Birth of Bliss Babies
The Birth of Bliss Babies: Spotlight on Kim Surratt, Esq.
By Emily Reese
Amazing ideas often happen at the most normal of times. Taking a shower, waking up in the middle of the night, driving down the road, having a glass of wine with friends—million dollar ideas can pop into our noggins anytime. For the founder of Southwest Airlines, for the originator of Iron Man competition, and for the author of the Harry Potter series, birthing ideas during social time over a pint or two was the beginning of something great.
The same goes for Leslie McCarroll, founder of Bliss Babe Magazine, and Kim Surratt, attorney and family formation advocate: the very publication you are reading now was set into motion over a couple of glasses of vino. In Bliss Babies, the perfect combination of expertise, class, real-world family formation, and parenting fall together into one magazine. Kim Surratt, who is spearheading this publication brand, is a woman full of accomplishments that very few know about because she has been behind the scenes, making all types of parenting possible for people in Nevada and around the world.
Without the heart and soul that Kim has put in over the last 15 years through her work with family formation, Bliss Babies wouldn’t exist.
An Attorney with a Heart for Others
It started years ago.
Kim Surratt may not have been born in Nevada, but she’s lived here most of her life, growing up with Nevada values that closely mirror the independent nature of this great state. Her father, involved in mining, gave her opportunities to understand the benefits of hard work that are important to Nevadans—including a passion for the outdoors and enjoying the spacious areas that the Winnemucca area and state of Nevada have to offer.
After graduating from high school, she expanded her horizons by attending the University of Puget Sound to study liberal arts, which gave her the unique opportunity to work with the LGBT community. She found herself involved with a group of nurses who were ran a peer education group teaching leaders how to educate citizens about HIV, AIDS, and STD prevention. “This got me involved with the LGBT community really fast, and from there, it never stopped,” remembers Kim.
As she finished her degree through the University of Nevada Reno, she originally intended to have a career reflecting her sociology and psychology degree, but turned her sights to becoming an attorney. After obtaining her J.D. through Golden State University in San Francisco, she began working in the area of insurance defense. This left her feeling disenfranchised by the frivolity of claims cases; people’s motivations were disappointing her in her current field.
While she initially balked at the idea of doing any kind of family law, she changed her tune. One of the things that helps her in family law is being able to understand the motivations behind the what and why people do, say, and think when it comes to individual cases. “Things like the love for their children and their heart often lead my clients’ motivations, even if it can sometimes be misguided and petty. At least it makes sense and I can appreciate the why behind what they do,” explains Kim. Family law for Kim does not strictly mean divorce cases; solely litigating divorce cases was too difficult for her and she wanted variety.
Her move from insurance defense to family law was the right choice, especially with her background in working with the LGBT community in college; in fact, her very first case involved two gay men using surrogacy to expand and complete their family. Kim learned quickly the ropes of adoption and family planning, and realized that laws needed to change so that all of those involved in “unique” family expansion are protected. She found herself faced with helping to change those laws, which has led her to be one of the premier family planning lawyers in the state of Nevada, the United States, and the international community.
Changing Laws to Help All People Expand Their Families
In 2005, while lobbying at the legislature with the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association (now the Nevada Justice Association), Kim’s friend and mentor, Myra Sheehan, encouraged her to lobby for better laws, specifically for those whose family creation wasn’t “traditional.” “Myra kept telling me I need to lobby, and I didn’t know a thing about it. She told me, ‘I promise you one day it will pay off. You’ll reap the benefits of this.’ Myra set a wonderful example by lobbying for prior social justice in Nevada, which is part of the reason she wanted me to get involved. She wanted me to look back on my life and be able to say that I was a part of something really great.”
So she dove in.
Since then, using her unique ability to work with conservative and liberal legislators alike, Kim has helped affect many changes to the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) while avoiding partisan conflict. She reflects, “I am pretty fiscally conservative; the Nevada mining girl in me brings that out. I am socially liberal, so ultimately, I make a really good independent.”
The accolades she deserves for these changes are often not recognized publicly, mostly because Kim prefers to work quietly behind the scenes. The following descriptions of accomplishments she has played a part in reflects some of the major things that have helped her clients and others around the world benefit from when expanding their family.
