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The lawyer upholding LGBTQ+ rights to parentage

Words by Tess Becker

In public discussions about LGBTQ+ rights, certain questions dominate. Are same-sex couples allowed an equal opportunity at marriage? Are people allowed to transition into a body that better suits the person they are inside? How do we tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender?

The outcomes of such debates are incredibly important for the betterment and safety of queer people. But while some topics take center stage, others are left by the proverbial wayside. For example, what happens when a lesbian couple with a child through fertilization splits up? If one mother isn't genetically related to the child and hasn't applied for adoption, they risk being denied legal status as a parent. 

Luckily, one woman is working to address such questions about the law around queer rights. Formation attorney Janene Oleaga handles legal issues that arise when people are trying to grow their families through methods such as surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation on occasion, Prenuptial agreements, or embryo disposition agreements. This leads to discussions about legal parentage - as experienced by the aforementioned lesbian couple. 

Janene mostly works with LGBTQ+ individuals and as a result, she’s helped pass family protection laws in states including Maine. 

“[The bill] makes confirmatory adoptions for all couples but predominantly lesbian couples a lot easier,” she tells Smiley News. “So if a lesbian couple has a child together with the assistance of a sperm donor, the process for making sure they're both legal parents in Maine is now significantly easier and less expensive.”

She says the work brings a lot of joy because many LGBTQ+ couples or individuals don't expect to have the opportunity to have children without adopting.

Her work has far-reaching benefits with queer parents from around the world coming to have children because surrogacy is illegal where they live. 

“They come to the US to work with surrogates. Right now I have a number of gay couples in France and a few in Israel, who are so thrilled to be able to have genetic kids,” Janene says.

She enjoys the opportunity to help people through her work and advance LGBTQ+ rights more broadly.

“I also love all the advocacy work that has come up in this space because there's still so much work to be done,” she says.

She’s highly aware of the political landscape in the US and hopes to establish more support options for queer people living there. 

“We have a Supreme Court that actually seems to be taking steps backward when it comes to LGBTQ+ individual's rights, and it's really sad,” she says. “If you live in a state where you can do something to improve the lives of anyone who's growing their family in a nontraditional way, or anyone that's choosing to not grow their family, but choosing a nontraditional lifestyle, then why not?”

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

American Civil Liberties Union. This is one of the largest civil liberty defense organizations in the US. Find out more and support them here

Human Rights Campaign. This is one of the largest equality-focused organizations in the US. Find out more

The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs