Jewish Faith Supports Gay & Lesbian Families; Michigan Law Does Not

I recently was interviewed for an article in the Detroit Jewish News titled “Jewish and Gay.” Written by Karen Schultz Tarnopol, the article examines the status of gays and lesbians in the Jewish faith and the growing acceptance and affirmation of gay and lesbian people by many Jewish congregations. However, as the article goes on to explain, acceptance in one’s synagogue does not always equal acceptance under the law.

In the state of Michigan, for example, same-sex couples are legally prohibited from jointly adopting a child, based on a discriminatory interpretation of the law. Michigan’s adoption law states that if a married person petitions for adoption, his or her spouse must join the petition. Although the law says nothing about adoptions by gay or lesbian people, Michigan
courts have interpreted the statute to mean that in order for a couple to jointly adopt a child, they must be married. Because same-sex couples cannot legally marry in Michigan, same-sex couples cannot jointly adopt a child. “We believe that these judges are manufacturing an exclusion that is not specifically indicated in the statute,” ACLU staff attorney Jay Kaplan told Jewish News.

I am cited in the article on the subject of surrogacy, which can be an option for gay and lesbian couples who want to become parents to a child that is genetically related to them. As I told Jewish News:

“There are two types of surrogacy: ‘traditional surrogacy,’ where one woman provides the egg and carries the child, and ‘gestational surrogacy,’ where one woman provides the egg and, after it is fertilized, another woman carries the child. Both types are illegal for all people in Michigan, gay or straight.”

One of the couples featured in the article is Julia Pais and Beth Greenapple, who became parents via in vitro fertilization, with Pais giving birth to son Nadav, who was conceived using Greenapple’s egg. When the couple attempted to submit Nadav’s birth certificate application bearing both women’s names, they were informed by the hospital that the state would not
accept a form with two mothers. Greenapple, Nadav’s genetic mother, had to remove her name because Michigan law favors the mother who carries the child. “As a ‘genetic egg donor,’ I had no legal rights to Nadav,” Greenapple told Jewish News.

The couple sued the state to change its application forms and lost. Eventually Greenapple and Pais adopted their son through Catholic Social Services. In order to do so, both had to sign away their parental rights. Then both adopted their son. Even then they were unable to get a Michigan birth certificate bearing both their names until Jennifer Granholm became governor in 2002 and ordered the state to accept applications with the names of both same-sex parents.

Today Nadav is 13 years old and recently celebrated his bar mitzvah.

The Pais-Greenapple family’s ordeal is an example of the trauma and insecurity that result from outdated laws that fail to adequately address the needs of non-traditional family formation, or from a judiciary that interprets existing laws in a discriminatory and unfair manner. Michigan is just one state, and laws governing assisted reproductive technologies such as surrogacy, egg donation and sperm donation and the legal status of  same-sex parents vary from state to state, and from country to country. Our firm, International Fertility Law Group, was established as a resource to help intended parents navigate the legal obstacles they may face in the United States and abroad and to help protect their offspring. Staying current on the law as it evolves and as it varies from place to place is one of the most challenging parts of my job—and one of the most rewarding.


Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.