ARIZONA: State Supreme Court Unanimously Affirms Equal Rights For Same-Sex Parents Under Obergefell

Via press release:

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) won the Arizona Supreme Court case, McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, which ruled that a woman was the legal parent of the child she and her same-sex spouse conceived through assisted reproduction during their marriage.

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.”

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.

Both the Arizona Court of Appeals and the trial court held that Suzan should indeed be recognized as a legal parent to her child. NCLR and Arizona attorney Claudia Work represented Suzan. Additionally, 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.

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 follows this settled law and should be instructive to other states across the country considering this issue.

  • Todd20036

    … for now.

    • Joe in PA

      I wonder if “Kimberly” will appeal? And who the fuck is her lawyer that helped her with this case? Liberty Counsel?

      • Phillip in L.A.

        “Kimberly” should appeal. There is at least a 50% chance (maybe higher) her Petition for Certiorari will be granted (although I’m pretty sure Liberty Counsel could even mess up this case!)

    • Paula

      When thinking about my state government, it’s usually more like dry heaves than dry heat.

  • crewman

    Finally, something to blame hurricanes and earthquakes on.

  • clay

    Is the Texas appeal up next?

  • Bluto

    Pay attention, Texas.

    • Tawreos

      Texas is not real big on paying attention to anything in the real world

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    • Paula

      They won’t. ☹️☹️ They never do. I’ve lived in Texas 25 years and little ever changes. Even under a Democratic governor not a lot got done. The jeebus freaks in the legislature made sure of it.

  • Tawreos

    It is sad that cases like this still end up in state supreme courts or federal courts. It will be a good day when these get decided at lower levels with no fanfare, like most cases.

    • Reality.Bites

      It will be a good day when the bloody state doesn’t go out of its way to discriminate in the first place.

      • Or our own stop giving them an excuse too.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      Actually, this case WAS decided correctly BOTH by the TRIAL COURT and the intermediate APPELLATE COURT–which makes one wonder why the Arizona Supreme Court wasted all this time, effort, and resources. (Please also see my long post to NCLR & Shannon Minter, above, “Some Questions About McLaughlin)

  • OdieDenCO

    “..instructive to other states across the country considering this issue.”

    Texas: hold my beer

  • Rex

    So, what’s going to be the penalty for Arizona? Hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, flood, locusts, boils, Trump rally?

    • Tawreos

      They’ve already suffered a Trump rally recently, so they are probably good on the suffering front.

      • kareemachan

        Nah, we’re talking AZ here. Land of Brewer, Arpaio, Flake, McCai…

        Okay, maybe they have suffered enough. But much of it is their own doing.

        • Tawreos

          I think they need to be punished more now for all of the times they elected Arpaio. Maybe if we get all the gays to work really hard we can get a hurricane to hit them directly

    • OdieDenCO

      mccain recovery and re-election

    • Gustav2

      Dry heat.

    • canoebum

      To be returned to Mexico.

    • greenmanTN

      Trump supporters wearing thongs.

      • Paula

        NO! No thongs for Trump supporters! No spandex, either. If most of them squeezed their fat asses into spandex and it let go, it would be about the same amount energy released by a small tactical nuke.

  • kareemachan

    You have to take the bad (In one of these mother’s mind, anyway) with the good. You can’t pick and choose how you want same rights as everybody else.

  • gaycuckhubby

    Thank you Edie!

  • LSMC1987

    Didn’t some federal court just say to Louisiana or Mississippi that they could discriminate and treat differently LGBT in the name of Jebus?

    • lymis

      Texas. It was their Supreme Court.

  • billbear1961
  • LovesIrony

    Fuck you texas bigots

    • M Jackson

      That’s a very wide net. Be more specific.
      (I’m a Texan, I know.)

  • Ninja0980

    Look at that, a conservative court actually doing its job.
    When was the last time that happened?

    • Skokieguy [Larry]

      Unelected activist judges in black robes….

      [Why do the whiners always mention outfits?]

      • LesbianTippingHabits

        Jealousy.

  • Larry in Oklahoma

    That’s a swift kick in the butt to former sheriff Joe Arpaio because he was not for anything like this. Read ’em and weep, Joe.

  • GayOldLady

    First, I’m tired of gay couples challenging each other in court over custody instead of working out an amicable solution to custody. I’m assuming the biological “mother” thought she had the right to sole custody, instead of being mature enough to REMEMBER that she did not undertake the great responsibility of parenting alone and that her spouse joined her in that responsibility from the beginning. Those who oppose us will use everything in their power to keep us in a different category of citizen. The will keep us separate and unequal if we give them anything at all to work with. To any LGBT parent who is considering this sort of action against their spouse/partner all I have to say is Grow the fuck up! if you decide to divorce put your children’s best interest first and keep your petty grudges out of the equation.

