Marriage equality was the prize on June 26, 2015.
It has been widely celebrated across the country, and thousands of gay and lesbian couples have been married since Obergefell v. Hodges was decided by the United States Supreme Court.
What many people do not know, however, is that an important benefit follows the Supreme Court’s historical decision: parental rights for the same-sex spouse of a biological or adoptive parent. These parental rights can be secured through step-parent adoption in Ohio.
Before the Obergefell decision, only one parent in a gay or lesbian family had any legal rights to the couple’s child. The parent who did not give birth to or adopt the child was considered a legal stranger to the child. That parent could not adopt the child unless the “legal” parent gave up all legal rights to the child. That parent could obtain shared custody of the child in Ohio, but being a custodian of a child in no way compares to being a legal parent of a child.
No more. After Obergefell, married same-sex couples in Ohio can pursue a step-parent adoption in probate court. Once the adoption is granted, both parents will be listed on the child’s birth certificate, and both parents will have full legal rights to the child. How awesome is that?!?
There are two caveats, however. First, the couple must be married. Ohio still does not permit second parent adoptions for unmarried couples. Second, if a known donor was used to conceive the child, that complicates things considerably, and adoption may not be an option.