Legal/Social problems with physically helping gays conceive?
April 14, 2006 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Legal/Social ramifications of giving reproductive stuff to a same-sex couple who wishes to conceive?

I happen to be friends with people of all walks of life, and often find myself in the company of people who are gay and lesbian. I have a friend, through my place of employment, who is lesbian and has been in a stable, sanctioned (commitment ceremony) marriage for almost 8 years. They've been very solid, commited, and are very calm with their sexuality.

They have also, earlier, tried to conceive with a sperm bank. However, due to timeing and other issues, were unsucessful. They have wanted to try again over the years, but are unable to for financial concerns.

I know about this due to my friend opening up to me as we were getting to know each other better over lunch. I, without much thought, said "You know, I sure do have a lot of sperm I'm not doing anything with." After we stopped laughing (and I blushing), I recanted a bit - she was flattered at the pseudo-offer, but I let her know I was fairly serious if she needed it. We agreed to talk later if she did, and finished our lunch. (Note: There was zero awkwardness. She seemed really interested, and asked me if I was sure before I again stated I was.)

We haven't talked about it since, and a few weeks ago, I told my wife about the conversation, and I asked her what she thought of the idea, and if they asked, what she would say about it. We talked at length, and came to some serious questions that we couldn't answer.

1) I'm *not* interested in being a father at this point in my life. While I understand that donating sperm makes me a biological contributor to the genetic makup of another human being, it is far from making me a father. But, by the same token, I would only want to have an arms reach relationship with the child. I would also prefer that the child not know I was part of their biological makeup until they were quite a bit older. Is this selfish, and make me a bad candidate for something like this?

2) I would only want to be legally responsible for the child in the death of both parents. (I know that this is an odd turn.) My wife expressed concern that she would be uncomfortable if the original parents, for some reason, did not stay the original parents due to death. I agree. Does this sound fair and right to anyone else?

3) Is this just an overall bad idea? The beauty of sperm banks is the anonymitity of it all, but I also truely want to help my friends get a child if it's truely what they want. I feel like it's such a small thing from me, but such a huge gift to them that it makes me happy just to think about it.

4) While the joy of giving is 99% of my reasoning behind doing this, I would be wrong to not mention that I also feel my genetic makup is supurb, and am slightly convinced to give just so I can help propogate that though the species. I feel guilty for this, though. Am I wrong to feel that way?

Lastly - in regards to concern 1 and 2 - is there a way to legally contractualize all of that? Would I appear crass to, say, require them to legally wed in Mass. and sign this agreement before giving up the seed? Is that even some way to make sure that it holds? Would it be worth the paper it's written on?

Oh, and has anyone else done this? If so, can you tell me what your experience has been and what you'd recommend?

Thanks for any responses. I'd post this non-anonymously, but I really do have to worry about everyone's privacy with this one.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1) My thought is that it makes you a good candidate. I doubt they want a third parent figure in this potential kid's life anymore than you want to be one. In fact, they might think that "arms reach" is still too close, and they may not want the child to know about the biological makeup ever.

2) I doubt they would want you to be legally responsible at all, including in the unlikely event of their deaths. They might have sisters, cousins, brothers, etc. who they would prefer take over raising the kid.

4) Hurrah for feeling good about your genetic makeup. I don't see how this harms anyone.

3) Hard to call if it is a good idea or bad, but I think you are on the right track by thinking it through and raising these questions. Since this is a co-worker, chances are you won't work together forever, and you'll eventually drift apart in life, and that probably makes things easier for everyone in the long run. Perhaps just ask if you can have a "state of the genetic material" annual update phone call/email/holiday card.
posted by mikepop at 12:37 PM on April 14, 2006

Some previous thoughts on giving away your sperm.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:50 PM on April 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Legally, financially, you're on the hook for 18 years, no matter what contracts your sign or deals you make. Unless you're willing to trust this couple with your financial future for the next two decades, you should not do it. (This is determined by state laws, though, not federal).

Anonymous sperm banks exist for a reason. It would be absurd for you to non-anonymously donate sperm.

