- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A lesbian mother has asked the Supreme Court to overturn an Arizona court’s ruling and deny her ex-wife parental rights, arguing that her former spouse has no biological connection to the boy they raised together.

The case is the latest seeking guidance from the high court’s developing jurisprudence on rights for same-sex couples.

Kimberly McLaughlin and her ex-wife, Suzan McLaughlin, were married in California in 2008, then moved to Arizona. In 2011, Kimberly McLaughlin gave birth to a son conceived by artificial insemination.

After the couple divorced in 2013, Suzan McLaughlin asserted her parental rights, but her ex-wife — the boy’s biological mother — tried to reject those claims.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Suzan McLaughlin does have parental rights, citing the Supreme Court’s rulings in 2015 and 2017 that established that same-sex couples have the same protections as traditional families.

“In Arizona, at every level, the court has ruled that same-sex parents and their children have the same rights as other families,” said Catherine Sakimura, family law director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She is representing Suzan McLaughlin.

Arizona law says that a husband is presumed to be the father of his wife’s child if they have been married at least 10 months.

But Kimberly McLaughlin argues that standard shouldn’t apply to parents in a same-sex marriage.

“When the state recognizes a non-biological, non-adoptive person as a de facto or legal parent, it is essentially diminishing the existing parent’s fundamental right to the care, custody, and control of their child,” Kimberly McLaughlin said in her Supreme Court appeal, which was filed last month.

Camilla Taylor, legal director for the LGBT rights law firm Lambda Legal, said the Supreme Court has ruled several times that an individual can be a parent even if he or she lacks a genetic or biological connection to the child.

“The reason we have this marital presumption is to make sure a child’s relationship to both parents is protected, and parentage has always been more about biology, as any adoptive parent can tell you,” said Ms. Taylor, who is not involved in the case.

Joseph Grabowski, a spokesman for the National Organization for Marriage, which advocates against same-sex marriage, said the lawsuit exposes a conflict in the gay rights community, which he said has redefined what it means to be a parent.

“Our chief concern when we consider cases like this is that the rights of a child are not even mentioned in speaking about this in our public discourse It’s telling about the time that we live in,” he said.

Mr. Grabowski expressed skepticism that the Supreme Court would even take the case, saying if it does, the court’s ruling would be narrow and wouldn’t affect fathers’ rights in traditional-marriage cases.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at Family Research Council, questioned the validity of the couple’s marriage in the first place, saying they were married just before California enacted Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal, and then had a child in Arizona, which didn’t recognize same-sex marriages at that time.

“It’s one thing to say that same-sex couples must be granted all the rights of opposite-sex couples prospectively,” said Mr. Sprigg. “But it’s quite another thing to sort of reach back into the past to say people who were not seen as married under state law are now going to be seen as being married.”


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