The United States Supreme Court Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (overturning Roe v. Wade) has created great concern in the LGBT community. And well it should. Relationships, legal marriage, partnership agreements, and the status of families are all now in question. Not only did has the recent ruling change a person’s right to choose what to do with their bodies, specifically abortion, but it also contained foreboding language about the future, citing several cases that tie to everyone’s right to privacy. What is the future concerning the rights to use contraception, maintain privacy and safety in the bedroom, and same-sex marriage? There is a concerted effort by conservative groups to advocate following this recent ruling. And it is likely these issues will be pushed upward into the Supreme Court. The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson has set the tone for future challenges to the LGBT community – rights not easily won in the first place.
For existing same-sex marriages in New Mexico, nothing will immediately change. However, what seems to be in the future cross hairs is the definition of what an acceptable gay marriage might be. Many legal questions and issues are beginning to emerge, the concept being that it might be easier to alter what gay marriage and family is, rather than attempt to overturn it completely. Will our justice system impose a modified type of “marriage-light” for gay and lesbian couples? The initial target for reducing LGBT rights is with the definition and validity of “family”. This is the area where children and legal parents will suffer legal challenges. As an example, non-biological parents may no longer be considered a legal parent for children born during a marriage.
What Can You Do Now to Protect Your Family?
Although New Mexico has a State Ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, if you travel or move to another state your status as a parent may be jeopardized. Review your legal protections. Are you legally married? If not, do you have a Partnership Agreement? Whose insurance is covering the children? Is the non-biological parent named in a valid court order or adoption order? Do you have a will? And most importantly – legally adopt your non-biological children now. At a minimum, obtain an order from the Court (your jurisdiction) identifying you as the legal parent. Draft the appropriate legal documentation that sets out how you wish to manage your marital relationship – be it estate planning documents, a post-nuptial agreement, or partnership agreement. Contact a family attorney who is experienced with LGBTQ+ legal issues to make sure your family is protected. This also might include a written agreement of what custody and visitation would look like if your relationship fails. It can address the intention of both parents to keep the non-biological parent in the children’s life as a parent with standing to seek protection. Though future custody issues cannot be “contracted for”, any type of written understanding between couples might go a long way with the court because it shows the intent of the parents.