Family Equality’s Work in the Courts

Family Equality regularly takes action to advance equality for LGBTQ+ families in the courts. In some cases, we support cases as Amicus curiae or a “friend of the court”, filing an amicus brief in support of one of the parties to the case. In others, Family Equality is plaintiff in a case in our role as an organization representing LGBTQ+ families.

Family Equality as Plaintiff

Suing the Department of Health and Human Services over LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections (2020)

Family Equality is plaintiff, along with True Colors United, Inc. and SAGE in Family Equality et al. v. Azar, et al., filed on March 19, 2020 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Family Equality is represented by attorneys at Democracy Forward and Lambda Legal.

Family Equality Amicus Briefs


About our “Voices of Children” Briefs

Many of the briefs listed below are part of Family Equality series of “Voices of Children” Amicus briefs, asking the Courts to recognize the unique perspective of children whose well-being, personal self-esteem, and sense of purpose are negatively impacted by the denial of legal and lived equality for their LGBTQ parents.

The Voices of Children briefs were instrumental in achieving the successful Obergefell Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land in 2015. Since the marriage equality decision, Family Equality has continued to elevate the voices of children of LGBTQ families, most recently in Pavan v. Smith, a case addressing the right of same-sex parents to be listed on their child’s birth certificate, arising from Arkansas.


United States Supreme Court

LGBTQ Title VII Employment Discrimination Cases (2019)

Submitted Amicus Brief, with The Trevor Project and PFLAG National

Bostock v. Clayton County, GA; Altitude Express, Inc. et al. v. Melissa Zarda et al.; Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC et al. are cases that address the question of whether, or not, the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of “sex” covers sexual orientation and gender identity.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2017)

Joined Amicus Brief submitted by Lambda Legal

This was a case that ostensibly pitted the ability of a provider of wedding cakes to discriminate against same-sex couples against a state law prohibiting such discrimination. The Supreme Court upheld the ability of a state to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity while, at the same time, saying this particular baker was harmed by inappropriate religious animus by members of the Civil Rights Commission.

Pavan v. Smith (2017)

Submitted Amicus Brief with COLAGE

This was a case where the state refused to put both same-sex parents’ names on the birth certificate of their child, allowing only the biological parent’s name to be listed. The Arkansas state Supreme Court upheld that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court summarily overturned the decision, saying “Having chosen to make its birth certificates more than mere markers of biological relationships and to use them to give married parents a form of legal recognition that is not available to unmarried parents, Arkansas may not, consistent with Obergefell v. Hodges, deny married same-sex couples that recognition.”

V.L. v. E.L. & Guardian Ad Litem, As Representative of Minor Children (2015)

Submitted Amicus Brief with COLAGE and Campaign for Southern Equality

After a break-up of two women, one of them, in an Alabama court, challenged the legality of an adoption decree granted by a sister state (GA). The Alabama Supreme court ruled that Georgia didn’t have the authority to issue such an adoption decree.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the adoption decree and overturned the AL Supreme Court, citing the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Obergefell & Henry v. Hodges, Director Ohio Dept. of Health (2015)

Submitted Amicus Brief with COLAGE and Kinsey Morrison

This is the case that finally recognized the Constitutional right of same-sex partners to marry, making marriage equality the law in all states and jurisdictions.

Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor (2013)

Submitted Amicus Brief with movement organizations

This is the case that forced the federal government to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples legally entered into, in the various states.

1st Circuit Court of Appeals

Puerto Rico: Lopes-Aviles

3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

Pennsylvania: Fulton v. City of Philadelphia 

4th Circuit Court of Appeals

Virginia: Bostic & Berghoff v. Schaefer, Rainey & McQuigg

5th Circuit Court of Appeals

Texas: De Leon, Dimetman, Holmes, & Phariss v. Perry, Abbott, & Lakey

6th Circuit Court of Appeals

Kentucky: Bourke v. Beshear

Michigan: Deboer v. Snyder

Tennessee: Tanco v. Haslam

Ohio: Henry v. Himes

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Indiana & Wisconsin: Baskin v. Bogan and Wolf v. Walker

Indiana: Henderson v. Adams

9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Idaho: Latta v. Otter, Rich & State of Idaho

Nevada & Hawaii: Sevcik v. Sandoval & Coalition for the Protection of Marriage and Jackson v. Abercrombie, Fuddy & Hawaii Family Forum

10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Oklahoma: Bishop & Barton v. Smith & The United States of America ex. rel. Eric H. Holder Jr.

Utah: Kitchen v. Herbert & Swensen

11th Circuit Court of Appeals

Florida: Brenner; Grimsley


State Court Briefs

In addition to briefs filed in Federal Court, Family Equality has also filed the following briefs in state courts:

Arkansas: Wright

Florida: Pareto