TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Suzan McLaughlin is sharing her experience in a five-year legal battle after the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to review her case regarding parental rights of same sex couples. That decision comes after the Arizona State Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Suzan McLaughlin, who is currently in the process of divorcing her spouse, saying she's entitled to equal parental rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Suzan and Kimberly McLaughlin were married in 2008, tying the knot in California where gay marriage was legally recognized. They moved to Tucson in 2010. Suzan tried twice through artificial insemination to carry a child but miscarried both times. So, she says, they decided that Kimberly try. Through artificial insemination Kimberly became pregnant and carried their son, who is now six-years-old, and the two decided that Suzan would stay at home to care for him while Kimberly went back to work.
The process that Suzan describes as being "long and grueling" began in 2011 when Suzan says that she came home to discover her wife Kimberly had taken their son without warning. Suzan explains that the couple had run into some marital issues but she had hoped they would work them out in therapy. She didn't expect to lose her son.
After her wife Kimberly left with their son on March 23, 2013 Suzan says she didn't see her son for almost six years. Meanwhile the custody battle, with her sexual orientation, at the center continued.
"I'm like any other parent. Their child is their everything," Suzan McLaughlin says.
Pushing the case forward was the fact that Suzan did not carry her child and prior to 2014 gay marriage was not legally recognized in Arizona. As a result, Suzan was not considered her son's legal parent. She argued that under the Constitution she should be treated the same as a heterosexual parent in a custody battle.
"All that matters is love and the love of a parent for a child and the love of a child for a parent," she said.
After accruing over $20,000 in legal fees Suzan McLaughlin won. Last year the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Suzan is legally a parent to her son, now in first grade. With that ruling came shared custody and weekend visitations with her son.
After going through the five-year custody battle, and now going through the process of her divorce, Suzan says that she's writing a book detailing her experiences for other people in LGBTQ community going through similar situations because she knows she isn't the only one.
"I have a group I'm a part of. People who have lost their children through this because of unequal laws and they are fighting and they want their children in their lives just the way any other parent would."