Utah Couple Wins A Big Victory For Same-Sex Parents

Rick Bowmer. AP Photo.
In a big victory for same-sex parents, the state of Utah has agreed to pay more than $24,000 in legal fees for a lesbian couple who sued after the state refused to name both women as parents on their child’s birth certificate.

Kami and Angie Roe, who married on the first day same-sex marriage became legal in Utah, brought suit against the state after Angie was denied the right to be named a parent on their infant daughter’s birth certificate.

In February, Kami gave birth via a sperm donation, a procedure that for heterosexual parents is very streamlined. If a straight couple chooses to have a child via artificial insemination, all the husband has to do to be declared the father is provide a signed record of consent to the use of a sperm donor. But for the Roes, Utah required that Angie adopt her daughter as a stepparent, a process which would have required a fee of several hundred dollars as well as a background check, and also rested on the final ruling of a judge. In the meantime, Angie would have difficulty with any task that required legal guardianship of her daughter — which would include taking her to the doctor, or scheduling her for daycare.

The Roes brought suit in April of this year, and a judge ruled in their favor in mid-July, citing Utah’s “[inability] to provide a rational basis for treating male spouse of women who give birth through assisted reproduction involving the use of donor sperm differently than identically situated female spouse[.]” The ruling, initially temporary to allow Angie to care for her daughter, has been made permanent.

The ruling emphasized that Utah’s basis for denial of Angie Roe’s parental rights is outdated in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case earlier this year that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Utah’s statute effectively used “husband” in place of “spouse” and provided a technicality that allowed the state to discriminate against the Roes. But that opportunity may not come again. The ruling also stated that if Utah continues to allow such a simplified parenthood process for “male spouses of women who give birth through assisted reproduction with donor sperm, they must also apply the statute equally to female spouses of women who give birth through assisted reproduction with donor sperm.”
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