Though Joani Hayman provided her eggs to her wife Maria for the conception of their children, her name is nowhere to be found on their twins’ birth certificates.
Joani had her eggs fertilized by a sperm donor and then placed inside her wife. Maria delivered their twins on June 13, 2013 at St. Francis Medical Center. Though the sperm donor revoked his parental rights, Joani wasn’t allowed to put her name on the birth certificates because according to the Code of Virginia, egg donors do not have parental rights.
Initially, the couple thought about pursuing a custody order, which is what many two-parent LGBT families do. However, their attorney Colleen Quinn thought because of Joani’s egg donation, the couple had a good chance at a legal case to make Joani’s name appear on the birth certificates.
They started the fight a few months after the twins were born.
“This is best for our family, so we’re going to try,” Maria said. “I thought it would be longer. Even if you’re with your partner and your children you’re a family, it matters. But it’s on paper when the world recognizes you as a family.”
Quinn argued that if a man could use DNA testing to consider himself a parent on a birth certificate, then so should a woman. If the same standard applied to prove maternity, Joani would be considered a mother because she contributed her eggs.
“If a man can contribute his sperm and not carry the child and be deemed a legal parent, then a woman can contribute her eggs and be deemed a legal parent,” Quinn argued.
Though her brief was finished near the end of 2013, Quinn waited until Virginia recognized same-sex marriage.
“When marriage equality went through, I knew it was the right time to file the brief,” she said.
Not being considered a legal parent is not only a personal issue, but a safety issue as well. Joan wouldn’t be allowed to sign her children in at a doctor’s office, or enter the emergency room without Maria or be allowed to make any medical decisions.
Eighteen months after the issue of gay marriage was settled in Virginia, Judge Designate T.J. Marlow ordered the Virginia Department of Health to edit the birth certificates, claiming Maria and Joani as the “only parents of the children.”
“They just want to have a family, have a child,” director of LifeSource Fertility Center, Joseph Gianfortoni, said. “They want to bind the relationship together better. …They always felt they were a couple anyway, they just weren’t able to do it legally.”
Now, Maria stays at home with their 19-month-old twins and says that sometimes it can be awkward with other families that don’t understand their dynamic.
“It’s still awkward when you meet new people and moms at the park,” she said. “There’s always a little bit of anxiety that someone will mess with us, because to us it’s normal.”