Over the weekend, Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs celebrated their first Fathers' Day as parents with their month-old twin boys, Lucas and Ethan. The celebration was marred, though, as a family court judge recently denied them the legal protections needed for their family.
In many ways, Jason and Joe have the makings of a picture-perfect family. A couple of six years based in Dallas, the two married last year in Washington DC. Since then, they took further steps to make their dream family a reality by connecting with CharLynn, the woman who would become their surrogate. This was her fourth surrogacy, but her first time working with a gay couple, and the three were thrilled to join together.
Jason and Joe each biologically fathered one of the twins, and the boys—who are half-brothers—share an egg donor. The fathers and their boys make up a loving family. However, the state of Texas refuses to acknowledge them as such.
Neither Jason nor Joe are listed as fathers on either of their sons' birth certificates, which the men have not been able to see. They petitioned a judge in Fort Worth to add each of their names to their biological sons' birth certificates and to cross-adopt, or second-parent adopt, the boys. The judge has denied the family both requests.
In Texas, as in 17 other states, the law is "unclear" as to whether LGBT parents can jointly adopt, meaning such family protections vary from judge to judge or county to county. Because Texas does not recognize Jason and Joe's marriage, says the couple, second-parent adoption is much harder to achieve.
GLAAD is working closely with Joe and Jason to ensure their story is heard far and wide, advocating for the protection of LGBT families in Texas and across the country.
"It's astonishing that in our country, in 2014, loving parents can still be denied basic legal protections for their own children," said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "As a gay mother of twins myself, it breaks my heart to think that Joe and Jason's family has now been put in harm's way, simply because they live in a state that refuses to respect their legal marriage. Every parent should be able to protect their own child, regardless of who they love or where they live."
“This case clearly illustrates the concrete harms that LGBTQ families face on a daily basis in states like Texas, which have few protections in place for them," said Family Equality Council Executive Director, Gabriel Blau. “This judge was wrong on moral, ethical, and legal grounds. It is time for judges and others in positions of authority to put the best interests of children first. Judges and lawmakers should stop denying loving, committed families the protections they need to take care of one another. As the patchwork of laws affecting LGBTQ families across this country continue to cause uncertainty, we will continue to push for both legal and lived equality for all families, and we are grateful to Jason and Joe for standing up and telling their story.”
The couple, to whom the extent of the legal rights they have over their babies has not been made clear, are resolved to protect the boys. They are not giving up on getting the state to recognize them as the family they know they are.
The fathers will be interviewed by Michaelangelo Signorile this afternoon at 3:35pm EST/2:35pm CT on SiriusXM Progress 127. Tune in to hear more, in their own words, about their mission to obtain parental protections for their family.
For the latest updates on this story or to learn how you can help, sign up for GLAAD's action alerts email at http://www.glaad.org/connect.