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Arizona Court Hears Who Has Child Custody Rights When A Same-Sex Marriage Dissolves

Arizona’s Supreme Court is set to hear a case Tuesday involving a gay couple and their parental rights after a divorce.

The hearing follows a lower court of appeals decision that granted Suzan McLaughlin the same parental rights over her adopted child as her former spouse Kimberly McLaughlin.

Through artificial insemination, the couple planned and Kimberly carried the child to term.  She has asked a court to reverse its decision allowing Suzan parental rights claiming she is not a “parent” based on current Arizona law, which do not protect non-biological parents in same-sex divorce cases.

On Monday, however, the U.S. Supreme Court extended its landmark 2015 case recognizing same-sex marriages to include the same set of benefits afforded heterosexual families.

That decision could give gay rights advocates a chance to void similar laws favoring opposite-sex marriages, including one giving adoption preferences to heterosexual couples.

Maricopa County’s Attorney Bill Montgomery, who has consistently interpreted the higher court’s decisions in the most traditional sense, disagreed.

"Because single persons, as well as married couples, can adopt,” he argued, “adoption is not exclusively 'linked' to marriage.”

Gay advocates including Attorney Jenny Pizer with the Lambda Legal Defense Fund said any law giving a preference for a heterosexual married couple over a same-sex married couple is constitutionally suspect.

"Well, what's the state's reason for that?'' she said. And Pizer said gender stereotypes of men and women are "not a legitimate reason for distinction.''

In 2015, Montgomery strictly limited the U.S. Supreme Courts recognition of gay marriage to the union itself and nothing further.  He claimed the law did not address adoption and went as far as refusing to provide legal help to same-sex couples seeking to adopt, a service normally provided to opposite-sex couples.

Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed recent attempt by lawmakers who tried to rescind a mandate requiring the county attorneys help all couples seeking adoptions.

Holliday Moore is a native Arizonan and veteran journalist who joined KJZZ’s news team in January 2017.Moore graduated from Arizona State University after double majoring in mass communications and marketing/management. She spent her first two decades reporting for television news, beginning in small markets and working up to congressional correspondent in Washington, D.C., for a political news service.Family commitments in Arizona brought her back to the Southwest, where she covered legislative and court beats for Albuquerque’s KRQE-TV and the infamous Four Corner Manhunt as KREZ-TV’s managing editor.Back home in Phoenix, she developed ABC15’s “Democracy Project,” now instituted at all Scripps’ news stations nationwide. Her work garnered “Best Practices” recognition by the Poynter Institute and the prestigious Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.Her television reports, from sports to cultural issues, earned her multiple Emmy and Associated Press nominations, including a Rocky Mountain Emmy for her Hopi Partition Land Act coverage.As she started a family, Moore started her own media production agency, producing magazine-style travel stories for the Emmy-winning Arizona Highways Television show while working part time for a Valley radio station. She is convinced radio is where visual, sound, and print are merging through deeper storytelling. In her relatively short time with radio network affiliates, she has won four Edward R. Murrow Awards and multiple nominations from other professional news societies.Moore now teaches advanced broadcast writing to the next generation of reporters at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where a high percentage have gone on to receive national awards for their work in her class. She enjoys being back home near childhood friends and sharing the beautiful Arizona desert with her husband and young son.