Local, same-sex parents talk about starting and raising families in New Orleans.
David and David
Five-year-old Truman attends a charter school in New Orleans where he is well-liked. While he does not know the actual concept of gay versus heterosexual, he does understand that his family is different.
“He will ask us if that’s a mommy-daddy family or a daddy-daddy family,” says his father, David Favret. “He will also tell complete strangers that he comes from a modern family, one with a papa and a daddy.”
The creation of that family involved the assistance of extended family and a gestational surrogate in California.
Favret and David McElveen had been together for almost 16 years when they decided they wanted a child. Their first gestational surrogate in Nebraska did not work out; their second was the one in California.
Gestational surrogacy involves an embryo grown in a test tube and then implanted into the surrogate’s uterus. McElveen’s sister volunteered to donate her egg while Favret’s sperm was used. The implantation into their surrogate was successful; nine months later she delivered their healthy baby boy through an emergency cesarean.
“We were able to see everything that was going on through the glass window,” says Favret of the birth. “The head nurse, who seemed to take a liking to us, narrated the entire scenario.”
Raising Truman as a gay couple in New Orleans has garnered little negative reaction for them, the fathers say. Favret adds that their son has told them that one of his classmates declared that it “wasn’t fair” that he had two dads.
“There has been no backlash to us being a gay couple or gay parents,” says Favret. “Heterosexual couples have bonded with us because we have become just like them—parents.”
Leslie and Kellie
Leslie McMichael and Kellie Kennedy have a blended family. Leslie had previously been in a heterosexual marriage in which she had two daughters: Molly, now 12, and Macy, now 13. When Leslie and Kellie became partners five years ago, they knew they wanted to experience parenthood together. And Leslie wanted Kellie to carry the child.
“Here I am, a mom of two, and I am thinking of the dynamics of what being pregnant did for me,” she says. “Parenting is very selfless and it changes your life. [Being pregnant] is a good time to learn about being a mom.”
The women decided to use an anonymous spermdonor. The couple was able to look at photos of all of the donors and found someone who had a strong resemblance to Kellie. She became pregnant on their first try at home. After a relatively uneventful pregnancy, their daughter Raleigh, now two, was born.
Because she was once in a “traditional” family, Leslie knows first-hand the differences between being in a heterosexual relationship with children versus parenting as a same-sex couple. She explains that she and Kellie are “not pigeon-holed” into stereotypical roles of a dad and a mom.
“We are constantly re-defining ourselves as we go and we feel like this gives our children a broader scope of life in that not everything looks the same.”
Although Raleigh has some strong male role models through her extended-family, both moms do have some concerns about there being a lack of a father figure in their daughter’s life.
“Raleigh will pick up her play phone sometimes and talk to ‘daddy,’” says Leslie. “It does make me nervous that she will come home one day and ask where her dad is.”
Leslie adds that when the day comes that Raleigh wants to know more about her biological father, they will do everything they can to assist her. “We mostly worry about her feeling great about who she is and where she was conceived from: two moms, two sisters and a family who could not wait for her to be here and couldn’t love her more.”
Nick and Andrew
Recently, as Dr. Nicholas “Nick” Van Sickles and his partner, Andrew Bond, finished dinner at a restaurant in Uptown, a stranger outside screamed a gay slur at them; Nick was holding their two-year-old daughter at the time.
“It was very frightening. You worry that your child will be discriminated against because people do not agree with us,” says Nick.
Nick and Andrew’s efforts to have their daughter Jules were free of discrimination or even difficulties. They hired an adoption lawyer who found them a birth mother with whom the two men bonded right from the start.
“The actual adoption process was wonderful,” says Nick “We met a very nice woman [the birth mother] and we have a lot of respect for her. We share pictures with her every several months.”
Nick says that two men raising a girl can be a little tricky, especially when it comes to dealing with puberty, menstruation and even long hair. They do have a lot of women in their life that can help: friends, mothers and sisters. Some of the women at Jules’ daycare have even commented that they did not dress her “girlie” enough. “I don’t understand how that could be, as I look into her drawer and all I see is pink,” says Nick.
Not girlie enough is okay with Andrew, who feels there is a lot more positive being handed down to Jules because they are a gay couple. “Men are trained to be confident and aggressive and to challenge and question others,” he says. “By nature of who we are, we expose her to these things and to a diverse community. We can give her a different way to look at her sexuality.”
