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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

Utah Federal Court Rules Same-Sex Mothers’ Parentage Rights Must Be Recognized

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >>

Angie and Kami with legal teamPlaintiffs Angie and Kami Roe (center) surrounded by ACLU staff and interns celebrate the court’s decision.

On July 15, 2015, a Utah federal court ruled the State Office of Vital Records and Statistics must recognize a same-sex married couple as legal parents of their child under Utah’s assisted reproduction and parentage statutes.  In applying those laws, the Office was automatically recognizing husbands of women who conceive with donated sperm as the children’s parents. But rather than immediately recognize as parents female spouses whose spouses conceived in the same way, the Office was requiring them to go through the an expensive and time-consuming step-parent adoption process.

The ACLU of Utah and the ACLU LGBT and HIV project brought a case challenging the office’s application of the laws on behalf of Angie and Kami Roe, parents of Lucy.  Applying its discriminatory policy, the Office denied this family a birth certificate listing Angie as Lucy’s parent.  The case was argued before U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson.  The court  ruled that the Office must apply Utah’s assisted reproduction and parentage statutes equally to same and different-sex spouses.

“The court’s decision makes clear that Utah must provide the same benefits, protections, and obligations to married same-sex couples that it provides to every other married couple,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project. “Utah’s assisted conception statutes were passed to ensure that children have the protection of two legal parents from the moment they are born. The state could not identify any reason at all to explain why it should be able to deny that same protection to Angie and Kami’s family.”

“We are overjoyed by the ruling. We are the same parents walking out of the courtroom today as we were walking in, but to no longer be discriminated against and to be recognized as my daughter’s mother by the state of Utah, that’s an amazing feeling,” said Angie.

The court’s ruling granted Angie and Kami the requested preliminary injunction so that Angie was able to immediately provide proof of her parentage rights to Lucy. This ruling affirms the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision this summer in Obergefell v. Hodges that all equal protection rights stemming from marriage must be granted to same-sex couples.

More about this case can be found at www.acluutah.org/legal-work/current-cases.