MIAMI — When Massimiliano Gerina donated his sperm to a lesbian couple nearly three years ago, the gay hair dresser wanted to be a father, not just a donor. Several months into his friend’s pregnancy, though, he said the couple tried to force him out, leading to a lengthy court battle.
After years of heartbreak and distrust and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, the couple approached Gerina with an agreement last week. Three names would appear on Emma’s birth certificate, and Maria Italiano and her partner, Cher Filippazzo, were given sole parental responsibility, which means they get to make decisions about Emma’s health and well-being, according to their attorneys.
“We created this family that is very unusual,” Gerina said. “Love doesn’t have sex or color. If you have love to give to a child, please just do it.”
Gerina, a 35-year-old stylist who cuts hair at a trendy salon, moved to Miami in 2005 from Italy. He said he always wanted to be a father, but worried it wouldn’t happen because he was gay. And he said he didn’t have a relationship with his own father.
“We went in always with the intention that Emma is going to know who her dad is … we wanted him to have a role in her life but not as a parent,” Filippazzo, 38, said.
The women, who were married in Connecticut, had spent thousands of dollars trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization, but it never took. So the trio worked out the arrangement at a pizzeria and a few weeks later Italiano, 43, was pregnant.
“I never took this lightly. I knew that there was going to be money involved, time, emotions … and I was ready for it,” Gerina said Friday, sitting in an outdoor cafe in front of the salon where he works.
Gerina was on the phone with the couple almost daily. He went to the ultrasound and friends threw him a baby shower. Everything seemed fine.
But seven months into the pregnancy, Gerina said the couple asked him to sign legal documents that essentially gave away his rights.
“Of course, I was hurt,” he said.
He hired a lawyer, who drew up legal papers describing the situation he thought had agreed to, but he said the women refused to sign it. In the meantime, he sued the couple and got a tattoo in honor of Emma on his arm.
Then, a few weeks before the trial, he said Filippazzo called him and said she only cared about doing what was right for her daughter.
“Emma needs you and you need Emma,” he recalled Filippazzo saying. “I want her to know that we came out between us with an agreement. I don’t want a judge, a stranger, to decide.”