Jacob's Law to Strengthen Surrogacy Rights in Virginia

A gay couple's lengthy legal battle to gain custody of their son inspired the bill

A new law in Virginia will strengthen surrogacy rights for gay and straight couples as well as single parents.

On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Jacob's Law, which is named for a 3-year-old boy whose parents endured a lengthy legal battle in Wisconsin to obtain parental rights of their son.

Jay Timmons and Rick Olson live in Virginia, but decided to go through the surrogacy process in Wisconsin.

But just six weeks before Jacob was born, a judge in Wisconsin took their parental rights away.

"He left Jacob an orphan and he put us on a 4-year horrific journey," Timmons said.

Olson said he had to sacrifice his career at Capital One to manage the 14 attorneys needed to fight the case.

"We’d be thinking that there would be a knock at our door the next day and somebody would be coming in and saying we're taking your son," Timmons said.

It took several trips through multiple courts before the fathers would win permanent custody of Jacob.

They shared their story with Virginia Del. Richard "Rip" Sullivan in an effort to make sure a similar situation didn't happen to other families.

Sullivan filed legislation to protect the parental rights of same-sex couples and single parents who use a surrogate.

Jacob's Law passed in the Virginia General Assembly with bipartisan support in February.

"I'm proud of the legislature for actually doing it because there was a lot of opposition from some very misinformed people," Olson said.

In front of family, friends and their son's schoolmates, the law that bears Jacob’s name was ceremonially signed into law.

"We want our children to have a home where they are cared for and loved and that’s what Jacob has," Gov. Northam said.

"This day was a long time in coming and we’re really glad to see it," Jay Timmons said.

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