With the landmark Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal across the United States, same-sex couples now have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples in any state. However, marriage is just one aspect of family life, and each state governs many other aspects of family law differently.
In Michigan, LGBT parents do not always have the same rights under state law as heterosexual couples. For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples who wish to become parents or are already parenting, it is important to understand aspects of how the law governs their status. Here are three basics to keep in mind.
1. Legal issues underlying pregnancy
One way that a same-sex couple may decide to have a child is through artificial insemination from a sperm donor. However, they need to closely consider parenting rights from a legal standpoint in cases like this, so that everyone involved is on the same page in terms of rights and responsibilities regarding the child. The best way to face these issues is by consulting with an attorney and drafting a clear-cut agreement to cover all the parties.
2. Discrimination against adoption for LGBT parents
Michigan has a history of alleged discrimination against LGBT parents and couples wishing to adopt. One such example came in the form of a federal lawsuit the ACLU filed against Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of two couples who wished to adopt but were turned down by various agencies who said they do not work with same-sex couples. A bill signed in 2015 in the state made it legal for religious-based organizations to deny services if so doing conflicts with their religious beliefs. The ACLU lawsuit argues this is in violation of the Constitution. Same-sex couples who have been denied adoption services should seek the advice and assistance of a family law attorney who works on cases such as these.
3. Second parents can adopt in Michigan
Not only do same-sex couples have the right to adopt children in Michigan, but the courts have also ruled that second-parent adoptions are valid. This is important in cases where one partner has already adopted a child and their new partner wishes to adopt the child as well. This is also pertinent in cases such as Usitalo v. Landon, when a former partner tries to take away parental rights from a second parent in a same-sex couple after they have separated.