Connecting rainbows is an amazing resource connecting the LGBTQ+ community with lawyers and other fertility specialists to help start, grow and protect families. Founder Gena Jaffe created connecting rainbows after going through a second parent adoption – the process opened her eyes to a huge need for lawyers who understand the family building needs of the LGBTQ+ community. I loved getting to know Gena – hearing her story, how she and her wife learned that a birth certificate doesn’t automatically give legal parentage, her advice for other intended parents and upcoming, exciting plans for connecting rainbows.
Connecting Rainbows Founder, Gena Jaffe
1. We love how connecting rainbows helps those building an LGBTQ+ family ensure that they are supported and protected. To start, can you share a bit about your personal experience – and how it inspired your professional path to building such an informative and much-needed resource?
I am an attorney, but I practice business law. My wife and I did reciprocal IVF for both of our children (her egg, I carried) and we had no idea that we needed to do anything legal-wise to secure our parental rights. We, like most people, thought that the birth certificate was sufficient. We came to learn that a birth certificate is only an administrative document governed by the laws of the state where the child is born. It does not grant both parents in a same sex cis couple. In terms of our situation, I, as the gestational mother, was deemed the legal parent, while my wife, the biological mom, was not. We had to go through the Second Parent Adoption process (sometimes called “Step Parent Adoption”) to ensure that both my wife and I were both deemed legal parents.
When I shared our journey on my Instagram and blog, people were shocked and had no idea. And I heard so many times that they spoke to a local lawyer who told them a birth certificate was enough … and that’s wrong. So I decided to start my own legal directory of attorneys that not only specialize in Family Formation Law (not just Family Law) but were also well versed in working with LGBTQ+ couples as the laws are different for us.
Very quickly after I started building the directory, I realized the need to include fertility resources as well to really round out our mission: to start, grow and protect your family.
Gena with her beautiful family
2. What is the most frequently asked question you encounter – or alternatively, what is a key area of the most confusion as related to LGBTQ+ family building? Can you help readers understand the answers or next steps to better prepare for their journey ahead?
The birth certificate issue is definitely the #1 piece of confusion for people. As mentioned, it’s really just an identifying document governed by the laws of your state. We need to think bigger picture — what if you move from that state? What if, God-forbid, the “non-legal” parent passed away? Or if you got divorced? Custody, inheritance rights, medical decisions – those are important things you need to think about. If you’re not the legal parent, can you be the guardian of the child? Can your child inherit from you? We never like to think of the bad things that can happen, but it’s best to be prepared.
Now when it comes to surrogacy, so much of the legal work is done and can be done ahead of time with pre-birth orders. Laws always vary by state but at least when you’re on a surrogacy journey, you’re working with an attorney before you even start as well as all the way through.
3. What criteria do you assess in the vetting process before featuring a fertility lawyer on Connecting Rainbows?
So I legally cannot say “vetting”! In terms of lawyers, I rely on recommendations from someone within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as from the lawyers that I have spoken with and selected for the directory. There is an organization called the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, which is a prestigious fellowship of attorneys that specialize in Adoption and ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). So, I have connected with several lawyers there as I know they will be exceptional with the legal aspect. I have developed lovely relationships with a few of them and they recommended others throughout the country. It has been humbling that the attorneys who have joined the directory deeply believe in our mission and what I have created, so they have gone out of their way to connect me with the best lawyers in other states.
But before anyone is added, I have a personal conversation with them. I want to ensure that it’s a good fit. Again, not everyone is well versed in serving the LGBTQ+ community. And honestly, what I learned is that fertility law – for a very long time – was mainly composed of older white gentlemen. And frankly, I wanted to make sure I had diversity on the roster as well as making sure the attorneys are able to work with the younger generations – those that expect someone to ask their pronouns or be open minded with their gender identity or polyamorous relationship.
4. Before deciding to move forwards with a given lawyer, what questions do you suggest intended parents ask them in advance to ensure they’ll have a good experience where they are well protected?
I always ask how a specific state works when it comes to a lesbian couple where one partner gestates the pregnancy. Their answer typically dictates whether I know they’re used to working with lesbian couples. If they claim to rely on the birth certificate, that’s a red flag for me. I don’t judge – perhaps they’ve never had to handle that issue – but I want to make sure that this is a topic they are used to and confident handling.
5. What is the latest at Connecting Rainbows? You’ve already done so much incredible work documenting your journey and sharing crucial information to help others on their own – what should people check out now or look out for from you next?
We are doing SO MANY THINGS. We are building out our fertility clinic directory as well as surrogacy resources (where we will of course be referring to GoStork!!!). I’m also working on completing the map of attorneys — we’re so close to having lawyers in every state!
I am also honored to be working with Ferring Pharmaceuticals (fertility pharma company) on their global inclusive committee! And I’m also working on a section of transgender / intersex resources – speaking with medical experts and individuals who identify as such.
I want connecting rainbows to be seen as a safe space. A place where you can feel less alone by reading / watching others journeys. To know that no matter what you are going through, you will come out the other side.
6. What is your advice for intended parents on GoStork, who are just beginning their own family building journey?
This journey can be an emotional rollercoaster. Have a plan but please be prepared to deviate from it. Know that you will have a child one day. They may come to you in a different way than you thought / imagined, but once that child is placed in your arms, you will be so grateful for every bump in the road because it led you to THAT baby. YOUR baby.
Disclaimer: this is not to be construed with legal advice but rather information. Please contact a local lawyer to discuss your situation. Connecting rainbows has lawyers across the US, Canada and Australia to assist you on your family building journey.
Thank you Gena for creating such a helpful resource – your community is supporting so many LGBTQ+ families navigate their journeys. Intended parents, check out connecting rainbows here and follow them on Instagram @connectingrainbowsorg for tips and advice.