Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that same-sex couples are entitled to equal parental rights as opposite-sex marriages. The court’s decision stems from a case, McLaughlin vs. McLaughlin, in which the spouse of woman who had given birth to the couple’s child sued for parental rights after they were divorced.
In the decision, Arizona’a highest court found that the state must afford same-sex spouses with equal parental rights, regardless of who birthed the child. Current Arizona law identifies the husband in a marriage as the presumed parent of any child born within 10 months of marriage, even if the child was conceived through artificial insemination, as The Arizona Daily Sun noted. Tuesday’s decision affirmed that the law applies to same-sex couples.
Chief Justice Scott Bales cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark precedent as the basis for the lower court’s ruling. “It would be inconsistent with Obergefell to conclude that same-sex couples can legally marry but states can deny them the same benefits of marriage afforded opposite-sex couples,” Bales wrote. The court’s explanation for ensuring same-sex couples are afforded the same parental rights as opposite-sex couples is stunning in its accuracy and eloquence:
Denying same-sex couples “the same legal treatment” in marriage, id. at 2602, and “all the benefits” afforded opposite- sex couples, “works a grave and continuing harm” on gays and lesbians in various ways—demeaning them, humiliating and stigmatizing their children and family units, and teaching society that they are inferior in important respects.
To avoid stigmatizing — and thus harming — children of same-sex couples, the court’s decision plainly guaranteed that a birth mother’s spouse is a legally recognized parent even if they are not the biological parent.
As Conservative states across the country continue to attack the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights, Arizona’s ruling is especially important. It’s mentioning that back in June newly installed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch opposed a decision requiring Arkansas’ Department of Health to list both parents of a newborn on a birth certificate, even if the parents are a same-sex couple.