It’s been half a year since Baby Carmen was born in Thailand, but aside from the pictures, everything else remains fuzzy.
For biological father Gordon Lake and his partner, Manuel Santos, what started as a legal agreement to have a surrogate baby has evolved into a custody battle.
But one thing remains clear to the American-born Lake.
“Carmen is a U.S. citizen," he said. "She’s biologically my daughter. That’s been proven with a DNA test. The embassy has issued a CRBA, a consular report birth abroad, which certifies her as a U.S. citizen.”
Thailand’s commercial surrogacy industry made headlines last year when a newborn with Down syndrome was left behind by an Australian couple, while they took his healthy twin sister.
Following the negative exposure, the government banned commercial surrogacy. The law came into effect in July.
But the surrogate mother said she wasn’t aware of one fact about the couple.
“If they were a mother and father like a normal parents under Thai culture, I would have no problem being a surrogate for them," said the surrogate, Patida Kusongsang. "If I had known they were a gay couple, I would not have done this for them, because in Thai culture we don't have this kind of status."
The case has been highlighted on Thai social media, with many people offering support to the fathers as the legal case progresses.
“We were invited to petition for our parental rights under Section 56 of the new law, which is a temporary provision that effectively takes the rights away from the surrogate mother and gives the parental right to the intended parents, because that's what was supposed to happen," Lake said. "So in principle, the law has a temporary provision that should help us.”
With a court date set for October, the case could become a key legal test for surrogacy and gay rights in Thailand.