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Same-Sex Couples Demand Birth Certificate Recognition in Florida

Debbie and Kari Chin
Debbie and Kari Chin with their children

Failing to list both parents is clearly unconstitutional, so a federal court should order the state to do so without a trial, the couples say.

Married same-sex couples in Florida have asked a federal court to order the state to list both parents on birth certificates for their children, as the state does for different-sex couples.

The couples and Equality Florida filed suit in August, but last week they added a request for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to make the order to the state without a trial, according to a press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing them along with Florida attorneys.

"There is no justification for Florida's refusal to treat same-sex spouses equally," said NCLR senior staff attorney Amy Whelan in the press release. "The Supreme Court has already ruled that same-sex spouses and their children have a constitutional right to have their family relationships respected in every state."

When a woman married to a man gives birth in Florida, her husband is automatically listed on the birth certificate unless a court has determined that someone else is the father, the lawsuit notes. Also, when a married same-sex couple adopts, both parents are listed on the birth certificate. But the couples who filed suit were given documents listing only the woman who gave birth as a parent.

Birth certificates are less about genetics than legal relationships. Not having a birth certificate listing both parents, NCLR notes, is not only discriminatory and stigmatizing, but it prevents recognition of a legal relationship between both parents and the child, creating problems with obtaining health care, making medical decisions, signing up for day care, and more.

"I'm just as much of a parent as Kari and as anyone else with children," said Debbie Chin, who with her wife, Kari, is among the Florida plaintiffs. "It was humiliating to be denied the right to have my name added to our son's birth certificate. All we want to do is love, protect, and provide the best opportunities for our children and to be treated equally under the law. Without being on our son's birth certificate, in the event of an emergency or if something were ever to happen to my wife, I am not sure where that would leave us."

The filing from last week says the state's refusal to list both parents is in clear violation of the Supreme Court's ruling for marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to all the benefits associated with marriage, including birth certificates that reflect legal parentage. NCLR attorneys say no additional facts are needed to show that Florida's action is unconstitutional.

Despite the high court's ruling last June, several states have continued to resist listing both same-sex parents on birth certificates. In Arkansas, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox recently ruled that both same-sex spouses should be listed as parents, but last Thursday the Arkansas Supreme Court temporarily blocked the ruling from applying statewide, while allowing it to apply to the three couples who filed suit. State officials had appealed Fox's ruling, saying it conflicted with Arkansas law, and the Supreme Court decided more time was needed to consider its implications, Reuters reports.

It also took several months after the Obergefell ruling for some other states, such as Texas and Nebraska, to agree to alter birth certificate forms to recognize same-sex couples.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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