Rich Vaughn IFLG: 2nd Parent Adoption Best for LGBT Parents

Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Barrier for Married Lesbian Parents

The wheels of progress turn slowly, and in some parts of the world, leaders stand on the brakes, bring it to a screeching halt, then do their best to roll it backwards. That appears to be happening right now in the Tennessee state legislature.

Under the Tennessee Vital Records Act of 1977, children born to a married woman through in vitro fertilization, with the husband’s consent, are automatically considered to be the legitimate child of the married couple. The legislation was enacted as a growing number of Tennesseans began benefiting from IVF and other types of assisted reproductive technology as treatments for infertility.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, statutes with gender-specific titles, such as “husband” and “wife,” were interpreted to be gender-neutral. As a result, now-legally married lesbian couples who had a child via ART were both considered under Tennessee law to be legal parents and were so designated on the child’s birth certificate.

Tennessee lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills that, if both enacted, would deny that presumption of parenthood to lesbian couples. The first, HB33SB30, would require that gender-specific terms in state statutes would be interpreted by their “natural and ordinary meaning.” In other words, no more gender-neutral reading of the law. If a statute says “husband,” the word would be defined as a married man, “wife” as a married woman.

The second bill, HB1406SB1153, would repeal the section of the Tennessee Vital Records Act that deems children born via IVF to a married couple to be the legitimate child of the couple. At first glance, that would seem to mean that a baby conceived via IVF to a married man and woman would not be their child. However, another section of the act, “Presumption of Parentage,” establishes that “[a] man is rebuttably presumed to be the father of a child” if the man and the child's mother are married.

The proposal to eliminate a law legitimizing children born via IFV has caused an outcry from families who have had children via IVF and reproductive freedom advocates, although the sponsor of HB1406SB1153, Republican lawmaker Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, says the Presumption of Parentage clause will protect married heterosexual parents.

But remember, if the first bill passes, no more gender-neutral interpretation. A married man and woman could still have a child via IVF, and the husband would be presumed to be the legal parent of the child. But in a lesbian married couple, only the partner who bore the child would be listed on the birth certificate as the child’s parent. The Tennessee legislature has in the past attempted to pass a law prohibiting second-parent adoption, which same-sex couples often use to establish that both parties are parents of children born via assisted reproductive technology, but the bill failed to pass. Thus, Tennessee currently considers second-parent adoptions on a case-by-case basis. Bottom line, should HB1406 pass, married lesbian couples would face considerably more legal hurdles (and expense) in establishing parentage of their children born via ART.

The introduction of the companion bills is obviously a ploy by Tennessee lawmakers to do an end-around the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage. Yes, Tennessee lesbians could still legally marry, but, were these two bills to pass, they would be stripped of a legal right of parentage afforded to heterosexual married couples. If it works, it is likely other states will seek ways to subvert the Court’s intention.

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.