Now It Begins: Parenthood for Gay Newlyweds

How the SCOTUS ruling has made it easier for LGBT Texans, like Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs, to start families

Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs exchanged vows in July 2013 for familiar reasons: they were deeply in love and wished to start a family. Nine months later, the couple’s twin sons, Lucas and Ethan, were born (the happy family is pictured above; photo by Ryan Hamilton). Their path to parenthood, however, has not been without obstacles.

The process began smoothly enough. The Plano couple happily matched with a surrogate mother and an egg donor. Then, after marrying in Washington, DC, and holding a much larger ceremony for friends and family in Dallas a few weeks later, they received confirmation of the surrogate’s pregnancy while celebrating their honeymoon. “We were probably the only passengers on our Atlantis gay cruise to learn we were expecting,” Riggs jokes.

We were probably the only passengers on our Atlantis gay cruise to learn we were expecting.

They soon encountered a major legal hurdle, however. A Texas family court judge denied the couple’s attempt to co-adopt the boys, who have the same mother but different dads (Hanna is the biological father of one, and Riggs the biological father of the other). “We held the boys in our arms right there in the courtroom—a happy family,” Hanna says. “We walked out and thought, ‘what just happened?’ It was a total shock.”

They regrouped, found a lawyer with more experience in these matters, and tried again. This time, a different judge approved the adoptions. Yet challenges remain even as the couple again considers expanding their family through surrogacy. Some fertility clinics they’ve contacted refuse to work with gay male couples, and “contracts with surrogates are legally valid in Texas only if the couple is married,” Riggs says.

In this sense, last year’s SCOTUS ruling has made it vastly easier for LGBT Texans to start families. “It shuts the door on one of the arguments that some Texas judges have used to rule against same-sex couples—that they must be married,” Hanna says.

photo by Tony Valadez

For couples interested in surrogacy, Hanna and Riggs recommend networking with others who’ve undergone the process and contacting the Family Equality Council (familyequality.org), which can connect couples with attorneys, LGBTQ parent groups, and other invaluable resources.

One big question to consider is whether to use an agency or work with an independent surrogate. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it. “Every family has its own journey,” Hanna says. “If you don’t use an agency,” Riggs adds, “you can save thousands of dollars, and you’ll be much more hands-on with the surrogate, which can be great. But there can also be a lot of ups and downs.”

Life is definitely on the up for the doting dads. “The boys turned 2 in April,” Hanna says. “We had a big party at the house with a petting zoo and lots of family and friends—we all had a lot of fun.”