    • Ninja0980

      Wish they would take your advise but we all know that when love turns to hate for many couples, there is nothing they won’t do.

    • greenmanTN

      THIS^^^ Stop being such a goddamn drama queen!

      https://youtu.be/N3_-QoK2F0A

    • bambinoitaliano

      Unfortunately when it comes to relationship more often than not couples do not split up amicably. There’s always a lot of resentment during and after the breakup. One or both side will try to hurt each other to express their feeling of lost. Children and pets usually get caught in between of that divorce. After all relationship is an emotional investment that cannot be quantify regardless of one’s sexual orientation.

      • GayOldLady

        Unfortunately for me I was in 2 long term relationships before I began the relationship with my wife of 33 years. I was married to a man for 10 years and had 3 children. After that relationship ended, because he was an unfaithful ass and I was a lesbian, I was with a woman for 10 years who cheated on me with a woman who proclaimed to be my best friend. I never deprived either of them the opportunity to be with my children even though neither relationship was an “amicable” split. The only reason children should be denied the company of adults who love them is if those adults endanger them in some way.

        • bambinoitaliano

          Your emotional maturity is the exception to the rule. I’ve seen far too many abusive relationships that has become one of the reasons I prefer to remain single.

        • Steve

          It sounds like to me that you were the adult thinking of the long term consequences of the divorces on the children. You put their long term mental health first – not a desire to use them to “get back” at your former spouses. Your children are lucky to have you as a parent.

        • barn

          here here … i could not agree more with this comment of yours and your comment before. you are sooo right. about the child thing and … the thing about giving bigots even more ammo to fight us.

        • Phillip in L.A.

          Agree, Gay Old Lady! And thanks for the story about your relationships! 🙂

    • Joe in PA

      Wow GOL, great post. “Grow the fuck up!” is right.

      When I saw the headline I thought, great. But then reading further I thought how fucking selfish of one of them…AND trying to bring us back to the dark ages in the process: “you’re not really the parent” so you have no rights. Ugh.

      Oh, and let’s all hale NCLR…they do some great work.

      • prixator

        Selfish – and really low to try to take advantage of a discriminatory law.

    • Chris Baker

      Imagine how the child is going to feel when it grows up and learns that one of the parents found hard to keep the other parent from seeing him/her. Not a warm, fuzzy moment for that mother/child.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      I totally agree with your comment, GayOldLady! This case is actually even more egregious than it first appears, because the parties signed an Agreement that clearly and explicitly spelled out they were to be co-parents, share parenting responsibilities, and try to do a second-parent adoption ASAP (when the agreement was signed, that was the only legal option available).

      I think what happened was that Suzan tried to get pregnant first (through artificial insemination), and could not; so then, Kimberly tried, and SHE became pregnant. Suzan raised the child, “E.,” for the first two years of its life, while Kimberly worked as a physician. Then, the relationship hit the skids, Kimberly moved out, and just took the child with her; Kimberly prevented Suzan from having any access whatsoever. Suzan was then “forced” to file for dissolution (they were married in California in 2008) of marriage in Arizona Family Court, seeking Orders pendente lite for custody and visitation, etc.

      • GayOldLady

        Thanks for the information. How awful for a two year old to be taken away from a parent she had bonded with and likely had bonded more closely with Suzan since she was the primary caregiver than the biological mother. That makes this even more infuriating.

        • Phillip in L.A.

          Oh yes, Suzan was definitely the primary caregiver for the first two years; it just breaks my heart. This is one reason I stopped handling Family Law cases–they are very often too emotionally charged for me to be wholly objective.

  • -M-

    Go NCLR!
    Remember them, Lamda Legal, & SLDN along with ACLU and everybody else who sues the government for breaking the law in your charitable giving.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      Agree! I met Shannon Minter at Lambda Legal, when she came by for a meeting, in about 2000-2001. She is doing FANTASTIC and FABULOUS work!

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    WAIT! ARIZONA?!?! REALLY? Not gonna lie, I’m impressed.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      Impressed, aye! But not at all suspicious? I am….

  • The Professor

    Finally some good news.

  • The_Wretched

    “follows this settled law” <– I can't emphasize this enough. While cases like this one need to happen for technical reasons, the outcomes should not be in the least doubt. That they are is a blot on the conservatives who are constantly trying to make LGBTQ a second class status with denigrated legal protections.

  • lymis

    Yay for equality.

