News (World)

Gay couple wins custody battle against Thai surrogate mother

BANGKOK (AP) — A same-sex American-Spanish couple won a high-profile custody battle Tuesday against a surrogate mother in Thailand who gave birth to their child but then decided she wanted to keep the baby when she found out they were gay.

Bangkok’s Juvenile and Family Court ruled that the legal guardian of the 15-month-old child, named Carmen, is her American biological father, Gordon Lake, said Lake’s lawyer Rachapol Sirikulchit.

“The court has granted legal custody of Carmen Lake to Gordon Lake, my client, and (said) that my client is her only guardian,” Rachapol said.

Lake and his partner, Spaniard Manuel Santos, both 41, have been stuck in Thailand since launching their legal battle after Carmen was born in January 2015.

Santos emerged from the court smiling and with tears in his eyes.

“We won,” he told reporters. “We are really happy. … This nightmare is going to end soon.”

“After 15 months, Carmen will fly to Spain,” where the couple lives, Santos said.

Rachapol said the couple would not be able to take Carmen out of the country right away pending the possibility of an appeal by the surrogate mother, Patidta Kusolsang. She was not in court and her intentions could not immediately be learned.

Lake and Santos celebrated their legal victory on the “Bringcarmenhome” Facebook page set up to support their custody fight.

“There is no way to express with words what we are feeling!” they posted. “We are crying, our family is crying, our friends are crying, and we are sure all the Thai people who showed their love for us during this time are crying too.”

“Today is a huge day for love, for family and for truth. And it is also a big day for LGBT rights,” said their posting, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

The case was seen as complicated by the fact that Thai law does not recognize same-sex marriages and also by a new law that bans commercial surrogacy, which took effect after Carmen’s birth. Rachapol said the court’s ruling was based on a transitory clause in the law allowing the intended parents of any baby born before the law took effect to request to be the legal parents.

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