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Gay Couple Win Custody Battle Against Thai Surrogate Mother

FILE - American Gordon Lake, left, and Manuel Santos Valero walk with their baby Carmen at the Central Juvenile and Family Court in Bangkok, Thailand, March 23, 2016.

A Thai court has granted a same-sex couple legal custody of a baby born through a surrogate mother who refused to hand the child over after giving birth.

Tuesday's ruling ends a 15-month old legal battle that began when the surrogate, Patidta Kusolsand, declined to sign the paperwork giving custody of the baby girl to American Gordon Lake and his partner, Spaniard Manuel Santos Valero, when she learned they were gay. Lake and Valero were barred from returning to their home in Spain with the baby, whom they named Carmen.

Valero emerged from the courtroom in tears after the verdict was read, declaring that he and Lake are "really happy that this nightmare is going to end soon."

"We have been here 15 months, trapped in Thailand, and we missed our family and I think it's time to go home," Valero said. " We also miss Alvaro and we miss our family. Carmen will know family, her room, her everything. We are very happy."

Couple also has son

The couple have a toddler son who was born to a surrogate mother in India.

The custody fight was complicated by two factors: Thailand does not legally recognize same-sex marriage, and a new law banning commercial surrogacy, which took effect shortly after baby Carmen was born.

The ban was imposed after a string of high-profile scandals involving foreign parents of surrogate-born babies, including one case in 2014 where an Australian couple was accused of abandoning a baby with his Thai birth mother after he was born with the genetic disorder Down's syndrome.