NBC's sitcom, The New Normal tells the story of a well-to-do gay couple that starts a family through a surrogate. The show wants to be sassy (it co-stars NeNe Leakes, an Atlanta 'Real Housewife'), heartwarming (co-stars Georgia King, the surrogate named Goldie, and her wise-beyond-her-years daughter, Bebe Wood, are nothing if not entirely adorable and the objects of our sympathy and affection), and reflective of our post-gay world (Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells play partners David and Bryan who are in love and filled with pre-parental angst, just like every other couple expecting a child). It also shines a bright light onto a legal world where increasing importance is belied by byzantine complexity.
The law of surrogacy -- and, specifically, the law of gay surrogacy -- implicates family law, tax law, and constitutional law. And although these topics may not be at the forefront of the mind of creator Ryan Murphy, his show has the chance to go beyond the admittedly essential task of normalizing gay characters in our public culture. It could show viewers the horrors of everyday discrimination, the ways anti-gay laws stand in the way of love and family, and the irrationality of second-class citizenship.
The pilot starts that project, but it's anyone's guess whether The New Normal will deal with its legal issues (not to mention its social, economic, racial, generational, gender and other issues) with the seriousness they deserve. Still, the pilot raises questions that those of us interested in LGBT family law must explore. To do that, I reached out to my incomparably smart colleague, Richard Vaughn, founder of the International Fertility Law Group and one of the few lawyers in this country focusing on gay surrogacy issues. I recommend you read his blog on these issues, available here. He has lectured extensively (including in my classes) and he and his husband used a surrogate to start a family of their own. Therefore, he can speak to these issues from an intellectual and practical perspective.
AFTER THE JUMP, I analyze The New Normal pilot from a legal perspective, highlight the legal questions it raises, and work with Mr. Vaughn to provide context, answers, and even more questions.
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