Becoming a parent as a member of the queer community is often a challenging, expensive process. In Michigan, it can be downright criminal.
Right now, contracting with a surrogate in Michigan is literally a felony, according to the 1988 Surrogate Parenting Act, which was enacted after a paid surrogate who used her own eggs refused to relinquish the child after giving birth, resulting in a drawn-out legal battle with the biological father.
However well-meaning, the criminalization of surrogacy has made the already challenging process of becoming a parent an even more daunting prospect for members of the LGBTQ+ community, for couples experiencing infertility and for anyone who wants to grow their family with the help of a willing surrogate. That’s why the Michigan House passed a bill package on Nov. 9 that is set to make surrogacy contracts legal in the state, aligning Michigan with the majority of the country.
The law states that any surrogacy agreement made in Michigan is null, void and unenforceable and that the surrogate (and their spouse, if there is one) are the legal parents. Gaining parental rights means parties who have hired the surrogate must go through the traditional adoption process or gain approval through a judge.
Representative Samantha Steckloff, a sponsor of the bill package, has been candid about her own fertility struggles following chemotherapy. According to Steckloff, the primary focus of this legislation is on "parentage and protecting our families," ensuring the well-being and recognition of all Michigan's children, regardless of how they enter the world.
State rep and co-sponsor Laurie Pohutsky, who is openly bisexual, told Pride Source that the bill package aims to bring Michigan laws up-to-date with modern technology and medicine and acknowledges that families are created in various ways, including with assisted reproduction. “The package will ensure that families utilizing assisted reproduction, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, have the same rights and protections other families do,” she said.
Rep. Jason Morgan, another openly queer member of the Michigan House and a co-sponsor, said he is proud to have supported the bill package. "Updating Michigan's surrogacy and reproduction laws not only expand family options but champions equality, empowering LGBTQ+ families to build their futures without discrimination," he said. "This package establishes a legal framework for LGBTQ+ families to pursue parenthood and will enable families to make this decision for themselves."
The bills, which passed the House with a 56-53 party-line vote and will head to the Senate next, would permit paid surrogacy contracts and modify birth certificate requirements to automatically include children born through surrogacy as legal heirs for inheritance purposes.
Although the bills faced unified Republican opposition, with concerns raised about turning surrogacy into a for-profit industry, Steckloff told 9 and 10 News that the legislation doesn't mandate payment for surrogacy services. Instead, it provides the option for compensation, emphasizing that Michigan's regulations require surrogates to be at least 21 years old and have had a child before.
Co-sponsor Jason Hoskins notes that Michigan has some of the toughest laws on the books when it comes to surrogacy, statutes that have hurt both gay and straight families over the years. “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,” he said.