Last Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that birth certificates must identify a biological mother and father, even in cases where the baby is adopted by a same-sex couple. This new ruling goes against a ruling from last year, which had said that married same-sex couples in Arkansas could both be listed on their children’s birth certificates.
According to Reuters, the Arkansas Supreme Court was hearing the case of three married, lesbian couples who were suing the state Health Department because their children’s birth certificates only listed the child’s biological mother and did not include a reference to the other mothers at all. There wasn’t even a “father” name to write down, because all three children were conceived using sperm from anonymous donors. Still, the babies were given birth certificates listing only their biological mothers because Arkansas state law only allows for a mother and father to be identified, and the health department can refuse to list the non-birth mother’s name.
In Arkansas, when a woman who is married to a man has a baby, the woman’s husband is assumed to be the father and put on the birth certificate automatically, according to the ABA Journal. That’s true whether or not he’s actually the baby’s biological father, so the husband’s name goes on the birth certificate even if the baby was conceived with donor sperm.
The couples suing the health department asserted that leaving the non-biological mothers off the birth certificate violated their constitutional rights after the United States Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide. The court, however, said the birth certificate was meant to “truthfully record the nexus of the biological mother and the biological father to the child,” and the judges decided that duty precludes putting the names of both mothers on the birth certificate.
“we cannot say that naming the nonbiological spouse on the birth certificate of the child is an interest of the person so fundamental that the State must accord the interest its respect under either statute,” the ruling says.
The court might say that it is just trying to “record the nexus of the biological mother and the biological father,” but any parent knows that birth certificates are important. You need them for all kinds of official documents for travel, identification, school, passports, etc. Not being named on the birth certificate causes problems for parents all the time.
The couples still have the opportunity to appeal the decision, which would mean trying to have this case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.