One gay couple's journey to have a baby may affect the way some Americans view the definition of "traditional" families. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation hosted a screening of the new CNN documentary In America: Gary and Tony Have a Baby at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills Wednesday.
The documentary profiles Tony Brown and Gary Spino, New York activists who decided to become parents, using an egg donor and surrogate mother.
CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien, who oversaw the documentary project, said she knew she had to tell the story of families with LGBT parents, whose stories often fly under the radar.
"My job is to do the story as authentically as possible," said O'Brien, who led a panel discussion following the documentary's screening. The panel consisted of gay fathers who discussed their experiences as surrogate or adoptive parents as well as the fact that the issue of gay parenting rarely makes waves when issues like "don't ask, don't tell" and gay marriage get big headlines.
Stuart Miller, CEO of Growing Generations, a large surrogacy company, believes surrogacy is not considered as often by many couples because society does not process a gay couple's desire to raise a child from birth. As someone who deals with surrogates professionally, Miller thinks lack of information leads to a lot of misinformation about options for gay couples, such as the ease of finding an available baby to adopt, both domestically and internationally.
Miller and many of the other panelists believe the myth of a remorseful surrogate mother who wants to keep the baby deters other gay men from pursuing the process. Most of the men on the panel not only remain in contact with their surrogate mothers but have a healthy relationship with them.
"The wonderful part of our story is we're still friends," said documentary subject Brown. "What does it take to write a postcard to the person who gave you family?"
Sometimes surrogacy experiences can give parents more children to love than they could ever expect.
"Finally, on our fifth attempt, we got pregnant with triplets," said television producer Todd Holland, known for his work on Malcolm in the Middle. Holland's partner, actor Scotch Ellis Loring, was also on the panel.
One of the fathers on the panel, GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios, chose to adopt older children with his partner after fostering them. Although problems may arise with children being "legally free" to be adopted, Barrios advocates foster care and adoption as a solution for gay couples to have children.
Barrios was the only father who has older children, and he admits there are challenges for two dads.
"When my son gets made fun of on the baseball diamond, there are no laws to fix it," Barrios said. "It was his own teammates."
Even though his son no longer plays baseball, Barrios says he works on strategies with his children to address intolerance. "I have to remember that they have to 'come out' to friends too," Barrios said.
Living in a New York environment, Brown does not worry about his son dealing with intolerance as much and won't let such possibilities ruin his happiness.
"Right now we're still in the honeymoon phase," Brown said. "The instinct to parent is universal ... it's just love." He and his husband, though not legally married, are both legally fathers of their baby, which is explained further in the documentary.
"Marriage encompasses so much of real equality," Brown said.
Gary and Tony Have a Baby premieres June 24 at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Spino and Brown's story is the newest installment in the CNN series In America, which profiles the experiences of groups in America who do not always have a voice in the media. The series observed black and Latinos in lengthy documentaries but made its newest installment shorter to get a more personal look at the gay experience.