17 Sep 2012 ‘New Normal’ Promises to Expand Concept of Family
I recently was interviewed by Ari Ezra Waldman, a Brooklyn Law School professor and Harvard Law graduate who writes an excellent blog on LGBT rights and other legal issues at www.towleroad.com. Mr. Waldman wrote a terrific commentary on the new NBC sitcom, The New Normal. The show features a non-traditional “family” that includes a gay male couple, the surrogate with whom they are having a baby, the surrogate’s young daughter, the surrogate’s disapproving and deeply prejudiced mother, and the daughter’s biological father. Lots of potential for legal complications with this group.
The show depicts the gay couple, surrogate and daughter as one big, happy family, and even the bigoted grandma is played for laughs—it is a TV sitcom, after all. In real life, of course, as Mr. Waldman points out, it is important that all parties are represented by experienced legal counsel and that a legal agreement governing the relationship between the surrogate and intended parents, and between the surrogate and the child she is bearing, is in place. Even then, depending on the laws of the state of residence, the rights of the intended parents may be in question, especially when the child is biologically related to the mother or when the intended parents are gay or lesbian.
On the positive side, as Mr. Waldman concludes, even though The New Normal may view the surrogate-intended parent relationship through rose-colored glasses, it brings an image of a truly “modern” family into viewers’ living rooms. Although this TV family may not look exactly like yours or mine, its members deal with the same daily struggles the rest of us do—parenting, financial concerns, conflicting priorities, relationship tensions. The more people become familiar with new ideas and different kinds of people, the greater their comfort levels. Just as television has helped viewers become more comfortable with gay and lesbian people via programs like Will and Grace, Modern Family and The Ellen Degeneres Show, The New Normal promises to help destigmatize families that are created via surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology.