An upcoming docuseries from HBO recounts the story of the landmark lawsuit between a lesbian couple and their sperm donor over rights to their child that would change the way gay families were perceived forever.
Award-winning filmmaker Ry Russo-Young (Before I Fall) turns the camera on herself to tell the story of how her idyllic childhood was impacted by an unexpected lawsuit that sent shockwaves through her family — and continues to impact them today — in Nuclear Family.
It all begins with a love story. In 1979, same-sex couple Sandra Russo and Robin Young fell in love and decided to start a family, something that was practically unheard of at the time. Sperm banks wouldn’t serve lesbian couples, so Young and Sandra Russo each gave birth to a daughter with the help of different sperm donors: gay men living in Northern California whom they met through mutual friends. While the children, Ry and Cade, were told growing up they didn’t have fathers, but rather men who “helped make them,” they were still a part of both of the girls’ lives, and they would visit the donors a few times a year. However, a few years later, as relationships became more strained with one of the donors, Tom Steel, they wound up in court. Steel sued Ry’s moms for paternity and visitation rights.
Suddenly, the family that was born out of queer counter-culture was confronted by the mainstream court system — which historically honored biology and frequently resulted in lesbians losing custody of their children. For the Russo-Young family, the court case represented an existential threat.
Told through a combination of interviews, news coverage, and home videos, Nuclear Family is an intimate, raw, suspenseful, and often funny deep dive into an important moment in LGBTQ+ history. The three-part documentary series debuts on HBO on Sept. 26.
Watch the teaser trailer below.