SAN FRANCISCO - For those who want kids, creating that family can be the realization of a lifelong dream but, for LGBTQ families, achieving that dream can be costly and sometimes difficult.
Ask just about any parent and they'll tell you their children are a gift. But, for LGBTQ families its a gift that requires more work, dedication, and in many cases money.
Sandy Ramo-Larios married her wife in 2008 and says family was a priority.
"Yes! It was definitely," said Ramo-Larios. "We were married maybe about a year before we started trying. And, you know, same-sex family, it takes a little while longer. There was definitely some intention."
Two boys and a girl later, her family is now complete. She says for same-sex couples reproductive services are not covered the way it would be for a heterosexual couple experiencing infertility, and the costs can add up quickly. "You have to spend money on sperm, and then if you take it to the next level of in vitro that also costs a lot more money. All not covered by insurance," said Ramo-Larios.
Cathy Sakimura is deputy director and family law director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights says access to insurance, to help cover the cost of conceiving challenges in the adoption and foster care system, and outright discrimination are all obstacles she is working to overcome.
"There are many families that are still excluded from legal recognition, and many parents and prospective parents who are excluded from paths to parenthood," said Sakimura.
She says while there are more opportunities than ever for LGBTQ families to make their dreams of children come true, there is still a lot of hard work to do to make that path clearer and easier. "So that's why we do a combination of policy and legislative advocacy," said Sakimura. "Cases that have the potential to change the law and just raising public knowledge about what people's rights are."
Jill Jacobs works for Family Builders by Adoption and said there has to be intentionality for same-sex families to get started that simply isn't there for male-female couples.
"You have to put some planning into it to become an LGBT family," said Jacobs. "You have to look at the different paths, and there are several different ones. You have to figure out what's best for your family, what fits your values, what's for you, and then you have to be strategic. It's not something that can just kind of happen."
Jacobs said in some cases international adoption may not be an option for LGBTQ families, because some countries still specifically forbid adoption by same-sex couples.
Foster children she says, may find kindred spirits in LGBTQ parents.
"Being LGBT you've dealt with some adversity yourself. You've not had a cookie-cutter life. That's really important to parent children who have been through foster care."
Tom and Billy Felix built their family through Family Builders by Adoption. The couple saying kids were part of their plan from their first date.
"We knew we weren't just going to have kids without involving somebody else in the process," said Tom Felix. "So, I mean, it was going to be more complicated no matter what. So for us it was around, what path do we take."
They've fostered five children, adopted two and are in the process of adopting a third son. Expanding their family has been a labor of love.
"Knowing that we went into it so on purpose, like, is helpful," said Tom Felix. "Like, I think we were really clear, this is what we want to be doing."
Now, despite any past obstacles, they can take a moment to realize they are living their dream come true.
"We feel very blessed," said Billy Felix. "We have amazingly awesome kids who bring a lot of joy into our family and to each other."
Advocates for LGBTQ families there is still a lot of hard work to do, particularly in the health insurance, and laws to recognize single parent and non-romantically linked parents.
Advocates say all that should matter is the love and support those kids can get from their parents.