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Arkansas Judge: List Both Same-Sex Parents on Birth Certificates

Judge Tim Fox

Judge Tim Fox's ruling inititially applies only to the three couples who filed suit, but he's indicated he's likely to expand it statewide.

An Arkansas judge Monday ruled in favor of same-sex couples seeking to have both their names listed on their children's birth certificates.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox made his ruling from the bench in a case brought by three lesbian couples, and it initially applies only to them, but he is considering broadening it to apply to all same-sex couples in the state who have children, Reuters reports. He will issue a written decision later.

Cheryl Maples, the attorney for the plaintiffs, was optimistic that he would broaden the ruling. "He made it pretty clear where he's going," she told the news service. "It's another step forward for gay couples, and I'm sure the next step is right around the corner."

The couples filed suit challenging the Arkansas Health Department's Vital Statistics Bureau refusal to automatically list both parents as the adoptive or biological parents of their children. The recognition as parents, they said, is necessary for them to get insurance coverage for the children. Bureau officials told the couples they would need a court order to list the nonbiological parent on the birth certificate, but there is no such requirement for opposite-sex couples, the couples testified, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansas Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen, however, said a heterosexual couple who married after a child's birth, as did one of the lesbian couples in the suit, would also have to get a court order to establish parental rights and obtain an amended birth certificate, the Democrat-Gazette reports. In representing the Health Department, he also said the birth certificate policy does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, or marital status, but simply refers to the biological roles of parents.

Fox said it was clear to him that the two couples who married before childbirth were entitled to automatic recognition as parents as soon as Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by Circuit Judge Chris Piazza in 2014. Federal courts also struck down the ban, including the U.S. Supreme Court this June. "Less clear, Fox said, was how the Piazza ruling could be applied to the third family, though he indicated he thought it would also cover them," notes the Democrat-Gazette.

Since the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, there have been controversies over listing both same-sex parents on birth certificates in several states, including Texas,Florida, and Nebraska.

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