Another LGBT Rights Victory at the Supreme Court, This Time for Parental Rights

Supreme Court justices

The U.S. Supreme Court today let stand an Arizona decision that recognized a woman as the legal parent of a child she and her same-sex spouse conceived through assisted reproduction.

The high court declined to review the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling in the case, issued last September, reports the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which along with the firm of Ropes & Gray represented the mother who sought to be recognized as a parent. The Arizona court had ruled, “It would be inconsistent with Obergefell [the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision] to conclude that same-sex couples can legally marry but states can then deny them the same benefits of marriage afforded opposite-sex couples.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court has twice explained in Obergefell v. Hodges and Pavan v. Smith that the U.S. Constitution requires states to provide the exact same rights to same-sex spouses and different-sex spouses,” said NCLR family law director Catherine Sakimura in a press release. “States across the country should take careful note of this decision. Discrimination against married same-sex couples will not be tolerated.”

Suzan McLaughlin and Kimberly McLaughlin were a married lesbian couple who had a child in 2011 using an anonymous sperm donor. After separating in 2013, Kimberly stopped allowing Suzan to see their child, and Suzan filed suit to be recognized as a parent. The Arizona Supreme Court, the Arizona Court of Appeals, and the trial court all held that Suzan should indeed be recognized as a legal parent to her child.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Pavan v. Smith that states had to treat married same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples when it came to listing them as parents on birth certificates. The state of Arkansas had claimed that birth certificates can list only biological parents, even though birth certificates for straight couples list a mother’s male spouse even if that man is not the biological father. But the Supreme Court ruled, “As this Court explained in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Constitution entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage ‘on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.’”

The court’s decision not to review the Arizona ruling came without comment, as is usually the case.

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