04/24/2014 11:34 EDT | Updated 06/24/2014 05:59 EDT

Quebec to reimburse gay men for surrogacy costs

For the first time, the Quebec government has allowed a male couple to claim expenses through the province's health insurance board, RAMQ, for using a surrogate mother through in vitro fertilization.

The precedent-setting case involved a claim by Quebec celebrity Joël Legendre. Legendre and his husband are expecting twins in July, carried by a surrogate mother through in vitro fertilization.

The case has already encouraged other male couples to file for the treatment.

The government's decision is not only the first of its kind in Quebec, but in Canada.

Until now, RAMQ has only covered the in vitro fertilization procedure for infertile couples, single women and female couples.

"It was discriminatory," said Joël Legendre, during a radio program he hosts on Rouge FM. "We are the first [male] couple to have a child via RAMQ."

After being refused by RAMQ several times, Legendre said he and his husband sought help from their MNA, Jean-François Lisée.

"He contacted his colleague, the Minister of Health Réjean Hébert. A week later, his political aide contacted us to tell us everything was accessible, and now gay couples will be able to have children,” said Legendre.

Hébert told Michael Finnerty, host of CBC Radio's Daybreak, that although Legendre and his husband are the first male couple to be reimbursed by RAMQ, it was always technically possible. 

"The law is really vague. Everything is covered according to the law," Hébert said. 

Guidelines from the province's health commissioner are expected in May, he said.  

"I'm looking forward to this new report, and I expect and I hope that the new minister of health will act on this issue," he said, referring to Quebec's new Liberal health minister, Gaétan Barrette.

Hébert said other legal issues can complicate the process.

For instance, there cannot be a contract between the surrogate mother and the fathers — potentially complicating adoption — and it is illegal to pay a woman to be a surrogate.  

More applications

In Legendre's case, a friend of the couple agreed to carry their child.

The woman was willing to be a surrogate, but not an egg donor, so Montreal’s OVO clinic had eggs sent from the United States for the couple.

The medical director at the OVO fertility clinic who handled the case, François Bissonnette, said Legendre and his husband were "like many other patients."

He said he has already seen several similar cases and the number of applications is growing.

"The publicity surrounding this event is likely to generate interest and give others something to think about,” said Bissonnette.