Building a family a struggle for gays

Anthony Brown, left, and husband Gary Spino, right, with their son, Nicholas.

It is impossible for gay couples to marry in New York, but it can also be difficult for them to start a family.

West Village resident Anthony Brown spent two years trying to get parental rights over his child, who is the biological son of his husband. Brown, 48, who himself is an attorney who helps gay couples adopt, and his husband, Gary Spino, 48, an office manager, married in Canada in 2005. They wanted children but considered surrogacy too expensive.

Then, a neighboring ill woman who they had taken care of for years died and, surprisingly, left them a stack of cash. “I feel like we kind of won the love lottery,” Brown said.

The money paid for the $160,000 surrogacy process. Using Spino as a biological donor, the couple had Nicholas Christian Brown-Spino, now 19 months old. But the process was an ordeal.

They found an egg donor and then a surrogate who gave birth in North Carolina. Before the baby was born, the two men and the surrogate mom had to sign a legal document agreeing that only Spino would have full parental rights.

But because  North Carolina doesn’t recognize their marriage, Brown had no parental rights over the child.

To legally adopt Christian, Brown needed to pass a criminal background check and have a social worker visit the home.

Only then, finally, were both men able to include their names as parents on the birth certificate.

Even so, the entire process took about two years — something Brown said is a small time frame among the gay couples he knows.

“We were very lucky,” he said.

The Senate challenge

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell — he represents the Upper West Side and is Rosie O’Donnell’s brother — introduced a bill last week to legalize gay marriage. But he and other gay marriage supporters have their work cut out for them: Previous bills have all passed in the Assembly, but in 2009, a same-sex marriage bill failed in the state Senate by a 38-24 vote. And that was a Democrat-led Senate, which now has a Republican majority.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.


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