Ruling in Arkansas Allows Birth Certificate Amendments

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Ruling in Arkansas Allows Birth Certificate Amendments

The landmark gay marriage ruling was the first step. Solid parentage laws are the next frontier for gay parents,and a recent ruling in Arkansas just made a giant leap forward in that direction. In the Associated Press, reporter Claudia Lauer covered a legal battle in which Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox recently issued an informal ruling that three same-sex couples who sued the state could amend their children’s birth certificates to list the non-biological parent along with the biological parent.

Judge Fox viewed the inability to name the non-biological parent on the birth certificates as disparate treatment of same-sex couples.  As the couples’ attorney explained, where heterosexual couples use sperm donors, the donor must waive parental rights, but there is no requirement that a court order be issued to name both spouses on the birth certificate, contrary to what the Arkansas Health Department had been told was needed in order to amend the birth certificates for the children born to the same-sex couples.

Judge Fox told the Court, “As much as I would like to announce from the bench exactly what my ruling is, because I don’t know exactly what my ruling is I’m not going to announce that today. The easy part is to amend the birth certificates for the three main couples and that is the order of the court today so that there’s no more delay with respect to that.”

Although a written ruling will not be issued until December, the couples were directed to the Arkansas Department of Health so that amendments to the birth certificates could be made immediately.

This announcement was faced with some protest from Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen.

Jorgensen, argued that while the statute and related Health Department regulations allow biological parents to amend their children’s birth certificates, non-biological parents must go through a legal process in order to be listed on the birth certificates.

Jorgensen pointed out that this requirement was not tied specifically to one’s sexual orientation, but affected all non-biological parents.

“They’re seeking a blanket rule that we’re going to create parental rights without even looking at the best interest of the individual children or the individual cases,” Jorgensen said.

Judge Fox responded that the “biology argument” for this statute would be the “best argument on appeal,” but noted, “I don’t see it framed that way, and if the high court does, then I’m going to get it reversed.”

The same-sex couples who brought the suit were married women. They brought on attorney Cheryl Maples to fight for their equality.

The impetus of the lawsuit was the State Health Department’s refusal to list the non-biological mother on the birth certificates without a court order.

“The couples sought the birth certificates after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down gay marriage bans nationwide,” Lauer wrote.

While one couple was married in Arkansas days after the landmark gay marriage ruling, the other two couples wed out of state before the ruling was issued.

This courtroom decision is another huge victory for same-sex couples in Arkansas seeking equality.