A Thai court on Tuesday granted a foreign same-sex couple full custody of their surrogate baby daughter following a legal battle with the mother who refused to hand her over after giving birth.
Manuel Valero, from Spain, and his American husband Gordon Lake were blocked from leaving Thailand with their daughter Carmen after the surrogate declined to sign necessary paperwork following the birth in January 2015.
They accused the mother, Patidta Kusonsrang, of reneging on the surrogacy once she discovered the couple were gay.
The Bangkok court said in a statement that it granted custody to the couple, who live in Spain but have been caring for the 15-month-old in Bangkok, in order to “protect the well-being of the baby”.
“Based on evidence and witness testimonies the judge was convinced that the girl’s custodians took care of her with love”, it said.
“Their homosexuality is not an obstacle to raising the girl and to making her happy like any other child,” the statement added.
A tearful Valero told reporters outside the court that the family would soon return to Spain, where their other child, a son, has spent the past year living with an aunt.
“We are really happy that this nightmare is going to end soon,” he said.
The lengthy custody battle was complicated by recent changes to Thailand’s surrogacy laws and the fact that the kingdom does not legally recognise same-sex marriage.
The surrogate mother Patidta denied in local press interviews when the row surfaced that she refused permission because the couple were gay.
She has since shied away from the media and has yet to explain what motivated her decision.
Thailand for years hosted a thriving yet largely unregulated international surrogacy industry popular with same-sex couples. But a string of scandals in 2014 spurred the military government to ban foreigners from using Thai surrogates.
One high-profile case saw an Australian couple leave behind a child with Down’s syndrome carried by a Thai surrogate but take home his healthy twin sister.
An Australian court said earlier this month that the child was “thriving” in his Thai home and was not abandoned, but rather his surrogate mother wanted to keep him.
In another scandal a Japanese man was controversially found to have fostered at least 15 babies with surrogates in Thailand.
The ban came into force after Carmen was born.
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