The Arizona Court of Appeals, Division Two held Tuesday that Suzan McLaughlin is a legal parent of the son she and her former same-sex spouse conceived through donor insemination and raised together before the couple separated.
Suzan McLaughlin and her former wife, Kimberly, were married in 2008. Suzan and Kimberly jointly decided to have a child together using an anonymous sperm donor, and Kimberly became pregnant in 2010. After Kimberly gave birth to their son, Suzan and Kimberly raised him together as a family for nearly two years. Suzan was the child’s primary caretaker, staying home to care for their son full time while Kimberly worked. In 2013, when their son was almost two, Kimberly abruptly ended their relationship, moved from their shared home and cut off contact between Suzan and her son. Suzan immediately filed an action to be recognized as a legal parent of their child.
In April 2016, the Honorable Lori B. Jones of the Pima County Superior Court ruled that Suzan is a legal parent of their child under Arizona law, holding that Arizona’s presumption that a child born to a married couple is the legal child of both spouses must be applied equally to same-sex spouses.
Tuesday’s decision affirms the Superior Court’s ruling. The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected Kimberly’s argument that the marital presumption cannot be applied to a female spouse, holding that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that same-sex couples have the freedom to marry, requires states to treat same-sex spouses and their families equally in all respects.
Suzan McLaughlin is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Arizona attorney Claudia Work. Professor Barbara A. Atwood and the Child and Family Law Clinic at the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law filed an amicus brief urging the Court of Appeals to uphold the Superior Court’s decision.
Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “Today’s decision affirms the longstanding principle that children born to married parents through donor insemination must be treated equally and given the same protections as other marital children. It also ensures that Arizona law is consistent with that of other states, which uniformly recognize that both spouses who agree to have a child through donor insemination are legal parents.”
Added Claudia Work, who also represents McLaughlin: “Our client is thrilled that she will finally be able to see her son. We are grateful to the Court of Appeals for affirming the trial court’s decision and recognizing that children deserve the love and protection of both parents, regardless of how the child came into the world.”