Arizona’s Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Equality for Same-Sex Parents

September 19, 2017 marks a major victory for same-sex parents in the state of Arizona!!!

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court recognizing and extending state marital benefits to same-sex couples nationwide in 2015, many states are slow to adapt to this change in the law.

Arizona is no exception as our statutes are written with “traditional” family roles in mind – a husband and wife, a father and mother.

The traditional language written into our statutes makes it difficult to determine how the laws apply to same sex couples when facing divorce or custody issues.

Yesterday, however, Arizona’s Supreme Court made clear that despite statutes’ outdated language, same-sex couples can start realizing the same benefits opposite-sex couples enjoy in the state of Arizona.

In McLaughlin v. Jones, the main issue before the court was whether the marital paternity presumption in §25-814(A)(1) is to be applied to same-sex couples.

The statute provides that a man is presumed to be a legal parent if his wife gives birth to a child during marriage. This same presumption exists in cases of artificial insemination, allowing a husband in an opposite-sex marriage to establish his parental rights where his wife is artificially inseminated by an anonymous donor.

In the McLaughlin case, Kimberly and Suzan, a same-sex couple, decided to have a child through artificial insemination. After a failed first attempt, Kimberly became pregnant using an anonymous sperm donor. Kimberly and Suzan entered a joint parenting agreement declaring Suzan a “co-parent” of the child with the same rights, responsibilities and obligations that a biological parent would have to her child. About two years later, the relationship deteriorated and Suzan’s contact with the baby was cut off.

The court held that even though the statute, as written, does not apply to same-sex couples, excluding Suzan from the marital paternity presumption violates the Fourteenth Amendment. The court, looking back to Supreme Court cases interpreting newfound rights for same-sex couples, determined that the paternity presumption is to be extended to same-sex couples to ensure that all children have financial and emotional support from two parents and strong family units.

This is a major victory for Arizona’s LGBT community and will open the door for many other changes in the law that will meet the federal recognition of same-sex marriage. This comes even as many states still struggle to integrate laws to fit any necessary matters where same-sex couples are involved.

To read the court’s full opinion, click here.

Arizona is finally changing, if you are seeking to establish and/or enforce your own parental rights and you would like to work with one of our experienced Attorneys, please call OWENS & PERKINS at 480.994.8824 to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.