Metro Weekly

Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal of lesbian’s recognition as child’s legal parent

Lower courts relied on two separate Supreme Court cases to find that non-biological parent's rights cannot be ignored

U.S. Supreme Court – Credit: Ian Koski/flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal of a case where the Arizona Supreme Court found that a lesbian woman should be recognized as the legal parent of the child she and her former wife conceived through artificial insemination during their marriage.

The Arizona Supreme Court previously recognized that U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Obergefell v. Hodges and Pavan v. Smith dictate that same-sex parents are entitled to the same legal rights and responsibilities under the law as their counterparts in opposite-sex marriages.

“It would be inconsistent with Obergefell 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 Arizona Supreme Court wrote in its decision.

In the case in question, known as McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, Suzan and Kimberly McLaughlin were a married lesbian couple who conceived a child in 2011 using an anonymous sperm donor. After they separated, Kimberly, the biological mother, stopped allowing Suzan to see their child, prompting Suzan to file a lawsuit asking to be recognized as a parent.

Because Arizona is one of many states that has a “presumption of legal parentage” statute — whereby the man who marries a pregnant woman but is not the biological father of her child is considered to be that child’s legal parent for all intents and purposes — LGBTQ advocates, including Lambda Legal, argued that the law also applied to parents in same-sex relationships, like Suzan.

The trial court, the Arizona Court of Appeals, and the Arizona Supreme Court all decided in Suzan’s favor.

“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,” Catherine Sakimura, the family law director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “States across the country should take careful note of this decision. Discrimination against married same-sex couples will not be tolerated.”

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