LGBT rights: Gay couple wins custody battle against Thai surrogate mother

A same sex American-Spanish couple won a legal battle for the custody of a baby girl against a Thai surrogate mother yesterday.

A same sex American-Spanish couple has won a legal battle for the custody of a baby girl against a Thai surrogate mother.

The Central Juvenile and Family Court in Thailand ruled that the legal guardian of 15-month-old child, named Carmen Lake, is her American biological father, Gordon Lake.

Lake was not present in the court. Spaniard Manuel Santos, Lake's partner, was in tears after the verdict. He thanked their lawyers and their supporters who supported both of them throughout this case.

In this entire process of surrogation, the egg was from an anonymous donor which was carried by Patidta Kusolsang to the term. This was arranged by agency called New Life.

After Carmen was born, Patidta handed her over to Lake at the hospital. But later she filed a case demanding the custody of the girl child. She claimed that she was not informed that the couple was gay although New Life, claimed all along that Patidta was aware of all the facts.

As a result, Lake and his partner were stuck in Thailand from last January. Carmen was in there care and she could not be issued a passport to leave Thailand.

A number of Thai people supported the couple and helped them in raising a fund of $36,000 (S$48,600) through their Facebook page titled "Bring Carmen Home".

Both Lake and his partner are not from Thailand but they chose Thailand for its high-quality medical facilities and the established surrogacy industry for gay couples. But, due to a series of high-profile surrogacy scandals including a case in which a Japanese man paid a woman to birth to 16 children, the Thai government issued a ban on this industry.

As Carmen was conceived before this surrogacy ban was implemented, this case was exempted.

The case was seen as a very complicated one but now that the foreigner couple has got the custody of their baby girl, they can fly back to their destination soon.

Santos told The Straits Times: "Now we can fly to Spain with Carmen. We don't know when, but it's going to be soon." He also said, "We expected this, because it was so clear that Carmen would have to grow up with us. Because we love her, she is our daughter, and she knows her family. She is really happy with us. And (Ms. Patidta) is not the biological mother."