June is officially recognized as Pride month, in honor of the June 28 start of the Stonewall Inn Riots that created the modern-day LGBTQ movement, which began in the late 1960s. The movement, which has brought about important legislation such as the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, has consistently sought equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.
Life-long Cheshire resident Mario Leigh is adding his name to the long list of LGBTQ individuals who are on the frontlines of creating meaningful legislation for their community.
“As a gay man, I knew early on that the idea of creating a family would look very different for me than for my non-gay peers,” Leigh began. “There is a lot of discrimination in adoption against same-sex couples, and infertility treatments can be extremely expensive.
According to Leigh, the average cost of things like surrogacy and in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be as high as $110,000 per child.
In order to combat the issue, Leigh started the Connecticut-based Affordable Families coalition, which aims to create legislation that addresses the expensive and often complicated process of adoption and/or IVF treatments for same-sex couples. He partnered with Representative Liz Linehan (D-103), who serves as chairperson for the Connecticut Department of Children committee.
“Unfortunately, Mario is not my constituent, but arbitrary borders should not prohibit someone from being heard, so I met with him as a Cheshire resident,” said Linehan.
“… He had a valid point — the current system makes it onerous and expensive for same-sex couples to have a child by surrogacy. He wants to change that, and I want to help him”
Leigh and his team at Affordable Families went on to develop specific legislation to address that process and they hope Connecticut will begin to take a look.
“The legislation we are looking to propose will decrease costs for gay individuals that want to become parents and allow the average couple to be able to afford to build a family,” Leigh added.
Linehan and Leigh have been working together since February, and, prior to the COVID-19 state shut-down, Leigh had the opportunity to testify in front of the Connecticut Insurance committee for his cause.
“Growing up questioning your sexuality isn’t an easy thing. It’s much harder when you recognize the reality that attaining the one thing many of us spend our lives working towards, may be out of reach. I’m talking of course, about a family,” Leigh said at the hearing.
“Too many young men and women are in this predicament, and it can make coming out extremely difficult. It forces people to choose between loving who they want and living the life that they want.”
While movement on passing Leigh’s legislation is on hold for now due to COVID-19, he is confident that the next legislative session will be fruitful for his efforts.
For more information about Leigh’s Affordable Families, visit https://www.affordablefamilies.com/.