How has the legalization of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania altered the adoption process for same-sex couples?

by Gabrielle Lee (Summer Associate)

“Any individual may become an adopting parent.” This statement, cited from Pennsylvania’s Adoption Act now rings true for same-sex married individuals seeking to adopt their spouse’s children through what is called a “second-parent adoption.”  The Adoption Act provides that, unless the court determines otherwise, the consenting parent of an adoptee (the child to be adopted) must permanently relinquish all parental rights to his or her child unless the adopter is the consenting parent’s spouse.

Prior to Pennsylvania’s Whitewood decision, which struck down Pennsylvania’s law refusing to recognize same-sex marriages, this “spousal exception” did not apply to same-sex couples, whether lawfully married outside of Pennsylvania or not.  Although the Adoption Act did not explicitly prohibit same-sex couples from adopting, it imposed additional hurdles not faced by opposite-sex married couples. Same-sex couples wanting to adopt had two options: either the consenting parent could temporarily relinquish all rights to the child and subsequently file for a joint adoption with the spouse, or the consenting parent could attempt to persuade the court that the adopting partner should be permitted to adopt while the parent retained custody. For the latter option, the court had the discretion to determine if the adoption was in the best interest of the child.

Fortunately, now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriage, married same-sex spouses no longer encounter these time-consuming and emotionally-draining hurdles that existed before Whitewood.


What is the status of registered domestic partners in Pennsylvania post-Whitewood?

by Matthew Dulac (Summer Associate)

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples registered as “domestic partners” or “life partners” in cities like Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia may be wondering whether employers or State and Local officials will continue to provide domestic partner benefits.

Starting on June 30, 2015, Allegheny County will no longer provide benefits to county employees in registered domestic partnerships. (  As County Executive Rich Fitzgerald stated: “Now that same sex marriage is legal in Pennsylvania, I believe that it is important to continue to keep our employees on equal footing and that means requiring proof of marriage for coverage of a spouse, partner and/or family members.” With respect to the benefits afforded to all other same-sex couples registered as domestic partners, the city of Pittsburgh is apparently reviewing  its policies in the wake of Whitewood and has yet to declare whether the benefits it extends will continue. In the employment context, each employer remains free to decide whether to continue to extend domestic partner benefits to its eligible employees,

At this point, it is not clear whether Harrisburg, which has provided same-sex domestic partner benefits since 2008, and Philadelphia, which has provided such benefits since 1996, will continue to do so.  But, with same-sex marriage now legal in the state of Pennsylvania it would not be surprising if these cities stop extending spousal benefits in the relatively-near future to same-sex couples that are not “married”.


Assisted Reproductive Terminology


By: Maureen B. Cohon, Esquire

 Our firm represents many clients who are seeking our legal services to complete an adoption matter or who need a consultation in deciding on the many ways of “making the baby”.

There are now so many ways of reproduction that I am including a list of the various terminology that may be helpful to understanding what your choices are.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

IVF is a process in which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body (in vitro). Fertilized oocytes (embryos) are cultured for 3-6 days and then transferred to the uterus with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)/Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (PGS)

Pre-implantation genetic testing is a technique used to identify genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in embryos created through IVF before pregnancy.

Embryo Cryopreservation

Embryo cryopreservation is preserving an embryo at extreme sub-zero temperatures.  It is typically used when there are excess embryos from an IVF cycle,  Use of cryopreserved embryos allows patients to have an additional attempt at pregnancy without needing to undergo ovarian stimulation and oocyte retrieval.

Semen Cryopreservation

Semen cryopreservation is a procedure to preserve sperm.

Oocyte Cryopreservation

Oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) is a novel technology in which a woman’s oocytes are extracted, frozen and stored.  Later, when she is ready to become pregnant (or if the eggs have been donated for use by different intended parents), the eggs can be thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.

Sperm Donation

Sperm donation is donation by a man of his sperm with the intention that it be used to impregnate a woman who is not his sexual partner.  Sperm donation is now used widely.  Sperm is often donated through sperm banks, which are subject to FDA and varying state regulations, including restrictions on the number of offspring related to each donor, and screening for communicable disease.

Oocyte Donation

Oocyte donation is the process by which a woman provides several oocytes in order to help another woman achieve pregnancy.  Oocyte donation involves the process of in vitro fertilization as the eggs are fertilized in the laboratory, typically by the sperm of the oocyte recipient’s partner.

Embryo Donation

Embryo donation is defined as the giving – generally without compensation – of embryos remaining after one individual’s or couple’s IVF cycle, to another person or couple, followed by the placement of those embryos into the recipient women’s uterus to achieve pregnancy.


Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple in person.  The surrogate may be the child’s genetic mother (called traditional surrogacy), or she may be genetically unrelated to the child (called gestational surrogacy).  In a traditional surrogacy, the child may be conceived via home artificial insemination using fresh or frozen sperm or via intrauterine insemination performed in a medical setting.  Gestational surrogacy involves the transfer of embryos created using IVF.

This is from part of an article written by Jacqueline Gutmann, M.D., Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Copyright 2013 Pennsylvania Bar Institute.  Reprinted with permission.