How the Recently Passed Michigan Family Protection Act Will Safeguard LGBTQ+ Parents and Families

Democrats dismantle 1988 law that criminalized surrogacy, paving the way for equal legal protections for LGBTQ+ families

Sarah Bricker Hunt

Michigan Democrats have held a “trifecta” of power since late 2022 when the party flipped both chambers of the House and won the governorship and the attorney general seat, but Rep. Samantha Steckloff says the party is still cleaning up from issues left behind by Republicans over the past several decades. It was the state Republican party that criminalized surrogate parenthood here in 1988 — Michigan was the last remaining U.S. state to have such a law on the books until April 1, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of bills focused on reproductive rights into law. 

The Michigan Family Protection Act package addresses several reproductive and parental rights issues impacting LGBTQ+ families and many others across Michigan, primary bill sponsor Steckloff told Pride Source. Steckloff, who was sworn in as a state rep in 2021, focused her election campaign on bringing this kind of legislation to the statehouse floor. “I have been passionate about this for so many years,” she said. “Everyone should have the right to be able to start or grow their family.”

Lt. Gov. Gavin Gilchrist echoed that sentiment, telling Pride Source, "In Michigan, we're committed to expanding opportunities for all, and that means supporting individuals and families as they make their personal decisions."

Openly gay Rep. Jason Hoskins, who authored House Bill 5210, which provides that children born through surrogacy or assisted reproduction are legal children for the purposes of inheritance, told Pride Source late last year when the bills were going through committee, “In a political landscape that can often be cruel, I’m happy to be a part of a positive change so that everybody, including people like you and I, can have a shot at the family of their dreams.”

Steckloff points to many reasons why a couple or individual might access options like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy or adoption — among them, fertility issues and health concerns like the ones she faced in 2015 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I remember the devastating news of my own fertility no longer being my decision, and I started looking into options that hopefully I could have one day,” she recalls. “Like most people do when searching for these types of answers, I went searching and found out surrogacy was illegal in Michigan. I was completely beside myself — it really opened my eyes and it’s why I decided to run for state representative.” 

Because of laws enacted under various Republican-led state legislatures, Steckloff says Michiganders have faced barriers to accessing modern medical advancements that can help people become parents.

“There are so many medical advancements nowadays that allow people to start to grow a family who typically may have never been able to do so," Steckloff said. "We should be celebrating that, and now we can, by changing the way things have always been done in the state of Michigan on this front.” 

Michigan parents have used out-of-state surrogates since the ban on paid surrogacy went into effect in 1988, but as parents and surrogates testified during committee hearings, the practice has been onerous and expensive, with families facing lengthy adoption processes for their own biological children born through surrogacy and assisted reproductive methods like IVF. “Can you imagine having guardianship of children who are legally not yours?” Steckloff pondered. “And for 40 years, no one has been able to fix it because we’ve had a Republican-led legislature. It literally took a trifecta to change a 1988 law that should have never happened.” 

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist pointed to the public testimony of a Michigan mother as an example of what Michigan parents have faced on the road to parenthood here and why Democrats have felt so driven to pass the Family Protection Act. "Tammy Myers fought a long legal battle to adopt her biological twin children who were born via surrogacy," he said. "She then testified in the legislature about how our laws made it too difficult for families to be recognized. That's when we got to work to repeal this outdated law and make sure that all families had an opportunity to be together. Every person can make big change in their government. And we are going to be with them every step of the way to amplify their stories and make sure they're heard."

Of the 72 Republican state legislators, only two — Sens. Mark Huizenga and Jon Bumstead — voted for the bill package. “And either you support families, or you don’t,” Gov. Whitmer said at the signing. “It’s pretty clear there is a dividing line here where Democrats are making it easier for people to decide when and whether to start a family and how they pursue starting a family. Republicans say no to all of that. And it’s incredibly cruel and anti-family.” 

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, responding to criticism in a statement on April 1, claimed Democrats ignored “dangerous pitfalls of commercialized surrogacy that have been banned in other western countries due to the threat of exploitation of women and human trafficking.” In a House floor speech in March, GOP Sen. Thomas Albert said the bills “create whole new paths to parenthood.” 

Anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan, which spearheaded the 1988 effort to ban surrogacy, has been front and center in the current debate, as well. The group takes particular umbrage to a provision that allows for payment to surrogates. “Providing payment for services rendered turns the generous acts of being an altruistic surrogate into a money-making proposition, which in turn creates a market that can and does exploit poor and vulnerable women,” wrote Genevieve Marnon in a Senate committee hearing. Marnon serves as legislative director for the organization.

Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, who wrote House Bill 5214, which allows alleged and intended parents of children born through assisted reproduction or surrogacy to sign a legally binding acknowledgment of parentage, told Pride Source the Act was signed into law at a critical time. “We’re seeing attacks against the LGBTQ+ community, our families and our reproductive rights,” she said. “Ensuring that Michigan provides legal protections not just in terms of ability for LGBTQ+ people to start their families, but also in ensuring the ability of parents to establish custody once their children are born, is of the utmost importance.”

The Family Protection Act includes nine bills, House Bills 5207-5215, aimed at supporting LGBTQ+ legal equality, parents who have grown their families through assisted reproduction and children born through surrogacy or IVF. Specific provisions include:

  • Changes to state laws that have required LGBTQ+ families to go through expensive, lengthy processes to gain legal parental recognition
  • Repealing the ban on paid surrogacy and developing a legally-protected process that protects surrogates legally and requires medical screening
  • Legal protections for children born through surrogacy and assisted reproductive methods like IVF
  • Reducing the costs and streamlining the process of gaining formal parental relationship recognition through the state

Pohutsky said the fact that Michigan had been the last remaining state to have a criminal ban on surrogacy contracts demonstrated “how little previous legislatures cared to bring our laws into modern times and why it is so important to maintain a Democratic majority in the House this November.” 

Rep. Jason Morgan, who authored House Bill 5212, which removes the determination of parentage for children born through assisted reproduction or surrogacy from the Revocation of Paternity Act, told Pride Source the Act ensures LGBTQ+ families receive the legal recognition and security they deserve. “By removing barriers to parentage determination for children born through assisted reproduction or surrogacy, we affirm the principle that every family deserves equal rights and protection under the law — including LGBTQ+ families who have often faced discrimination in forming their families.” 

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist added, "In a time when other states are moving backward, Michigan is moving forward to prioritize the well-being of its people and build a stronger and more inclusive future for all."


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