Not only did Kim help pass the domestic partnership laws in Nevada in 2009, but she also played a major hand in updating all NRS language to be gender neutral this past legislative session. For instance, older alimony chapters of the NRS included husband centric language; she helped to change this so it would incorporate language that was for all parties involved in the dissolution of marriage. However, it is her influence on surrogacy and parentage laws that have been the most powerful and far-reaching.
With surrogacy, older NRS reflected language that only included men and sperm donation, not updated scientific technology of egg or embryo donation. Getting to influence the new language has added clarity to the process that was desperately needed. The old law only allowed for sperm donation to a married woman if the donor didn’t want to have parental rights, which negatively affected single or unmarried people having children through surrogacy. The newer NRS included egg and embryo donations to all families, regardless of marital status and made it clear that the donor would not have parental rights.
In addition, surrogacy contract requirements were updated. The new laws require both sides (parents and surrogate) to be represented by an attorney. The intended parents were almost always represented under older systems, but the surrogate mother often wasn’t, leaving the door wide open for possible abuse. Not so anymore: aside from newly required representation of both parties, a contract must be in place before medical proceedings start.
Establishing legal parentage is another one of the updates that Kim has been able to accomplish. Historically, the legal birth certificate signed in-hospital was exclusive to one woman and the man who claimed paternity, causing an unnecessary roadblock for same-sex couples. The language was changed to not only reflect “paternity”; it now says “paternity/parentage.” This allows, as an example, for a lesbian couple to not have to go through a lengthy and expensive adoption process to claim parentage. To clarify, this birth certificate may not be recognized in every U.S. state. Until all states are on the same page with this issue, Kim recommends going through the adoption process to alleviate any issues when moving from state to state. While the change in language on the birth certificate may not be perfect, Kim thinks it’s still a great way to move forward.
Kim has seen many changes happen in the world of fertility, adoption, surrogacy, and parentage. While just a decade ago there may have been pushback from legislators, Kim says that “most legislators know someone who has had infertility problems or know someone who is gay; so now they have a much harder time being so openly conservative about it.” Laws that protect transgender people have become easier and easier to pass. Thankfully, Kim has been able to see the promise that Myra Sheehan made to her come to fruition: as an attorney, she has been able to reap the benefits of her hard lobbying work—and so have her clients.
New inclusive family-expansion laws have led to Kim helping clients from all over the United States, including many countries overseas. In this issue, you will read about some of those singles and couples she has helped achieve their family dreams; Kim should be commended for all of the work she has done and will continue to do for parenting in our modern world.
Bliss Babies was Born
Knowing Kim Surratt’s background and heart for people trying to build their families, it makes sense that a conversation over wine with Leslie McCarroll birthed the idea and called attention to the need for Bliss Babies. They discussed what was lacking in other parenting and family magazines, and knew they had an impactful concept that needed to be pursued. After that evening, Kim was so engrossed and committed to sharing with others and helping families, that she bought the domain rights to Bliss Babies before she went to bed that night.
Many parenting and family magazines tend to focus on the traditional ways that families are formed and nurtured. The realities of modern day families are often glossed over as a novelty experience; fortunately, Kim knows that these modern issues of family planning are much more common than they may seem. Kim and Leslie want to be an encouragement to every type of parent and family.
Bliss Babies’ mission is to be a publication that dissects the path (or lack thereof) to parenthood. This publication will empower people who are parents to be honest about their journey and not hide from the bare, genuine truth. Being a parent can be raw, deep, sincere, painful, and fulfilling, all at the same time; this publication will give people an opportunity to explore these feelings and grow through topics such as childbirth, fatherhood, infertility, discipline, surrogacy, adoption, anxiety and more.
As you read through this issue, the heartfelt and real-world stories from our talented contributors will give you insights to help you understand families from all walks of life. One thing that Bliss Babies will not be afraid of is sharing the aspects of family life that will speak to all people, not just parents. It will be bold and reassuring; all families are unique, but each one adds to the beauty of life and binds us together in supporting the goodness of humanity.
This is the heart of Kim Surratt. She desires to help others add to the beauty of life through their family. Her work has led her to support the goodness of humanity and her life experience has reflected the mission behind Bliss Babies, birthed one fateful evening over a couple glasses of wine.
To find out more about Surratt Family Law, go to LawyersForFamilies.com.
Emily Reese is a mom, retired high school English teacher, colon cancer thriver, and editor of Bliss Babe magazine. She loves to write in her spare time and is politically active for health insurance and cancer issues, while spending as much time as she can with her three teenage children, Madeline, KJ, and Thomas.