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Local doctor helps gay couples become parents

By Shawnte Passmore

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    Connecticut (WFSB) — It’s Pride Month, and Channel 3 is sharing stories celebrating the LGBTQ community while also looking at the challenges it faces.

In March, Eric and Tyler Dashner finally held their dream in their hands when Hazel Lou was born.

“We always had it in the back of our minds that we wanted to be parents,” said Tyler Dashner.

On the journey to get there, the Dashners experienced fleeting hope at times.

An adoption fallout slashed the Washington, D.C. couple’s dreams until they met Dr. Mark Leondires.

Just because you happen to be LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean you can’t be a parent,” Leondires said.

In 2002, the medical director opened the Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, also known as RMA.

After helping heterosexual couples build their families, he felt ready to do the same with his husband.

“I kind of thought I knew I was getting into because I’m a fertility doctor, but I didn’t realize all the things I didn’t know,” Leondires said, referring to the toll on mental health a couple may face as they learn about the family building process while screening donors.

Then, there’s needing the help of a reproductive attorney who can guide same-sex couples through contracts, parental rights and protections.

After successfully welcoming his two sons, Leondires started what he calls a passion project, “Gay Parents to Be.”

It’s a one-stop hub for information and resources featuring experts in reproductive medicine, reproductive law, counseling, surrogacy and egg donor agencies.

The organization is supported by RMA of Connecticut.

Leondires said about 15 percent of his patients are LGBTQ couples. He’s also helped people around the world.

“Part of the gay parents to be ethos is let’s educate people so they know what they need to know,” Leondires said.

For the Dashners, they credit Leondires for not only turning a dream into reality but also creating a community of people who’ve experienced the same hardships and joys of starting families.

“He didn’t have to do that and we’re incredibly grateful that he did because he made our journey really, really flawless and special and great,” Dashner said.

The dads plan to expand their family with by having a boy in 2023.

Progress is slowly being made for same-sex couples wanting to start families.

Earlier this month, the governor signed the “Connecticut Parentage Act,” which ensures any parent, regardless of sexual orientation, has equal parental rights.

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