Lesbian couple with code layered over faces
Supreme Court allows Arizona same-sex parents decision to stand
The Supreme Court of the United States announced today that it will not review the decision in McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, an Arizona Supreme Court case that found a woman to be the legal parent of the child she and her same-sex spouse conceived through assisted reproduction during their marriage. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Arizona attorney Claudia Work, and Ropes & Gray LLP represented the mother who sought to be recognized as a parent in this case.
As the Arizona Supreme Court recognized, the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Obergefell v. Hodges and Pavan v. Smith require states to treat married same-sex parents and married different-sex parents equally under the law. The Arizona Supreme Court explained: “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 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. “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 a legal action to be recognized as a parent. The Arizona Supreme Court, the Arizona Court of Appeals, and the trial court held that Suzan should indeed be recognized as a legal parent to her child. Professor Barbara Atwood and the Child and Family Law Clinic at the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, as well as 23 Arizona family law attorneys and the ACLU and ACLU of Arizona, filed amicus briefs in support of Suzan’s rights as a legal parent.
Since the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, numerous cases have recognized that married same-sex parents and married different-sex parents must be treated equally under the law. In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Pavan v. Smith, another National Center for Lesbian Rights case, that Obergefell required states to treat married same-sex parents and married different-sex parents equally. The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision in McLaughlin reflects this settled law and should be instructive to other states across the country considering this issue.
For more information on NCLR’s U.S. Supreme Court victory in Pavan v. Smith, click here.