Suzan and Kimberly McLaughlin, a married lesbian couple, conceived a child using artificial insemination with an anonymous donor in 2011. When the parties later separated in 2013, Kimberly began restricting Suzan’s access to the child. Suzan filed a lawsuit seeking to be recognized as a parent that same year. In April 2016, the trial court ruled that Suzan is a legal parent of the child under Arizona law. Kimberly appealed. In October 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that Suzan is a legal parent of the child. Kimberly then appealed the case to the Arizona Supreme Court, who affirmed the Court of Appeals on September 19, 2017, stating that that: “[i]t 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.” Kimberly then filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on February 26, 2018.
What is the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court denying Kimberly’s petition? Well, in Arizona, the denial means that the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision stands. The denial of a petition for certiorari does not mean that the Supreme Court agrees with the decision of the Court of Appeals, only that the case will not be reviewed. This means that while the denial is significant for the parties to the case, the impact the denial may have on other cases is unclear. Basically, the denial of a petition for writ of certiorari means that the appeals court decision agrees with the current law. In this case, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled consistent with its interpretation of Obergefell by extending the right to marry to include the subsequent benefits of marriage, including parentage. Since the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, many cases have recognized that married same-sex parents must be treated equally as married opposite-sex parents. In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Pavan v. Smith that Obergefell requires states to treat all married couples equally. The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision in McLaughlin is consistent with settled law and should be instructive to other states considering this issue.
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