Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The heartbreaking callousness of bureaucracy.

We at the Moorfield Storey Institute have been involved in a situation that just breaks our hearts. The picture you see is Samuel Ghilain, a two year boy who literally has been sentenced to life in a loveless orphanage by callous bureaucrats, even though he has loving parents and a home waiting for him. We are trying to change this situation so Samuel can go home.

This story began when Laurent Ghilain, and his husband, Peter Meurrens decided they wanted a child. The couple, who are legally married, considered adoption but Belgian adoption laws, while saying it was possible, made it difficult. After some thought they decided on surrogacy.

A surrogate in the Ukraine was hired and Laurent was the donor. When Samuel was born the couple were there together. The surrogate was happy for Laurent to take his son. The couple went to the Belgian consulate for Samuel's passport so he could go home with them. Samuel's room, his crib, his toys, were all waiting for him.

The Belgian government refused to issue the passport. They said they had no regulations regarding surrogacy. They neither banned it, nor allowed it. They simply had nothing on the books. So they refused to recognize Laurent as the father and told them Samuel couldn't have a passport.

The horrified couple found a family that would take care of Samuel as they returned to Belgium to try and work through the bureaucratic maze. But each step of the way they were stymied. They gave the courts DNA proof that Laurent was the boy's father. The bureaucrats were unmoving and uncaring. None of it mattered.

Then things got desperate. The family that was carrying for Samuel contacted the fathers and told them that they would no longer continue to care for Samuel. Perhaps they felt they were getting attached to smiling little boy. Perhaps they just got tired of caring for him. But they made it clear that if Laurent didn't come for his son they would abandon the boy at an orphanage.

With the courts unwilling to help, with their pleas to stone-faced bureaucrats being ignored, the fathers concocted a plan. It was sheer desperation at work and probably one doomed to fail, but what other option did they have? Like most parents they would do whatever was necessary to be with their son.

They flew to Ukraine with a female friend. She agreed to try to drive across the border with Samuel, pretending to be the boy's mothers. It failed and she was arrested. Ukrainian officials sent Samuel to a loveless orphanage where he is just one child among many, cared for by professional staff, staff that can't afford to love a child. And that is where Samuel has been. The crib that was waiting for him is now too small for him. The toys that awaited him are sitting alone in the empty room—a room that breaks the hearts of the fathers when they have to enter it. So the prefer to stay away from it.

They pleaded with the Belgian government to give the boy a tourist visa so he could be with his father while they try to jump through the hoops the government demands. They were turned down. They were recently in court, yet again.

This time the judge confirmed that Laurent is Samuel's father. He told the Foreign Ministry to issue a passport. Laurent and Peter were thrilled and told their friends that they shortly would be applying for a passport for Samuel. Literally within a few hours of their announcement the Belgian government announced that they would appeal the decision, and would not issue a passport for Samuel.

While the bureaucrats are worried about regulations, restrictions. and bureaucratic processes, they are forgetting that they are leaving a small child separated from his parents—or perhaps they simply don't care.

For several days the staff at the Moorfield Storey Institute have been working to create awareness of this case. When we got involved there was virtually no media information in English about the case.  For that reason we created a Facebook page in English. You can "like" the page here. This page will have the latest information on the case as we get it.

In addition we are asking people to contact Anderson Cooper at CNN to inform him about the case and urge him to cover it. You can do that here. We have been in touch with someone who knows Anderson Cooper and said he would tell him about the case, but the more emails he receives about it the more likely it is to get publicity. We sincerely believe that the only thing that will force the Belgian bureaucrats to relent and issue a passport is when they seen a media storm around them. So we urge you to contact local gay media and other media outlets that you think may be interested in the story.

You can also sign a petition here. Americans can send complaints to the Belgian consulate for their area. Just go to this site, In the center of the page is a button asking you to select your state, doing so will give you contact details for the appropriate Belgian consulate.

One of the world's major media outlets has contacted us and we are trying to arrange an interview with Laurent and Peter for them. Media can contact us here. We will do our best to provide any legitimate media outlet with information for story.

For more information about the Moorfield Storey Institute you can read this. We are a non-profit organization that promotes individual rights. We are libertarians committed to protecting the rights of all people, especially those who are treated unequally and unfairly by governments. We promote depoliticized solutions to problems. And we support charitable enterprises that help create a better world. Our staff are all volunteers who actually help fund our projects. We do, however, need additional support from donors. If you would like to help us with our projects you can either use the "Donate Now" button on the page (top right below photo of Moorfield Storey) or contact us at our email address to learn how to donate.

1 comment:

  1. Alas, destructive government thuggery exists the world 'round. Thanks for publicizing this atrocity!