    As for the specifics, birth certificates have never been some sort of genetic verification. If they were, there wouldn’t be so many laws saying that the husband of a woman who gives birth is the legal father by default – even when everyone knows he isn’t, even when everyone involved SAYS he isn’t. Not even if a paternity test says so.

    A birth certificate is the legal documentation of who has parental rights over the child starting at birth. As such, there’s no reason to deny that to same-sex couples under the exact same circumstances that they are granted to opposite-sex couples.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      Agreed, lymis–but the Arizona Supreme Court went MUCH further than this, and MUCH further than they needed to, in their apparent attempt to appear fair and non-biased.

      The Opinion could have been one sentence: “The judgment of the Court of Appeal that Kimberly is equitably estopped from challenging Suzan’s parenthood, under A.R.S. 25-814 [iirc], is AFFIRMED.”

  • JCF

    As happy as I am for this victory…

    “After separating in 2013, Kimberly stopped allowing Suzan to see their child”

    Lesbians, can we please STOP FUCKING DOING THIS! I’m sick and tired of these type of cases. Hopefully, this decision kills it…

    • LesbianTippingHabits


      In other words, before making a commitment by getting married, think and consider carefully. This is serious business, especially when children come.

  • Phillip in L.A.

    Some Questions re: McLaughlin v. Superior Court (McLaughlin), No. CV-16-0266 (Sept. 19, 2017 Ariz.) (for NCLR and Shannon Minter)

    1. If one party is equitably estopped, why is FEDERAL constitutional analysis necessary? Doesn’t constitutional jurisprudence teach that where a decision of constitutional law can be avoided by some other substantive decision, it is almost always right to avoid the constitutional issue?

    2. If the intermediate Court of Appeal in McLaughlin reached the
    correct decision for correct reason(s), which it apparently did, why should the
    Second Division’s decision in McLaughlin be VACATED by the Supreme Court’s decision? The Arizona Supreme Court could have made their job so much easier–they could have just said the Court of Appeal was AFFIRMED in McLaughlin, which would also presumptively cast a huge cloud on Turner, if not actually overrrule it.

    3. Since there was an apparent conflict between the decisions in McLaughlin and Turner in the Second and First Appellate Divisions, respectively, it is easy to see how the Supreme Court came to the decision it needed to resolve the conflict. But why didn’t the Supreme Court DISAPPROVE, or OVERRULE, or DEPUBLISH Turner? It certainly went to great pains to point out in exactly what ways the Turner court was wrong! It appears that now, Turner may still be ‘good law,’ to the extent it was not disapproved by McLaughlin in the Supreme Court; while in McLaughlin, the appellate court’s opinion (which seemed fairly correct) was VACATED. Does this make sense? (I know, I know, “the life of the law is not logic.”)

    4. If the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari and reverses on the basis of Nguyen v. I.N.S. (2001) 533 U.S. 53, this whole mess is going to pale by comparison–especially because the Arizona Supremes went to great lengths to say that Nguyen (a statement of federal law by the U.S. Supreme Court) was inapplicable to the facts of this case (basically, wrong.) If the Arizona justices turn out to be wrong about Nguyen, though, the U.S. Supremes will summarily reverse, as they did previously, in the Arkansas case refusing to extend Obergefell to second-parent adoptions. The Arizona Supremes could easily have made the same ruling by relying on their interpretation of the Arizona Constitution, which the U.S. Supreme Court would be much less likely to disturb.

    5. Perhaps there was no Petition for Review filed in Turner, and
    under Rules of Appellate Practice in Arizona, the Supreme Court thus apparently
    cannot DEPUBLISH that case (as would be possible under California’s publication
    and depublication rules)? It sounds absurd, but these justices seem like they are up to something. When all seven judges of the Arizona Supreme Court (a conservative court in a conservative State) reach a decision like this, one needs to ask, why? What is hidden? Is there an ulterior motive? Do they know they have pushed the envelope farther than it needs to go, and are hoping to be reined in by the U.S. Supreme Court?

    6. Why is an evidentiary presumption a benefit of marriage? The Second
    Division Court of Appeals’ decision in McLaughlin was much more illuminating on this issue, than any other decision here–yet it is the only decision that was VACATED by this Supreme Court ruling. The Arizona Supreme Court uses words like “undoubtedly” and “clearly,” when it assumes the privilege IS a benefit, though it is not able to actually explain why that is so. This is usually because when courts use words like this, they are engaged in subterfuge of some sort, perhaps self-deluding.

  • Phillip in L.A.

    Hey, what happened to my post from Tuesday, where I addressed Shannon as follows: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” –Virgil, Æneid, Bk. II, 49.

    Was it deleted? Why? By whom?