By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, Sept 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Oscar-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Dustin Lance Black has called for Britain to lead the way in surrogacy rights for LGBT+ parents after becoming a father himself with husband Tom Daley, Britain's champion diver.
Black said Britain has the chance "to have the best laws in the world" after England, Wales and Scotland in May announced a three-year review of the laws governing surrogacy.
Announcing the review, Nick Hopkins, a Law Commissioner for England and Wales, said: "Our society has moved on from when surrogacy laws were first introduced 30 years ago and, now, they are not fit for purpose."
Black, an American who won an original screenplay Oscar for the 2008 film "Milk", a biographical account of LGBT+ activist Harvey Milk, said there was a need to modernise surrogacy laws as more gay parents sought to have children.
Black and Daley, one of Britain's most high-profile gay couples, arranged for their son Robbie to be born in June in the United States as "the safest place to do this was in California" due its laws protecting the intended parents and surrogates.
"At the end of the day, these children born of surrogacy are wanted. There are no accidental children or unwanted children in this world," Black, 44, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview at his central London office as he nursed Robbie.
Like all surrogate parents, LGBT+ parents at present face medical complications and daunting costs.
But they also face legal hurdles with surrogacy and custody laws differing dramatically from country to country.
Many countries, including Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, and Britain, ban for-profit surrogacy, although they allow some form of surrogacy if no payment is involved. In the United States, the legality of surrogacy is determined by each state.
Gay couples are banned from applying for surrogacy in countries such as Nigeria and Russia.
LGBT+ advocates in Israel - often seen as a bastion of gay rights in the Middle East - took to the streets in July to protest when the government refused to amend a law that would have allowed gay men to have children via surrogacy.
In Britain, it is illegal to pay more than the expenses of a surrogate mother who remains the legal parent of the child until the intended parents go through the process of adoption.
Black said any prospective laws should create a culture in which parents include the surrogate in the life of a child.
He said he and Daley knew from the outset they wanted children, following in the footsteps of a growing number of celebrity gay couples including British musician Elton John, U.S. actor Neil Patrick Harris and Latino pop star Ricky Martin.
Black and Daley, 24, met five years ago at a dinner in Los Angeles thrown by a mutual friend. They married last year at Bovey Castle in Devon, south-west England.
"We started having a conversation about having a family on our first real date," Black said. "And within that first week we had taken a bike ride down in Devon where (Daley's) family lives and we started naming our future family."
However, the couple endured negative press reports when they announced their intention to go for surrogacy and Black said much of this came down to opposition to two gay fathers.
"Sure, there was negativity around (the idea of) surrogacy," Black said. "But if you looked and read deeper into the stories, it was clear that the real animus was against gay fathers."
Black said being criticised by the media showed the importance of shining a light on the process for all prospective parents - gay or straight - through his experience.
"Things have got better (since the birth)," he said. "But once we saw that reaction from the press and online here, Tom and I decided we would be very open about our experience about being gay dads."
It was not a decision taken lightly, Black added.
"But we made it because Robbie has to grow up in this world. We know we're not alone both in terms of heterosexual people who have fertility and health issues or gay people who would like to have families and we would like for their experience to be better than ours was." (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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