L.C. v. M.G.

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Status: Open
Supreme Court for the State of Hawai'i
Issues: Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

The case raises the question of whether the marital presumption of parentage applies to same-sex spouses. It involves a dispute between a married same-sex couple regarding whether the non-biological mother, L.C., is a legal parent to their child and thus responsible for paying child support. Lambda Legal is representing the biological mother, M.G., who gave birth to a child conceived through assisted reproduction during the couple’s marriage.

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Lambda Legal is urging the Supreme Court of Hawai'i to uphold a lower court ruling that, just like different-sex spouses, same-sex spouses must be treated as the presumed parents of children born during their marriage, with equal rights and equal responsibilities, including legal parentage and child support.

Among other things, L.C. is asking the appeals court to hold that she is not a legal parent – and to relieve her of her child support obligations – simply because she is not biologically related to the child. The lower court rejected this argument and found that L.C. was a legal parent under the Uniform Parentage Act and Marriage Equality Act, both of which operate to presume that the legal spouse of a birth parent is also a parent, a longstanding feature of family law that is intended to protect the well-being of children.

The State of Hawai’i submitted a friend-of-the court brief on behalf of Lambda Legal’s client in support of reading Hawai’i parentage laws in a gender-neutral manner to apply to same-sex spouses. Recent U.S. Supreme Court authority also requires that same-sex spouses be treated equally to other couples with respect to parenting. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court struck down bans on the ability of same-sex couples to legally marry and held that states must apply the same terms and conditions of civil marriage to same-sex couples, which includes the rights and benefits along with the responsibilities.