The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 that recognized marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples did not address every family law issue. Recently, the Supreme Court in another state has followed similar rulings in New York that have affirmed the parental rights of same-sex residents. The most recent case addressed the questionable rights of anonymous sperm donors.

Recently, a decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court concerned whether a same-sex spouse could be given legal recognition to her former spouse’s child that was conceived and born during their marriage. The couple had wed before 2015; therefore, their union was not legally recognized in their state. They divorced after the Supreme Court ruling, and the question of validity was no longer an issue. However, the mother’s former spouse was still seeking legal parental rights to their child. 

In a ruling that overturned the lower courts, the panel declared that sperm donors do not have an automatic parental right or obligation to any child that is conceived through anonymous donations. This contradicts the lower court that ruled that a same-sex woman could not be granted parental rights to her spouse’s child until the rights of the sperm donor were legally terminated. In clarifying its decision, the panel concluded that anonymous donors do not wish to form or maintain any relationship with a child and, therefore, do not have any parental rights.

Several states have addressed this issue, and some have concluded that a mother’s spouse at the time of a child’s birth is presumed to be the other parent and entitled to all the rights and responsibilities this entails. If sperm donors were considered to be legal parents, then, technically, children could be considered to have three parents, and sperm donations might plummet. New York residents who are attempting to resolve these types of same-sex family law matters may seek assistance in finding the optimal solutions for their unique situations.

Source:, “Mississippi court overturns decision recognizing sperm donor in lesbian child-custody case“, Zack Ford, April 6, 2018