Rich Vaughn Blog: Supreme Court Upholds Lesbian Adoption

Lesbian Adoptive Mom’s Parental Rights Restored by ‘Full Faith and Credit’ Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court this week reversed an earlier ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court, reinstating the parental rights of a lesbian mom to the children she had legally adopted in another state.

On the face of it, the SCOTUS decision was a victory for LGBT rights and marriage equality, as many activists claimed. But the court’s unanimous decision was based on a constitutional principle that long predates its June 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 U.S. states, and its argument might as appropriately have been applied to a heterosexual parental adoption, or for that matter, to any court order issued by any state.

That principle, codified in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, states that: “full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state,” and on the Court’s prior interpretations of that clause, wrote Lyle Denniston of  “If a state court has jurisdiction under its own laws to issue a decision, Monday’s opinion said, then that decision is entitled to respect in the courts of every other state.”

In the underlying state case, the Alabama high court decided that the Georgia court had interpreted Georgia state law incorrectly when it allowed the lesbian mom to adopt the children in 2007.

Quoting from a 1940 Supreme Court decision, SCOTUS on Monday stated: “A state may not disregard the judgment of a sister state because it disagrees with the reasoning underlying the judgment or deems it to be wrong on the merits…. On the contrary, ‘the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution precludes any inquiry into the merits of the cause of action, the logic or consistency of the decision, or the validity of the legal principles on which the judgment is based.’”

The two mothers involved, identified as V.L. and E.L., as The Wall Street Journal reports, lived as a couple in Alabama for nearly 17 years, from 1995 to 2011, during which time E.L. gave birth to three children via donor insemination. Same-sex marriage was banned in Alabama during that period. On the advice of the family’s attorney, the family established residency in Georgia, where the laws were deemed more favorable, and V.L. adopted the children under the jurisdiction of a Georgia court, with the full support of the children’s biological mother, E.L.

Later the couple separated, and biological mom E.L. refused to allow adoptive parent V.L. to see their children, petitioning Alabama to nullify the adoption. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed to do so on the basis that the Georgia court that originally ordered the adoption had no jurisdiction to do so under Georgia law. The U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled that the Georgia court did have jurisdiction, and that its order must be upheld by Alabama.

Although the decision does not directly deal with LGBT rights, it is being hailed by many, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented adoptive mom V.L., as a victory for gay and lesbian adoption rights. Adoption by same-sex couples is one of the causes still at issue in the wake of last year’s legalization of same-sex marriage. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been one of the opposing holdouts, initially ordering Alabama probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples—until the Alabama Supreme Court overturned his order last week.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent ruling, that the Constitutional principle of “Full Faith and Credit” still stands, is good news for all of us.




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.