SALT LAKE CITY -- Rep. Christine Johnson will serve an additional role when the Utah Legislature convenes this month. The lesbian lawmaker announced she's a surrogate mother, carrying a baby for two gay men.
Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, said she decided to become artificially impregnated with sperm from one of the men after the two close friends expressed frustration over the difficulty of adopting a child.
Utah law prohibits unmarried couples from adopting and does not recognize gay marriage.
Johnson, 41, who has a 17-year-old daughter from a two-year marriage, is four months pregnant and expecting on June 21.
"I can very much empathize with their desire to become parents and share their lives with and open their hearts to a child," Johnson told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I'm immeasurably grateful to be a mother."
Johnson offered to be a surrogate at no cost to save the Salt Lake County men the prohibitive cost of hiring one - as much as $100,000.
The men, who were married in California when gay marriage was legal, will pick up the medical costs.
Johnson said she's aware that many lawmakers in conservative Utah think a child does best with both a mother and a father. She predicts the men will be "wonderful parents."
"Gender or sexual orientation is less important than children being welcomed into a supportive, loving home," she told the Deseret News. "This child is going to have an amazing life."
She has declined to identify the men.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said he thinks having both a mother and father in the home "is the optimum, and what every baby deserves."
But he added: "I do respect any woman who will carry and bear a child for a childless couple ... It's my responsibility to show respect and love for one of God's daughters."
House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara, also a Mormon, agrees. "At the end of the day, it's the gift of life" that is important, he said.
Johnson said the child will know her as the mother, but that she will have an "aunt-type relationship."
The man whose sperm was used to impregnate Johnson will have the same rights to the child as any biological father. But under Utah law, his partner cannot be an adoptive parent.
Testing has shown the baby is free from genetic disorders that are more common with later pregnancies. The baby's sex is still unknown.
Johnson was born on the East Coast and moved with her family to Provo when she was 8. She later left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Johnson said she doesn't think her constituents will react negatively to her pregnancy. She plans to seek a third term this year.