Immigration-Rights Advocate Lavi Soloway’s Journey From Single Father To Family Man

In the lead-up to the premiere of NBC’s The New Normal on September 11 Queerty is launching a new series of features, Our New Normal, where we’ll introduce you to LGBT families of all different stripes—be they same-sex couples raising kids, straight parents raising gay kids, or close-knit groups who view themselves s family.

And we want to meet your family, too: Share your story—whether you’re related by blood or linked by love—by uploading photos, videos or notes on our special Our New Normal platform. You could win a family vacation—not to mention some serious bragging rights!

Attorney Lavi Soloway is a co-founder of Immigration Equality and The DOMA Project—both of which fight for LGBT immigrants to receive the same governmental protections as their straight counterparts. This includes bi-national gay couples legally wed on the state level, but denied federally sanctioned immigration rights.

“It’s a humanitarian crisis,” Soloway says. “If [these] were opposite-sex couples, Congress would have passed a law in one day. It would never be tolerated.”

The issue hits home for Soloway, who immigrated to America from Canada and is now raising his 5-year-old daughter, Lily, with his French-born husband, Sebastian Dungan. Two decades ago, when Soloway was in his 20s, his dream of having a child seemed improbable. When he didn’t find a suitable partner, he decided to have a baby solo, via surrogacy. Lily was born in 2007.

While a single dad, Soloway immediately noticed society perceiving him as different. In public, well-meaning women frequently offered help, presuming a man couldn’t handle a child. “Just because of my gender, they thought I was incapable,” he recalls. “The concept of surrogacy didn’t occur to people then; they were puzzled as to why a single male would have a child.”

A few months after Lily’s birth, Soloway met Dungan, and the two men wed in 2009.

Other parents didn’t know what to make of their family, says Soloway. “If you have two dads who show up to things that moms show up to, people wonder which parent plays which role. There is a preconceived notion about gender roles.”  He noticed, for example, that only mothers attended teacher meetings at Lily’s school. “Where are the dads?” he asked himself.

Obviously Soloway doesn’t see eye-to-eye with those who claim a child can’t blossom without a biological mother and father: “Our bond with our daughter is very strong. There is no gap there. Nothing is missing.” He argues that children with two dads have plenty of female role models because they “exist in a world with every gender, class, and race. There is much more that children need to be exposed to than gender if your goal is to raise a well-adjusted child.”

For Soloway, the ultimate goal in raising Lily is to pass along the philosophy, values and skills he learned from his own parents and grandparents: “I don’t think about gender,” he says. “I just try to do what’s best for my daughter.”

Share your family’s story by uploading photos, videos or notes on our special Our New Normal platform. The best submission wins a family vacation, but the deadline to submit is September 11 at 11:59pm ET. So don’t delay!

Photo: Albane Navizet