You would definitely need to talk to a lawyer before doing anything.
posted by delmoi at 1:02 PM on April 14, 2006

"Lastly - in regards to concern 1 and 2 - is there a way to legally contractualize all of that? Would I appear crass to, say, require them to legally wed in Mass. and sign this agreement before giving up the seed? Is that even some way to make sure that it holds? Would it be worth the paper it's written on?"

You need to talk to a lawyer--a member of the bar in your state--about these specific concerns. Regardless of any contract, you could very well wind up liable for child support at any time. This could be hugely expensive.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:09 PM on April 14, 2006

It might be possible for there to be a second-parent adoption which would involve you giving up your parental rights to the baby's other mother (and thus being off the hook support-wise). A lawyer in your state could advise you about that.
posted by amber_dale at 1:22 PM on April 14, 2006

Well, here's a timely article right up your alley (via If you proceed, best to get some legal advice/agreement formalized, just in case.....
posted by Pressed Rat at 1:59 PM on April 14, 2006

Actually,we have an known donor, thanks to AskMe, and we have a contract that that has been tested in court. (Texas) We paid for our donor to consult a lawyer of his choosing, we got our own lawyer, and everyone agrees this contract should be fine. Within thirty days of the child's birth, he has to sign an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest in a Child. Both documents will be filed here in our county. If he had been married we'd have his wife sign the documents as well.

Gays and lesbians who don't live in Mass can't marry there.

On behalf of the couple in question, you and your wife are lovely to consider doing this.

Feel free e-mail me privately if you need more info or you have other questions. There are lots of online resources for those of us looking for a donor, or trying to conceive, but not a lot of places for potental known donors to think through/discuss their choices.
posted by pomegranate at 2:05 PM on April 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Essentially any contract you might sign limiting your support liability is worthless because support payments are owed to the child. The people who know who the father is can out you at anytime. So you are trusting that both of the mothers never violate your agreement even if one was to die or they were to split. Ask around to anyone still bitter about a divorce, it can get messy.
posted by Mitheral at 2:16 PM on April 14, 2006

The fact that they are "unable to [use a sperm bank] for financial concerns" jumped out at me. Kids are expensive, and if they can't get the finances straight for donor sperm, I would worry about the financial strain of raising a child. Now, presumably, they're both adults and can sort this out on their own, but it would make the likelihood of someone coming after you for child support sometime in the future a little higher.

I would be REALLY hesitant to do this unless you know the couple terribly, terribly well and can afford a couple of really competent lawyers (a la the lovely and talented Ms. Pomegranate). Laws involving custody and child support are notoriously counterintuitive and mutable.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:50 PM on April 14, 2006

I wouldn't rule them out because of the financial concerns LittleMissCranky brought up. I have friends who recently got pregnant using a sperm bank and it's pretty expensive. It was definitely a couple thousand to start and then a few hundred each time. And now that they have a baby, it's several thousand for the other mom to adopt.

Perhaps they're trying to cut out some of these fees especially since they've probably already spent a fair amount trying the sperm bank the first time.
posted by jdl at 3:14 PM on April 14, 2006

A three-judge panel said the deal between Joel L. McKiernan and Ivonne V. Ferguson that he would not be obligated for any child support was "on its face" a valid contract, but it was unenforceable due to "legal, equitable and moral principles." Previous state appellate rulings had determined that parents may not bargain away a child's right to support.
posted by exhilaration at 8:47 PM on April 14, 2006

I'm *not* interested in being a father at this point in my life. ... I would only want to have an arms reach relationship with the child.

Just remember that it's a child, a person. Not some concept you might feel more warmly toward later on, if things go that way. If you never have any interest in this child, they will still be out there. Think about how that will make you feel. You don't sound like a bad candidate, but I think your feelings are more complicated than you admit. You have some interest in having a child, it's just distant, and you need to have absolute control over whether you are the "father" or not. You're intrigued by this scenario because it gives you this all-upside, all-options-open avenue for becoming a father. Perhaps you are interested in becoming a father, but these are the only terms under which you'd consider it?

Examine your feelings closely before proceeding. I you really just want to donate sperm to your lesbian friend, you can do that and wash your hands of the child. But it's clear that you have some interest past that point. Doesn't sound like you're very much in touch with what that interest is. Think about is some more.
posted by scarabic at 8:56 PM on April 14, 2006

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