Rich Vaughn, IFLG: ABA Resolution Decries State Discrimination Against LGBTQ Parents

American Bar Calls Out Discrimination Against LGBTQ Parents

Many LGBT intended parents and their families rejoiced in 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Finally, LGBT married couples would be treated the same as heterosexual married couples in the areas of parentage and parental rights. Instead, some states resisted the decision, and, nearly four years later, several have enacted new laws restricting the rights of LGBT people to parent. In response, in February 2019, the American Bar Association passed Resolution 113, which “opposes laws, regulations, and rules or practices that discriminate against LGBT individuals in the exercise of the fundamental right to parent.”

A report accompanying the resolution confirms that “lawmakers in some states have incorrectly argued that there is ambiguity in the breadth of Obergefell’s holding that still permits discrimination against LGBT individuals.”

Any purported ambiguity supporting these policies does not exist. The Supreme Court’s decision last year in Pavan v. Smith, 137 S. Ct. 2075 (2017), made clear that rights afforded to different-sex parents by the state cannot be denied to LGBT parents…. However, family law in each state continues to vary greatly. Some states have fully embraced the parental rights of LGBT parents, while other states are more reticent, forcing their courts to recognize rights for LGBT parents on an ad hoc basis.

In Pavan v. Smith the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the state’s right to discriminate by refusing to list both married lesbian moms, who conceived via assisted reproduction, on their baby’s birth certificate, instead listing only the biologically related mother.

That omission constituted unequal treatment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2017, because heterosexual couples in Arkansas who conceived using assisted reproduction were required by law to list the husband as “father” on the child’s birth certificate. The high court’s verdict: States must issue birth certificates including the female spouses of women who give birth in the state if they include male spouses of women who give birth.

Also since 2015, a growing number of states have passed laws making it more difficult for LGBTQ people to adopt or foster. Of 10 states that have laws allowing state-licensed adoption or foster agencies to refuse to place children with LGBT individuals or couples due to religious objections, eight have passed these discriminatory laws since 2015.

The main take-away for LGBTQ people who hope to be parents someday is to be aware that the laws governing parentage differ widely from state to state and to consult experienced legal counsel familiar with the laws in the state where your baby will be born, or where you adopt or foster, and in the state where your family will ultimately live. For non-biological parents, a second-parent adoption, where possible, is still the best way to ensure your parental rights and your family are protected, whether you are at home or away.

For the time being, advocates for equality and reproductive freedom are in “defense” mode, as some states resist advances to reproductive freedom and fight to strip rights from LGBT people. The ABA’s resolution is an encouraging signal that the mainstream U.S. legal community is behind us as we continue the work to ensure permanent and equal legal protection for ALL families.


Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.