court said they would head first to Spain.

“This nightmare is going to end soon,” a tearful Santos announced. “Carmen will be with us in our home.”

The pair have a son, Alvaro, who was born through an Indian surrogate mother three years ago but India’s regulations have subsequently changed.