Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Prop8-DOMA-Equality

Supreme Court Cases Advance Recognition of Rights of Gay, Lesbian Parents

The U.S. Supreme Court’s hearings on two crucial same-sex marriage cases this week has created a media frenzy and raised passions to fever pitch on both sides of the issue. Yesterday the court heard oral arguments on whether to uphold a federal court decision overturning California’s Prop 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that stripped same-sex couples in the state of the right to marry. Many court watchers, in analyzing the justices’ questions of the attorneys on both sides, were led to predict that the court will rule narrowly in a decision affecting only California rather than a far reaching decision that would determine the rights of same-sex couples nationally.

Among several arguments that touched on reproduction and the role of marriage as a legal structure intended to protect families, two such arguments stood out. When pro-Prop 8 attorney Charles Cooper seemed to suggest that married couples over age 55 would be likely to procreate, Justice Elena Kagan took issue with the attorney’s understanding of basic biology:

“I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.”

More poignantly, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy acknowledged the interest children of same-sex parents have in the court’s ruling:

“It’s the voice of those children” that should be heard, Kennedy said. “They want their parents to have the full recognition” of marriage.

Kennedy also seemed to question whether the defenders of Proposition 8 have proper standing (a vested interest) to challenge the lower court’s ruling. If four of Kennedy’s fellow justices  join him in such a ruling, the court would reject the case, the lower court ruling would stand, and same-sex marriage would again be legal in California.

Today the court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in a case against the U.S. government brought by Edith Windsor, the 83-year-old widow of a female partner who died in 2009. The two had been together for 43 years and had married legally in Canada in 2007. Upon her spouse’s death, the federal estate tax was triggered, and the IRS handed Windsor a tax bill for $363,000. Had Windsor and her spouse been considered legally married in the United States, the estate tax would not have applied, and Windsor would not have owed any taxes—presenting a clear case in which Windsor is harmed by DOMA’s designation of her marriage as unlawful.

As in the Prop 8 case, Kennedy may be the swing vote here. As reported by The Chicago Tribune, Kennedy questioned whether DOMA raised concerns that the law could be a violation of peoples’ equal protection rights and also of states’ rights and federalism.

Kennedy repeatedly said the states, not the federal government, have the primary role in deciding who is married. The question is “whether the federal government has the authority to regulate marriage,” he said. “That authority undermines the states’ role in the federal system.”

The court’s ruling in both cases is expected in June; however, if the Prop 8 case is rejected because Prop 8 proponents are deemed not to have standing, that decision could be announced as soon as the end of this week.

While it’s impossible to predict with certainty how the decision in either case will go, the legal process has already achieved one important thing: It has made the issue of same-sex marriage and the rights of gay- and lesbian-headed families a topic of national conversation. The visibility of gay and lesbian couples, who just want the same legal right to marry that heterosexual couples have, and the acknowledgement that the children of gay and lesbian parents have an interest in their parents’ right to marry, increases public familiarity and comfort levels. In the end it is that heightened familiarity and comfort that will do more to change hearts and minds than any legislation or judicial ruling could achieve.

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
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

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.