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Utah Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Parents’ Right to Surrogacy

September 10th, 2019

The Utah Supreme Court recently reversed a decision pertaining to gay couples seeking to start families via surrogacy, in a major win for LGBTQ rights.
The Utah Supreme Court recently reversed a decision pertaining to gay couples seeking to start families via surrogacy, in a major win for LGBTQ rights.

Oral arguments in the case of In Re Gestational Agreement occurred before the Utah Supreme Court in 2017. While this was two years ago, the Utah Supreme Court only recently issued an opinion in this case. Even though the resulting opinion is 75 pages, the decision has the potential to greatly impact the lives of LGBTQ individuals in Utah.

How the Surrogacy Case Arose

Utah had a law regulating when a person or couple could use the surrogacy process to have a child. This regulation required that all individuals petition a court to validate their gestational agreement before moving forward in the process. Also, to validate a gestational agreement, courts must find that there is medical evidence showing the intended mother is not able to bear a child or cannot do so without unreasonable risk to her mental or physical health. Consequently, medical professionals in the state of Utah long took the approach that the medical requirement applied in a gender-neutral manner. As a result, same-sex male couples were able to move forward with the surrogacy process without worrying about the medical requirement. 

The case at hand involved an unnamed LGBTQ couple in southern Utah who entered into a surrogacy agreement with a heterosexual couple. The four adults then filed a joint petition in 5th District Court to validate the agreement. The judge in the case at hand, however, ruled that the surrogacy regulation did not apply to same-sex males couples at all. The judge relied on the argument that neither the words “mother” nor  “her” in the regulation were intended to apply to same-sex male parents.

A lower court then denied the couple’s petition. As a result, the parties appealed the case to the Court of Appeals, and the case went to the Utah Supreme Court. 

The Utah Supreme Court’s Decision

The Utah Supreme Court determined that it was not possible to read the surrogacy regulation in a gender neutral manner. Instead, the Court analyzed the United States Constitution and the 2015 Obergefell decision, which required states to recognize same-sex marriage. In consideration of the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry, the Utah Supreme Court found that this requirement was unconstitutional in nature. Two of the Justices in the Court also spent some time deciding whether it was possible for a court to hear a case where parties were not adversaries of one another. Consequently, the Utah Supreme Court remanded and reversed the case.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church

Each year, there are a number of cases heard and regulations passed that substantially impact the lives of LGBTQ individuals. Although decisions like Obergefell have greatly advanced the rights of LGBTQ people in the country, there have been other decisions like the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision that substantially limit them. While many of these developments are particularly complex, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on describing them clearly and concisely, in a way that is accessible to all.

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