Legal Recognition of Ohio Same-Sex Parents on Hold

On Monday, April 14, a U.S. district court broke down another barrier to same-sex marriage in a crucial ruling for same-sex parents in Ohio who have out-of-state adoption degrees.

U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black ruled on Monday that Ohio’s ban against recognizing out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The ruling also requires that Ohio officials give full faith and credit to the out-of-state adoption decrees of same-sex parents, just as out-of-state adoptions by different-sex parents currently are recognized under Ohio law.

However, as has occurred in state after state, the effect of the ruling is on hold for the time being. Two days after his initial ruling, on April 16, Black stayed his own order, pending appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The ruling does take effect immediately in regard to the four married lesbian couples who were plaintiffs in the case. Three of the couples are expectant parents whose children will be born in Ohio; the fourth is a married New York couple whose adopted son was born in Ohio. The couples are seeking an order for Ohio to allow both parents’ names to be placed on their children’s birth certificates. In issuing the April 16 stay, Black ordered the state to immediately list both partners in the four couples on their children’s birth certificates, the Associated Press reported.

Had Black not issued the stay, all married gay couples living in Ohio would have been able to immediately begin obtaining the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for each other.

Black’s April 14 decision does not require the state to allow same-sex marriage in Ohio but only to recognize already existing marriages, such as those of couples who have married in states or countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

However, Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati civil rights attorney who represents the four couples in the current lawsuit, said he plans in the next few weeks to file suit to legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio.

As reported by Associated Press:

In Monday's ruling, Black said the state's refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriage is a violation of constitutional rights and “unenforceable in all circumstances.”

“The record before this court ... is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state's ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Black wrote.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2013 rulings striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and overturning California’s anti-same-sex marriage Proposition 8, eight federal courts have struck down state bans against same-sex marriage on constitutional grounds. All but one of those rulings—that of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Michigan—have been stayed pending appeal. An L.A. Times analysis of the rationale behind the rash of federal stays dates the trend to the January ruling overturning Utah’s same-sex-marriage ban.

In Utah, a frantic appeal from the state was denied by an appeals court before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a two-sentence order in early January simply stating that Utah's ruling (and further same-sex marriages) should be on hold until the appeals process was complete.

Those two sentences probably won't get quoted in any history books. But it was that intervention that hinted for other federal judges to restrain themselves as they throw out laws passed not that long ago with the overwhelming support of voters and legislatures, and its after-effects were firmly felt in Kentucky on Wednesday [March 19].

Other legal analysts speculate that the high court is anxious to counter often politically motivated claims that “activist judges” are intervening to thwart the will of voters. By signaling that federal courts should proceed cautiously in allowing the issue to be fully addressed in the appeals process, the Supreme Court may hope to ensure judicial credibility and avoid charges of acting in haste.

Logically, such reasoning on the part of the justices may make sense. But for couples who have been waiting, some for decades, to marry the ones they love, and for families denied equal protection under the law, the continued waiting only adds to their burdens of heartache and stress.

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.