It’s not your usual method of attacking gay rights, but Louisiana lawmakers are doing just that in an attempt reform the state’s vague surrogacy laws.
The reform legislation, Senate Bill 162, was introduced by Senator Gary Smith (D-Norco) and is intended to clear up what supporters have called Louisiana’s vague rules on surrogacy in order to make clear those who are eligible, the role of the parties involved and their claims to legal protection.
While under current Louisiana state law, same-sex couples are banned from marrying and therefore adopting children, same-sex couples can at the moment still contract with a surrogate.
In the process of forming Smith’s surrogacy reform, and under intense lobbying from people affiliated with groups like the religious conservative Louisiana Family Forum, a number of changes were made to the bill that essentially means the only people that can avail themselves of surrogacy contracts will be married couples who are able to donate gametes.
That’s because the bill invokes the state’s constitutional amendment and defines marriage only between a man and a woman and would prohibit the unwed from having a state recognized contract with a surrogate.
The bill sailed through the state House, but with what on the surface seems an unusual amendment to the legislation. State House Representative Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, introduced a change to the law that would mean if the Supreme Court of the United States was to overturn DOMA this month or Louisiana’s ban on marriage equality, the surrogacy bill would be overturned in its entirety. Says the amendment:
“If the United States Supreme Court finds that Article XII, Section 15 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 or the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional, the provisions of this Act shall be null, void, and given no effect.”
Hoffmann, a “pro-life” religious conservative who has played his part in destroying reproductive rights in the state, has made it known that his amendment to the bill has little to do with gay marriage and gay parents as such, but the anti-gay intent here is fairly clear.
As Equality Louisiana points out, the amendment is actually very spiteful because even if overturning DOMA did have an effect on Louisiana’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and gay parenting rights (which is, in the short term, highly unlikely), and even if Louisiana’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was struck down, the bill would still ban same-sex couples:
Even forcing Louisiana to recognize same-sex marriage still wouldn’t permit same-sex couples to conceive children with the help of a surrogate under this bill, because of the requirement that both intended parents donate gametes — this would be biologically impossible for a same-sex couple to accomplish.
Smith is now taking the bill to a conference committee, where he wants lawmakers to iron out differences in the bill. One of the first on the chopping block will be the Hoffman amendment, but Smith has said he’ll keep the de facto gay ban.
That the rights of same-sex couples would be so cavalierly thrown around as though they were nothing is absolutely shameful. Louisiana is among the most gay rights-hostile states and this move to shuffle same-sex couples out of any parenting rights whatsoever is just further proof of this.
The bill’s future isn’t necessarily guaranteed, though. Some religious conservatives have objected to the law because surrogacy, as part of the process, can lead to a surplus of embryos, something that does not tally with their so-called pro-life agenda.
Other groups have sounded a note of caution that the gestational surrogacy bill, similar to a law already active in California, could be exploited to create a buyer’s market out of surrogacy. While this is the most alarmist angle, other concerns have been that the bill does not carry adequate or clear protections for the woman acting as a surrogate.
Wider rights groups have also attacked the bill for the fact that it defines away the rights of non-married and single people, and even infertile married couples, from contracting a surrogate by mandating that only married couples who are both able to donate gametes will be eligible.
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