Tracy and Manette
When pregnant with her twin girls, Tracy Breaux was put on bedrest for 17 weeks. Because Louisiana does not legally recognize same-sex couples, Tracy did not qualify for FMLA assistance. Partner Manette Millet’s co-workers pooled all of their unused vacation time and used it to help alleviate the ensuing financial burden.
It’s a testament to how much their family has been accepted—and loved—by those around them.
Prior to her bedrest, Tracy had undergone nearly 20 failed cycles of painful fertility treatments and a miscarriage; she and Manette had also successfully adopted two sons, one internationally and the other domestically.
The entire international adoption process took nine months; they brought home a six-month-old boy whom they named Madden.
“He has struggled some,” says Tracy of Madden, now nine. “But he is my little warrior. He is an extraordinary child.”
When Madden turned two, the moms decided to add to their family. Tracy underwent more fertility treatments—becoming pregnant but miscarrying—while also trying to adopt a newborn domestically. They encountered no stigma as a same-sex couple when adopting Madden; however, their domestic adoption agency continually implied that a mother would not choose them because of their sexual orientation.
“It was scary,” says Tracy. “We were waiting for someone to find us worthy enough.”
When finally they were matched with a mom, Tracy backed out because she felt like something was amiss. Later, a new birth mom was lined up and after meeting her, they knew it was right.
The birth mom went into labor at 35 weeks and had an emergency c-section. The baby boy was rushed to the NICU.
Tracy recounts meeting her child: “The moment that I walked into the NICU, I felt like I knew him. The smel
l of him was right.”
After five days, the birth mother terminated her rights and closed the adoption, meaning that she would have no contact with the child in the future. The moms named their baby Myles and took him home after nearly three weeks in the hospital.
Tracy stayed busy at home taking care of Madden and Myles, now five; however, she longed to have a girl as well. While all of her past fertility treatments had been painful, she felt like they were at least more manageable than what they had gone through while adopting Myles. She became pregnant with her twin girls, Cecilia and Harper, through an anonymous donor; she delivered the healthy, full-term babies three years ago.
Despite the support of many, Tracy says that there are “pre-conceived notions” that their children are “damaged or emotionally defective” because they are being raised by a same-sex couple. During Madden’s third birthday party at their home, one of the parents remarked with surprise, “Why, your house is just like everyone else’s house!”
Q&A about Same-Sex Parental Rights in New Orleans
Delaney and Robb, Attorneys at Law, is one of the first law firms in Louisiana to cater toward LGBT families, focusing on family law and estate planning.
NBF: What, if any, are the legal rights of the non-adopting/non-biological parent?
Ryan Delaney: Adoption in Louisiana is allowed for a married couple or a single person, but not for a same-sex couple. There are no rights that the non-adopting parent has to the child. There is a legal means called ‘second parent adoption,’ which is not barred in Louisiana but there really is no law either way. You would need to build a case that getting a second parent adoption is truly in the best interest of the child; one way to do that would be to develop a co-parent agreement between the same-sex couple—it’s not necessarily enforceable, but it is something in writing that they can show to the judge.
NBF: What’s another way that same-sex couples can protect their children and their rights to them?
Brandon Robb: [Providing] in their will that if something were to happen to them they can name their surviving partner as the legal tutor of the child and then the surviving partner can go to court and be confirmed in that capacity.
NBF: What is the current state of surrogacy in Louisiana?
Robb: It is much easier for couples to have an out-of-state surrogate and then go through an adoption proceeding elsewhere. Louisiana law always regards the birth mother as that child’s mother.
NBF: What are the biggest legal challenges for same-sex families?
Delaney: The lack of marriage recognition here. You can go and get married in one of the 13 places that do allow for it and come back here, and you are back to where you started.
Resources for same-sex couples
Delaney & Robb, Attorneys at Law
2800 Veterans Blvd., Ste. 213, Metairie, 504.267.9700, delaneyandrobb.com
Forum For Equality Louisiana
336 Lafayette St., Ste. 200, New Orleans, 504.569.9156, forumforequality.org
Lesbian Moms Group of Greater New Orleans (LMNO)
504.822.3476 or 985.290.9788
Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans
2114 Decatur St., New Orleans, 504.945.1103