Friday, November 19, 2010

Courier Mail - “Gay couple first in Queensland to have child under altruistic surrogacy laws” by Sophie Elsworth

Bentley & Matt Harris with Connor

LITTLE Connor Harris doesn't yet realise he's a history-making baby.

The bubbly six-month-old is the first child in Queensland to be born under new surrogacy laws which grant his gay parents legal parentage.

And there's no wiping the smiles off Connor's proud parents, Brisbane couple Bentley and Matt Harris. "We are just so excited, it's been pretty amazing," Matt said.

"When we held Connor for the first time there was a bond instantly, we just started crying. It was very emotional and life changing."

Altruistic surrogacy was decriminalised in Queensland on June 1, after a rare State Parliament conscience vote.

MPs voted 45 to 36 to support surrogacy and allow the legal parentage of the child to be transferred from the birth mother to the intending parents.

Last-minute Opposition amendments to confine surrogacy to married and heterosexual couples failed, although commercial surrogacy remains illegal.

A friend of the couple agreed to be the surrogate mother to Connor.

The married mother-of-two, who does not want to be identified, underwent artificial insemination using Bentley's sperm last year and gave birth to Connor on May 11.

Despite no written agreement being made between Connor's birth mother and his parents until he was born, Brisbane Children's Court Judge Marshall Irwin transferred parentage to Matt and Bentley in September.

While the couple admits there have been sleepless nights, plenty of bottle feeding and lots of nappy changing, they're quick to quash any sceptics who criticise gay parenting.

"I think if you want to be a parent, go for it," Matt said. "I just know there are people out there who aren't going to accept it, but they'll be people out there who will just love it."

The pair wed in a civil ceremony in New Zealand in 2008.

"I think we're (gay couples) slowly getting more rights," Matt said.

"Just when it comes to our superannuation for example, we don't have to worry because we know everything will be left to the other person."

Solicitor Kate Cherry from Colville Johnstone Lawyers, who helped the pair gain full custody and guardianship of Connor, said it was a landmark legal decision for Queensland.

"Because this had never been done before it was literally starting from square one because there was no precedent to follow."

On Connor's birth certificate, Bentley is listed as Connor's father and Matt is listed as his parent.

Matt has taken 12 months leave to look after Connor, while Bentley works full-time.

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