Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Marriage-Equality-Update

Dissension Lingers as U.S. Supreme Court Prepares for Marriage Equality Hearing

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to open hearings April 28 on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in four states, a handful of contrarian holdouts continues to fuel the drama.

The Supreme Court has said it will rule in June on two central issues: whether denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and whether states where same-sex marriage is not legal must recognize marriages performed in states where it is. The court will hear cases from four states that currently ban same-sex marriage—Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' Sixth Circuit ruled in November to uphold the ban in the four states; however, many other federal appeals courts have ruled against same-sex marriage bans. A Supreme Court ruling is viewed by many as a way to bring clarity and consistency to U.S. marriage laws.

In fact, hundreds of conservative politicians and activists, as well as business owners and corporate executives, have taken up the marriage equality banner, calling on the justices to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, according to a recent New York Daily News report. Doing so will promote traditional values and stabilize families, said former George W. Bush campaign aide and Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman, who filed an amicus brief signed by more than 300 social and political conservatives.

But elsewhere dissension prevails. On March 3 in the state of Alabama, the state Supreme Court, in a challenge to the authority of federal appellate courts, ordered probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state high court ruling followed weeks of confusion, with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore declaring that the right to define marriage lies with the states. In February most Alabama probate judges began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade first struck down the state’s ban, then ordered the Mobile, Alabama, probate judge to issue the licenses. But following the latest Alabama high court ruling, from which he recused himself, Moore insisted that state law supersedes lower federal court rulings where marriage is concerned. In the interim prior to last week’s decision, many Alabama same-sex couples did get licensed and were married in the state.

More recently in Texas, where a federal district court also overturned that state’s same-sex marriage ban on constitutional grounds, the Attorney General has called on the state Supreme Court to uphold it. Attorneys general, governors and lawmakers in several states have filed legal briefs and decried the federal court decisions in support of same-sex marriage. A Utah state senator took a more innovative approach, carrying a bill that would allow government officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples, according to an Associated Press report, but only if they also gave up the right to marry heterosexual couples. So far Alabama’s Supreme Court is the only state to blatantly defy federal court rulings.

Let’s hope the U.S. Supreme Court lays this issue to rest once and for all when it issues its decision in June. In the interim, the legal security of thousands of children and their families remain “in limbo,” as Judge Bernard A. Friedman of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, wrote in his decision on DeBoer v Snyder, one of the four cases to be heard by the high court this spring. In his conclusion that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage does indeed violate the 14th Amendment, Friedman writes, “… should either of the plaintiffs die or become incapacitated, the surviving non-legal parent would have no authority under Michigan law to make legal decisions on behalf of the surviving children without resorting to a prolonged and complicated guardianship proceeding. And in the event that a state court were to award guardianship of the surviving children to the non-legal parent, the guardianship would have to be renewed annually and would remain susceptible to the challenge of an interested party at any time. This… places such children in a legally precarious situation and deprives them of ‘social capital.’” In Michigan alone, more than 5,000 children being raised by same-sex couples remain in this “legally precarious situation.” It’s time that injustice was corrected.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

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
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
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 SOSA
Paralegal

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
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

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
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
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

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
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

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 TAMAYO
Paralegal

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 CHIEN
Paralegal

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
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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.