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Landmark Oklahoma Supreme Court decision grants equal legal rights to same-sex parents

June 25, 2019

The Oklahoma Supreme Court announced its landmark decision today in Schnedler v. Platt, clarifying the legal rights of a non-biological parent in a same-sex relationship to pursue custody and visitation rights of the children they have parented. Oklahoma recognizes that the fundamental guiding principle in family law is the pursuit of the “best interests of the child.”

“We’ve been arguing that our LGBT families deserve the same protections as opposite-sex families,” said Michael F. Smith, an attorney in McAfee & Taft’s Tulsa office who represented Lori Schnedler in the appeal. “Today’s opinion mandates that Oklahoma courts must honor our families when it is in the best interests of our children.”

In its milestone opinion, the state Supreme Court extended the constitutional protections of opposite-sex families to same-sex families as recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell, the landmark decision recognizing same-sex marriages throughout the United States. With “the best interests of the child” as its “polestar,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the children of same-sex couples see their parents as mom or dad and “[t]he law should treat them as such.”

“The Court recognized non-biological LGBT parents are every bit as much parents to their children as are their biological parents,” said Chris Brecht, Smith’s husband and an attorney with McDaniel Acord & Lytle, PLLC, in Tulsa, who also represented Schnedler in the appeal.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmed that children raised by same-sex couples are not lesser than the children of opposite sex couples. As Brecht explained, “the Court has validated the dignities of same-sex families by extending equal, and not comparable, rights to those parents and children.”

Brecht currently serves as vice president of the board of directors for Oklahomans for Equality, one of the largest LGBTQ+ equal rights organizations in the Midwest. Smith previously served as president of Oklahomans for Equality for two years.