SCOTUS Puts Hold On Utah Same-Sex Marriage

Many gay and lesbian couples in Utah have put their plans to marry on hold for now, as the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 6 put a hold on U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s Dec. 20 ruling striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. Two lower courts previously refused the Utah Attorney General’s request to stay Shelby’s decision, and a thousand Utah same-sex couples have since gotten married in local courthouses and county clerk’s offices throughout the state. Many applied immediately for healthcare and other benefits afforded married couples.

Utah’s request for a stay on same-sex marriages was relayed to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees appeals for the 10th Circuit, which includes Utah. Sotomayor in turn referred the matter to the full court.

Now at issue is the status of those thousand Utah same-sex marriages. Utah’s Attorney General is expected to challenge their validity, which could leave the newly married couples in legal limbo for some time while the challenge works its way through the court system. Lambda Legal Director Jon Davidson speculates that while Utah may not recognize the marriages, the federal government and other states where same-sex marriages are legal will recognize the Utah marriages.

When California voters passed the anti-gay marriage initiative Proposition 8 in 2008, the 18,000-some same-sex marriages that had already occurred between the June court ruling legalizing their marriages and Election Day ultimately were upheld by the state Supreme Court. On the other hand, as the Associated Press reported, marriage licenses issued in 2004 by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom were later invalidated. Arguably, however, a court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage carries more weight than a mayor’s unilateral actions without benefit of judicial or legislative authority—a potential ray of hope for Utah’s newly married same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, the question of whether gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry in Utah is back in the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to rule definitively one way or another until the case has worked its way through the judicial system. According to AP, the 10th Circuit appears eager to move along on the case, setting short deadlines for written arguments. The state's first brief is due January 27; no date has been set for oral arguments.

Our thoughts are with the Utah families whose celebrations were turned to uncertainty with Monday’s Supreme Court ruling. The only comfort we can offer is our conviction that the tide is moving in the right direction, and that right almost always prevails in the end. At times like this, particularly for those families, it just feels like it takes far too long.

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.