The Supreme Court Passes On Opportunity To Roll Back Marriage Equality

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away Indiana’s attempt to strip equal parenting rights from married same-sex couples.

The court’s decision to deny certiorari in the case Box v. Henderson ensures that same-sex couples in Indiana will remain the lawful parents of their own children, ending the state’s six-year-long crusade to remove their names from their children’s birth certificates.

Monday’s order also suggests that a majority of the court’s nine justices aren’t eager to roll back marriage equality.

According to Slate: “Box v. Henderson involves eight married lesbian couples in Indiana who conceived through artificial insemination. When a married opposite-sex couple uses a sperm donor, the birth mother’s husband is listed as the father on their child’s birth certificate. Genetics alone does not determine parenthood in the state. When married same-sex couples used a sperm donor, however, Indiana officials refused to identify the birth mother’s wife as the child’s second parent. Instead, they insisted that this spouse undergo stepparent adoption, an invasive, lengthy, and expensive process.”

“In 2014, the lesbian couples sued the state to place their names on their children’s birth certificates. A federal judge sided with the plaintiffs in 2016, but Indiana appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. After a mysterious 32-month delay, the 7th Circuit affirmed the judge’s decision. It noted that the Supreme Court already settled this issue twice. First, in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, the court compelled states to provide same-sex couples with the “constellation of benefits” linked to marriage, explicitly mentioning birth certificates. Then, in 2017’s Pavan v. Smith, the court reiterated that states must place same-sex parents on their child’s birth certificate if that benefit is provided to opposite-sex parents who lack genetic ties to their child,” the outlet reports, adding: “In spite of these precedents, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, a Republican, appealed the 7th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. Hill effectively sought to overturn Pavan, and roll back Obergefell, by persuading SCOTUS to let states resume discrimination against same-sex parents.”

The court’s denial effectively leaves in place the Seventh Circuit decision in favor of the mothers and maintains the court decision, Pavan v. Smith as precedent.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision once again affirms that marriage equality under Obergefell v. Hodges means that married same-sex couples are entitled to be treated equally under the law. By refusing to hear this case, the Court effectively reaffirms its ruling in Pavan v. Smith that unequivocally ruled states must issue birth certificates on equal terms to same-sex parents,” The Human Rights Campaign said in a statement Monday.

“We refuse to allow our love to be treated any differently under law, and will fight to make sure skim-milk marriage never becomes the law of the land,” the statement added.

William Groth, an Indiana lawyer who represented the couples, said on Monday that he and his clients “are thrilled that justice has at long last been served for them, their children, and for all married same-sex couples who conceive and give birth during their marriage.” He noted that “the promises of full equality made by the court to gay and lesbian citizens in Obergefell are a big step closer to being fully kept today.”