Arizona Court Issues Groundbreaking Ruling Recognizing Legal Rights of Same-Sex Parents

· Updated on May 28, 2018

If Heather has two mommies, both parents should be legally recognized as the child’s guardian, according to a new court ruling.

The Arizona Supreme Court issued its verdict on McLaughlin v. McLaughlin on Tuesday, in which Suzan McLaughlin sued for parentage rights to a son conceived with her ex-wife, Kimberly. The couple were wed in a civil ceremony in 2008, and Kimberly gave birth to their son two years later. Court documents allege that when the couple split in 2013, the birth mother did not allow Suzan visitation rights.

Their son was conceived through a surrogate, which left Suzan with little recourse to see a child she helped raise.

But the Arizona Supreme Court wrote that it would be “inconsistent” with the Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell v. Hodges “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 SCOTUS ruling mandates that states must “treat married same-sex parents and married different-sex parents equally under the law,” claimed the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in a press release.

The Arizona court also pointed to a June verdict in Pavan v. Smith, in which SCOTUS ruled that both same-sex parents have a right to be listed on their child’s birth certificate.

“I am relieved and overjoyed that the court recognized me as my son’s mother,” Suzan McLaughlin said in a statement released Tuesday. “All I have ever wanted is to be there for him like any mother would.”

The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision settled a recent split over the issue. Although the Arizona Court of Appeals sided with Suzan’s right to parentage in October 2016, a different panel of judges from the same bench came to the opposite conclusion a year later. In a nearly identical case, the appeals court wrote in June that “the paternity statutes as they are currently written provide no remedy” to the non-biological parent.

The scope of Obergefell, which legalized marriage equality in 2015, has been a source of frequent legal challenges this year. The Texas Supreme Court is set to debate whether the SCOTUS ruling applies to partner benefits for city employees.

As of June, Texas’ highest bench argued that LGBTQ coupleshave no “inherent right” to benefits.

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