Foreign same-sex couple says fight to bring Carmen home ‘biggest challenge of their lives’

After 15 months fighting to bring their surrogate daughter Carmen back home to Spain, the nightmare is finally over for same-sex couple Gordon Lake and Manuel Santos.

“We will finally relax and be happy. There’s a handful of people in Spain waiting to meet Carmen,” Spaniard Manuel said at the press conference at the Hive Bangkok Friday, holding Carmen in his arms.

After a 15-month legal battle, media appearances, and thousands of social media posts to convince supporters, the petition on to bring Carmen home was officially marked “success” on Friday after a Thai court Tuesday granted sole custody of 15-month-old Carmen to American Gordon Lake, who is her biological father.

The egg came from another Thai donor, and not the surrogate mother Patidta Kusonsrang, who let the couple take Carmen from her at the hospital, but then refused to sign for the child’s passport after she discovered they were gay.

Gordon, who had been in Spain and traveled to the press conference straight from the airport, broke into tears when he saw his baby girl for the first time after their long-awaited victory.

“My baby…” was the first thing he said.

“We knew it was gonna happen at some point, and we’re completely overwhelmed,” Gordon said to the press.

“It’s the biggest challenge that will ever happen in our entire lives, but it was obviously worth it.

Carmen is our daughter. We did what we had to do — taking her home.”

The two men, who are legally married and live in Valencia, Spain, have been caring for Carmen in Bangkok since she was born in January 2015. Their case was complicated by the recent ban of commercial surrogacy in Thailand that came into law after Carmen’s birth and the fact that Thai laws do not recognize same-sex marriage.

While Patidta has 30 days to appeal, the couple can apply for an American passport for Carmen and take her out of the country.

They are currently waiting for the paperwork to process, which means their leaving date has not been determined.

“It can be days or weeks [from now],” Manuel said.

While the two men are excited for Carmen to meet their family, they will soon be back in Thailand for the defamation lawsuit they filed against the surrogate mother and her legal adviser Verutai Maneenuchanert for allegedly calling them “human traffickers”.

“We would never have fathomed that we be called human traffickers,” Gordon said.

In interviews with Bright News and Jor Kao Den television shows, Patidta and Verutai claimed that after the same-sex couple took Carmen away, they left a document at the hospital which allegedly showed the couple were also hiring another Thai surrogate to carry their baby.

“We think it should not go unpunished because, if so, other people will do it. Other people will think it’s okay to say whatever you want about people. That’s not right. That’s why we’ll continue with the lawsuit. It’s the right thing for Thailand.”

A court has accepted their lawsuit and the trial is scheduled for May 25.


Carmen’s future

Carmen, who is still too young to know what her Daddy and Papa have been through, was surrounded by fans and her baby friends at the press conference.

“She’s starting to say sounds. Álvaro is already talking in Spanglish. Carmen is going to be the same way,” Gordon said to Coconuts, referring to their other surrogate son, who was born in India.

He said Carmen is going to learn three languages at a local school in Valencia: English, Spanish, and Valencian, a variety of Catalan spoken in their community.

“We’re thinking about Thai. It’s really hard, but we’d love to take the family to Thai classes,” Gordon said.

Asked if he planned to tell Carmen her story when she grows up, Gordon said the family is going to be completely open about it.

“All she has to do is search herself on Google,” Gordon joked.

The couple vows to continue posting photos of Carmen on social media and let their Thai fans continue to be a part of Carmen’s life.

“Thailand will be our second home forever. We’ll try to pass the love and respect that we have for the people of this country to our children,” Gordon said.

“One thing for sure for Carmen is that she’s a happy little girl, and she’s going to be happier with so many people waiting back in Spain. We don’t know what to expect arriving at the airport.”

Gordon said he’s also working for Manuel to adopt Carmen in the United States so that she will have two legal parents.

“A child doesn’t need a mother and father. A child needs love. It could be from one man, one women, two men or two grandparents,” Gordon said.



Story: Prae Sakaowan/ Photos: Pai Chanikarn

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