Victory for same-sex parental rights in Arizona

Columnist Katie Haga 

Columnist Katie Haga 

The Obama administration legalized gay marriage in the United States in 2015, arguably the biggest milestone to occur regarding same-sex couples in the U.S. Although our nation was not the first country to legalize gay marriage, following behind several other countries, it was still a big deal. Now comes another milestone for same-sex couples.

It feels as if it has been quite some time that our nation has received good news on same-sex couples. That positive-news-dry-streak was recently broken when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled same-sex spouses will now get equal parental rights as those of opposite-sex couples. 

The new Arizona ruling emerged on Sept. 12 after a lesbian woman separated from her spouse and wanted equal custody of their son. The Tucson couple conceived their son through artificial insemination. After Kimberly McLaughlin gave birth to their son in 2011, both her and her spouse, Suzan McLaughlin, agreed to shared parenting. However, Kimberly McLaughlin opposed that agreement after they broke up two years later, despite their legal agreement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After the split, according to court records, Kimberly McLaughlin moved out with their son and tried to cut off any contact with her ex-partner. Because of this, Suzan McLaughlin decided to sue. 

Before the Supreme Court made their final decision, two lower courts reached different conclusions. One court decided that under Obergefell, the case referring to same-sex couples’ guaranteed fundamental right to marry, Suzan McLaughlin should have the same “presumption of parenting” that men would have in opposite-sex marriages. The other court disagreed. 

If something like this were to happen to a different-sex couple the case would easily conclude, depending on the circumstances. Custody battles are very common among straight married couples which makes it easier for courts to make decisions. Some may have seen this case as a difficult decision to make, but to discriminate against a gay couple like this is unconstitutional.

When reviewing the 2015 law making same-sex marriage legal, Chief Justice Scott Bales said, “It would be inconsistent with the ruling to conclude that same-sex couples can legally marry but some states can deny them the same benefits of marriage afforded opposite-sex couples,” according to the Arizona Daily Sun. The chief justice believes it would be best for lawmakers of Arizona as well as the governor to repeal any rules or laws that discriminate. 

When Suzan McLaughlin filed for divorce in 2013 she attempted to get joint custody of her son, citing laws that state the husband in the marriage would be the presumed parent when it comes to cases of custody. The trial judge decided to have their case processed, which led Kimberly McLaughlin to petition, saying that the law specifically only applies when the other spouse is a man. The fact that Kimberly McLaughlin brought that up is entirely unfair to her ex-spouse. According to court records, after Kimberly McLaughlin gave birth to their son she went back to work as a physician while Suzan McLaughlin stayed home and cared for their son. 

Suzan McLaughlin is the other parent to their son, which means she deserves the right to have shared parental time. It is extremely selfish for Kimberly McLaughlin to try to revoke her parental rights when she was the one who spent the most time taking care of their son. Although Suzan McLaughlin was not the biological mother, she deserves every right as a mother to her son and co-parent with Kimberly McLaughlin, despite the divorce.

A couple who decides to raise a child together should have equal parental rights in the event of a divorce. No matter the sexual orientation of the couple, a child should have both its parents in its life. As said by Suzan McLaughlin’s attorney, Claudia Work, “It’s not an issue of biology, it’s an issue of equal treatment,” according to azcentral.