On this weeknight in the Rudman-McCray household, it’s typical bedlam: two working parents reconnecting with their small children, catching up on their day.
Three-year-old Roman learned about dinosaurs in school; one-year-old Edyn is most interested in everything her big brother does and says.
None of it is taken for granted in this home, after years of uncertainty and the long journey to have their children.
Jason Rudman, who grew up in England, and Alvin McCray, who hails from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, met in 1998 in New York City. Twelve years later, and five years before the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, they tied the knot legally in Connecticut. Both looked forward to having children but wanted to have a biological connection. Surrogacy offered that opportunity.
So with all the requisite legal support, they found an egg donor, used IVF with their own sperm and two different surrogates for their children. Jason is the biological father of one, Alvin of the other.
Surrogacy and same-sex parents
Surrogacy itself is growing in popularity for couples who have trouble conceiving. According to the Reproductive Medicine Institute, the actual number of children born through surrogacy isn’t accurately known. But there is a general estimate that nine children are born through surrogacy each year, in every US state.
But because laws vary from state to state, and how the laws are interpreted can change even from county to county, a plan that can be complicated in any case is inherently more uncertain for a same sex couple.
Cleveland attorney Mary Catherine Barrett, who specializes in surrogacy and adoption, says “the reality is the law has not caught up with technology.” She’s handled hundreds of surrogacy cases over the past 25 years, and says that despite the law being the same for straight or gay couples, “the judges have great discretion as to how they want to implement the laws.”
Rudman said they chose two different surrogates in two different states and adds, “Nothing against the states of Mississippi, Alabama or Arkansas, but a lawyer would not guide you to those states in order to be a same sex couple having a kid.”
Barrett also says it is crucial that parents entering into a surrogacy contract have all possible contingencies buttoned up.
“Who’s going to pay for the birth of the child? What happens if you do amniocentesis and find the child is severely deformed? Do you implant one or two?”
There’s also the matter of getting the names of both parents on the birth certificate. Some judges will allow a pre-birth order permitting this for the intended parents, especially where there is a biological connection. But in Ohio and elsewhere, whoever gives birth is the mother. And if she’s married, her husband is the father – even when there is no biological connection to the child.
“That puts the legal rights of our client in jeopardy sometimes,” Barrett said.
Worth the price
The cost of surrogacy can also be daunting. Barrett said the fees for the surrogate are in the vicinity of $25,000. But the total cost can be considerably more.
When legal fees, medical expenses and other costs are added in, the cost for surrogacy in the US is anywhere between $60,000 and $120,000.
Jason and Alvin moved their family to Cleveland two years ago for Jason’s job at a large financial institution here. They have a happy home.
“The happiness of our home is because, when you think about having kids and you want to have kids – we had to work a little bit harder," Rudman said. "We needed some help along the way. And that in and of itself, the generosity of spirit that helped make these two kids who they are, there is an appreciation. We’re lucky, we’re just incredibly lucky."
But they are also very concerned about the current political climate, and people who would undermine their legal marital rights and all that is conferred with that.
“It’s very easy in this political climate to just ignore them and say, 'I’m going to go around you. I have to keep living my life.'" Rudman said. "'You’re not willing to serve me? Aren’t you in the business of growing your business?'”
“For families like ours to just stand in the truth, you know, and then let those who are not LGBTQ see that picture, and ask themselves, why would I want to tear them apart?" said McCray.