A divided state Supreme Court has ruled that birth certificates issued in Arkansas must list the names of both biological parents, even if the child is then adopted by a same-sex couple.
The court reversed the findings of Little Rock Circuit Judge Tim Fox, who ruled in December 2015 that the requirement for listing both father and mother violated the constitutional due process rights of gay and lesbian adoptive parents. The judge’s findings came in the wake of other lawsuits filed in Arkansas, covered before in this blog, demanding that the names of non-birth mothers be added to birth certificates.
In a four-member court majority decision, Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Judge Jo Hart wrote that “the female spouse [of a biological mother] does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has.” Hart added that the identification of a child’s biological parents was necessary for tracking the course of public health and giving the child access to genetic information for medical reasons.
“It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths,” Hart wrote.
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, gay and lesbian couples in Arkansas have faced a continuing struggle for equal parenting rights. While other states such as Florida have started to recognize same-sex spouses on birth certificates as a result of the Obergefell ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision argues that the right to be named as a parent on a birth certificate is not a benefit of marriage.
For now, it seems, the legal issues facing same-sex couples who wish to start a family in Arkansas will continue. Consulting an experienced and understanding attorney with experience of same-sex adoption and other family law issues can help couples to understand and protect their constitutional rights.
Source: Reuters, “Arkansas Supreme Court blocks birth certificates for same-sex couples,” Steve Barnes, Thurs Dec 8 2016.