Same-Sex Couples Push for Change to Texas Birth Certificates
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality, officials in Texas say they are considering changes to the state birth certificates that currently only allow for a mother and father to be listed.
That would be a significant step in the lives of Molly Maness-Roberson and her spouse, Keri, who were dismayed to learn upon the birth of their newborn son this month that his birth certificate doesn’t allow for two moms or two dads.
“It just really breaks your heart, that’s the only way I can describe how I felt,” Maness-Roberson, 27, of Burleson, told the The Dallas Morning News.
Maness-Roberson, who married Keri Roberson, now 37, in New York in 2012, recently delivered their infant son, conceived from her wife’s egg and an anonymous donor’s sperm. The hospital informed them Texas birth certificates include a space for only one mother and one father.
“No matter what kind of family you have, you’re still a family,” Maness-Roberson said. “I feel like you should be recognized as such.”
The omission can cause legal troubles down the road, as birth certificates are a key document for establish parental rights and determine a child’s eligibility for financial support and health benefits.
Texas has about 9,200 same-sex couples raising children, roughly 25 percent of them in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
A spokeswoman for Texas Department of State Health Services told the Morning News state officials are reviewing the June 26 Supreme Court decision with attorneys and the attorney general’s office.
“Once we complete that analysis, we would make any necessary changes as soon as possible,” Carrie Williams said in an email to the newspaper. They’re looking specifically at how the ruling could compel revision to other vital records, such as death certificates that list a surviving spouse, she said.
The current policy “tells that child that something about their family doesn’t deserve the same respect from the state of Texas,” Suzanne Bryant, an Austin attorney who specializes in adoptions for same-sex couples, told the paper. She is the parent of two daughters with her wife, Sarah Goodfriend. Bryant said she anticipates legal action if the state doesn't make changes on its own.
For the last four years, State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat, has tried to force the issue, each session introducing a bill to remove gender-specific language from a supplemental birth certificate that is used for adoption by all couples, including those who are same-sex.
This was the first year Anchia’s bill actually made it out of committee, and it even won some Republican support. But it failed to pass by the session's end.
Anchia, in a passionate speech on the state house floor in April, urged his colleagues to put their views about same-sex marriage aside and focus on Texas’s children. He noted that Texas didn’t add gender-specific language until 1997, and said the current birth certificate application makes life difficult for children whether they are being raised by same-sex couples or two aunts or two grandfathers.
“You know the kid is innocent,” he told them. “They didn’t pick their parents, but those are the parents that they have. And those are the parents they love. And they deserve an accurate birth certificate.”
Among the hundreds of Texas couples who actually got married on the day of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, were Crystal Gonzales and Kristin Gonzales, both 31. A few days later, their daughter, Chloe, was born.
In an act of defiance, they scratched out the word “father” on the birth certificate application, and jotted down Crystal’s name.
They’re waiting to see what the state's next move will be.
See a sample copy of a Texas birth certificate application below, and click on the video below to watch the April 15 speech by Rep. Anchia to the Texas House of Representatives on this issue.