A disproportionate number of very strange stories about the Reproductive Revolution originate in the land of fruits and nuts, i.e. California. However, it would be unfair to ignore Florida, a state which does a lot of heavy lifting in this area. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Dave Barry claims that although Florida has only 6% of the US population, it contributes 73% of the nation’s weirdness.
Inevitably, some of these involve bioethics.
The latest involves Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, a British expat who is a minor celebrity in the UK media. He and his then-partner Tony were the first same-sex couple in Europe to have both dads on the birth certificates of their children. Now they run an international surrogacy agency and live in a luxurious mansion in Florida. Why Florida? Because commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK.
“We are the poster boys of same-sex parenting,” Barrie told the Tampa Bay Times. At the moment they have four sons and a daughter created with the help of a variety of egg donors and surrogates.
Barrie and Tony were married in 2014, after a partnership which began in 1987. Last October, however, they separated and Barrie has repartnered with Scott Hutchinson, a man half his age. Scott was his personal assistant for seven years and used to date his 20-year-old daughter Saffron. “I know people will think Scott is only after my money and all that,” says Barry. “He is, after all, 25 years younger than me — but I don’t care. I’m going to enjoy every moment that I can, while I can.”
In October Barrie and Scott are expecting triplet daughters via a surrogate mother, selected because of her “gorgeous looks” and high IQ. “Our family has too many boys and too much testosterone! So we used sex selection to even things out,” says Barrie. “We know we are having girls.”
Tony is still part of the household and has agreed to be the godfather for the triplets.
Barrie explained to The Sun: “Tony is excited too, although it does underline that our marriage really is over after all these years, so it is very bittersweet. But we are all going to remain living under the same roof. Tony is Dad, I’m Daddy and while at the moment Scott is stepdad, soon he’s going to be Daddy Two.
“We are happy, we want to co-parent our kids and that’s all that matters. If people don’t get it, that’s their problem, not ours.”
Barrie is not at all self-conscious about his unconventional family life. He told The Sun:
“All of our biological connections are about to get even more complicated with the girls but we just regard ourselves as a very modern family. As far as we are concerned they are brothers and sisters. What does the biology matter as long as they are loved and have a stable home? There are far more dysfunctional households than ours, we are just unconventional, as our kids have three parents who adore them.”
Actually, even more kids are involved. Barrie’s policy is to mix his sperm with his partners’ so that the children cannot be sure who their father is. But he has also donated sperm to a lesbian couple in the UK and both of the women are pregnant and due to give birth in September. “There’s my children and theirs to celebrate,” he says. “After all these years there are going to be babies everywhere.”
And actually, there’s another child in the mix – a boy whom Barrie fathered in a drunken night out when he was 19. He only met his son 21 years later.
It’s all rather muddled. The children whom Barrie has fathered don’t know who their mother is, or don’t know him as a father, or are not sure whether he is their father. Is that fair to them? Barrie, Tony and Scott appear to think that lavishing money on children is an adequate trade-off for a mother. It’s not.
But perhaps this is what happens when you start tinkering with the institution of marriage. Seriously weird people with bags of money turn children into a fashion accessory.
Dave Barry has an explanation for bizarre stories like this. “My argument has been for a long time that it’s not so much Floridians are weird …, it’s people who come to Florida: we are like the Ellis Island for weird, stupid people—they come to Florida to commit stupid acts.”