Utah Same-Sex Marriage May Improve Status of Non-Traditional Families

The people of Utah are divided between celebration and outrage in response to a federal court ruling Friday, Dec. 20, knocking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage on constitutional grounds. As word of Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby spread, gay and lesbian couples in Salt Lake City and across the state rushed to their county clerk’s offices to apply for marriage licenses, many with family members and witnesses in tow getting married on the spot. There was a clear sense among those rushing to the courthouses that a stay on gay marriages could come down at any time.

On Sunday, a federal appeals court in Denver refused to rule on the Utah attorney general’s request for an emergency stay, insisting that Shelby rule on the motion first. Today Shelby refused to overturn his own ruling, and the state took its motion back to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals, which gave lawyers representing the pro-equality side until end of day to respond. “Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said the state would consider going to the Supreme Court if the appeals court doesn't grant a stay,” reported NBC News. If a stay is granted, same-sex marriages would be halted pending either the upholding or overturning of Shelby’s ruling.

Even with a stay, many couples were unable to get licenses from their local counties. Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert, who has called Shelby an “activist” judge, advised county clerks to check with their county attorneys before beginning to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Herbert and the state’s Attorney General’s office stated that Shelby’s ruling and subsequent refusal to issue a stay has created “chaos” in which some couples who were allowed to marry immediately may see their marriages invalidated if the ruling is overturned. “But legal experts say that even if a stay is granted, the licenses that have already been issued will likely still be valid,” NBC News reported.

As Californians know all too well from the Proposition 8 campaign of 2008, the right to marry can be won, then lost on a public vote, sometimes for years. We hope the LGBT community in Utah, and their supporters, will not suffer that kind of heartbreak and frustration. As we wrote a year ago, Utah’s laws impacting the rights of gay and lesbian couples to form families are already among the most onerous in the United States: gay and lesbian couples are prohibited from adopting children; and only married, heterosexual couples are allowed to become parents via surrogacy. Even legal, heterosexual surrogacy arrangements are tightly restricted: only gestational surrogacy, in which an embryo is implanted into the surrogate, is allowed, and genetic material from at least one of the intended parents must be used for fertilization of the embryo. Gaining the right for same-sex couples to marry won’t immediately change those Utah laws. But it could be a first step toward the public acceptance that families come in all different sizes and shapes, and that all children are equally deserving of security and equal protection under the law.

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.