Tonight, CNN will introduce viewers to the complicated journey toward parenthood for gay and lesbian couples in the much-anticipated documentary “Gary and Tony Have a Baby.”
The film follows Gary and Tony, a New York couple who were legally married in Canada after being together for 20 years. They have decided to have a baby through surrogacy, and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien is with them at every step in the process.
Last month, Soledad told Change.org that the most shocking part of this process “is the cost and the legal maneuvering that has to be done for Gary and Tony to have a baby,” and she wasn’t kidding. A major theme of the documentary is how complicated the surrogacy process is and how it takes an obscene amount of money, resources, patience and luck. In total, Gary and Tony could spend up to $160,000 to become parents.
The couple finds a woman to donate her eggs, then a different woman to deliver the baby. The latter is one of the most fascinating components of the one-hour special. Cindy and her husband John (not their real names, because they live in a conservative Southern town) are amazingly wonderful people who personally have no qualms about carrying a baby for a gay couple. There is a very interesting juxtaposition of the lives led by the two couples: Cindy and John ride (sans-helmet) on motorcycles to get around and they are using the money from the surrogacy to open their own tattoo parlor, while Gary and Tony are right out of central casting for a 40-something white gay couple from New York. It is great to see so many people from different backgrounds work together to bring a baby into the world.
The documentary does not present a 100% rosy picture of the gay parenting process. Cindy and John don’t feel comfortable telling anyone in their life that they are carrying a baby for a gay couple and the egg donor isn’t allowed to use her last name because her employer is worried about a backlash from her appearing in the documentary. Also, Cindy is quite open about how hard it is to give up the baby after birth and how even though she knows the baby will be raised well by Gary and Tony, she still misses the baby every day — which is probably to be expected.
In my opinion, the most important part of the documentary is that it displays the legal inequities that exist as a direct repercussion of the lack of legal relationship recognition. There are several legal steps before the baby is born, but once the birth occurs, only one parent has a legal relationship to the child and the other parent has to legally adopt the child at a later time — which is possible for Gary and Tony, because they are in New York, but it is not possible everywhere.
Overall, the special showcases an aspect of becoming parents that isn’t spotlighted much, and while there are definitely moments that will irk an LGBT audience, the fact is that a special like this is really for a wider audience and here’s hoping that some hearts, minds and votes are changed by those who turn on CNN tonight.
Photo credit: FLC