Will 2015 Bring Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriage?

Proponents of marriage equality have a lot to celebrate as we near the beginning of a new year. Since January 1, 2014, courts in 20 states have overturned bans on same-sex marriage, for a total of 35 states where marriage equality is the law of the land—63.45% of the U.S. population, according to advocacy organization Marriage Equality USA.

Still, in many parts of the country, LGBT people and their families don’t have the legal recognition of marriage and, even in some cases where courts have overturned bans, local officials continue to stonewall or have obtained stays. The result: confusion, complexity, frustration and heartache for thousands of couples, their children, families and friends.

One such scenario is still playing out in Missouri. In June the city clerk of St. Louis, Missouri, effectively challenged Missouri’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage by issuing four marriage licenses. Although she agreed to stop issuing marriage licenses, the clerk asked the court for a declaration authorizing same-sex couples to marry in Missouri. On November 5 Circuit Judge Rex Burlison granted her request, declaring the state's ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and ordering registrars to start issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. However, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, citing the need to defend Missouri voters’ right to define marriage, MSNBC reported.

Meanwhile Missouri had already started recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states following an October ruling by Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs, according to The Kansas City Star. Republican state legislators attempted to appeal Youngs’ ruling to the state Supreme Court; on Dec. 11 Youngs denied the state legislators’ motion, saying time had run out and the case is no longer under his jurisdiction.

Once source of confusion is whether a federal ruling in one state is binding on other states within the same circuit, as many legal experts have claimed. Writing for Jurist, Topeka law professor Jeffrey D. Jackson, argues those rulings are not binding in states where same-sex marriage bans have not been challenged. For example, in October, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari—refused to hear—seven cases from the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits in which same-sex marriage bans had been overturned, leaving the lower court rulings to stand. But in Kansas, located in the Tenth Circuit, the ban on same-sex marriage had not been challenged in federal court.

Jackson writes, “Unlike decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, decisions of a federal circuit court are not binding on the constitutionality of state laws that are not at issue in the case.

“Thus, even though Kansas's law was almost indistinguishable from the laws that the Tenth Circuit had struck down in Utah and Oklahoma, and therefore would almost certainly meet the same result were it challenged in federal court, the fact remained that it had not been. Therefore, it remained the law of the state.”

In Kansas, Jackson continues, the result was confusion and disappointment. Early news reports indicated that all the Utah and Oklahoma rulings meant that Kansas same-sex couples could now legally marry. Some tried and were turned away. The chief judge of the Tenth Judicial District, in an attempt to provide clarity, issued an administrative order instructing officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Fifty-one applications for marriage licenses for same-sex couples were approved and one same-sex marriage took place before the Kansas Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on same-sex marriages. Two couples who were denied marriage licenses sued in Kansas federal district court. The federal district court issued a preliminary injunction allowing same-sex marriage on the grounds that the plaintiffs probably would prevail in the Tenth Circuit, but then stayed its ruling until November 11 to allow the other side to appeal. The Tenth Circuit appeals court denied the stay, and the defendants took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted a temporary stay, only to lift it two days later. On Nov. 18 the Kansas Supreme Court followed suit, lifting its stay.

Gay marriage proponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, declared victory, claiming the matter was now settled, same-sex marriage now legal in the state of Kansas. But the issue remains in legal limbo, Jackson writes. “While a declaration that Kansas's ban is unconstitutional would indeed have to be followed, no such declaration currently exists. Rather, the preliminary injunction extends only to the defendants in the federal district court case, and enjoins only them from enforcing or applying the bans.”

The upshot: As of November 20, “approximately 24 of Kansas's 105 counties have decided to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples.” Under state law, same-sex couples now can get married anywhere in Kansas, but they may have to obtain their license from a different county. Moreover the “validity and effect of those marriage” remains in question, Jackson writes.

“Because there has been no definitive federal or state ruling on the constitutionality of the Kansas ban, the state has continued to enforce the ban where not prohibited by the injunction. The state has taken the position that it will not otherwise recognize those marriages for purpose of benefits such as name changes or employee benefits. Until there is a final determination, it is not clear whether any of the marriages entered into so far are valid. While it would seem inconceivable that a final decision, whether at the district court, Tenth Circuit, or U.S. Supreme Court, would uphold Kansas's ban at this point, the matter is still up in the air.”

The resulting confusion and worry for same-sex couples in Kansas and their families is a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reluctance to rule definitively on the constitutionality of denying same-sex couples the right to marry, Jackson claims.

As we celebrate the remarkable progress we made toward marriage equality and legal recognition of all families in 2014, we hope the Supreme Court justices will keep in mind that, while there may be a valid argument for waiting to make sure judicial rulings are aligned with the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans, real people suffer from lack of legal clarity and unevenly applied law. The events of 2014 make it clear that marriage equality is inevitable in the United States; in 2015 it will be time for the U.S. Supreme Court to make it official.

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 moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern 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, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. 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 which he received in 2013, 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. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. 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.”


Kim has over 30 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 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.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.