This week's cover story features a South Florida same-sex couple who traveled to Panama to start a family through surrogacy. They chose Central America because Florida surrogacy laws require that a couple be legally married -- and Florida does not recognize gay marriage.
Though the state excludes gay couples, it is one of the most legally protective states to straight couples who wish to have children through surrogacy, which means straight couples who do their legal homework often end up at Florida IVF (in vitro fertilization) clinics.
Aliette Carolan, a Miami-based lawyer, says she has seen this phenomenon play out in her practice. "A lot of what we handle is from international [clients] coming in
-- sort of importing, if you will, the surrogacy process... Some people come from Europe; some people come from the Caribbean... and even Canada... We've had people call us from Madrid. It's really anywhere."
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Carolan explains: "Florida is one of the best states to engage in this process because it's codified. The commissioning couple is protected. A gestational surrogate [with no biological relationship to the child] doesn't have a claim to the baby." Laws vary widely from state to state; California, which recognizes gay marriage, is a popular destination for same-sex couples who want to have children through surrogacy.
Carolan says that half of her surrogacy business is people coming from other countries. She speculates that Miami is a popular destination for Spanish-speaking couples, since so many legal and medical professionals (including herself) are bilingual. Though exact numbers are not available, Carolan says, "[The surrogacy business] is growing. I could tell you that."
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