Same-Sex Couples Want Florida to List Both Parents on Children’s Birth Certificates

Same-Sex Couples Want Florida to List Both Parents on Children’s Birth Certificates
photo by Kevin Prichard via Flickr

Back in September, the state announced that it would begin issuing gender-neutral marriage licenses. Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello — the first same-sex couple to marry in Florida  — in August filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tallahassee asking that state officials with the department of Vital Statistics be ordered to list both parents on their children’s birth certificates. That month, the couple found that a hospital would include only the birth mother's name on the birth certificate for their twins.

Backed by Equality Florida, Pareto and Arguello on Wednesday requested the court make a ruling without trial. They argue that the state’s refusal to put same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates violates the Supreme Court's ruling in recognizing same-sex marriage back in June. The plaintiffs argue that there is no more evidence needed to wait for a trial, since this is a clear constitutional rights violation.

“There is no justification for Florida’s refusal to treat same-sex spouses equally,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan in a statement via Equality Florida. “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.”

Equality Florida says birth certificates that do not list both spouses are "discriminatory, stigmatizing, and humiliating to these families, who deserve the same security and respect as the families of other married couples." The group says it's a serious challenge for parents to obtain healthcare for their children, sign them up for daycare, or enroll them in government programs and benefits.

One of the same-sex couples named in the lawsuit has been together for 15 years, according to Equality Florida. Debbie and Kari were married in Boston in 2013. and had two children. When Kari gave birth to their second child in February, they were told that Debbie could not be listed on his birth certificate.

“I’m just as much of a parent as Kari and as anyone else with children,” said Debbie via Equality Florida. “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.”

Last year, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Florida's Northern District in Tallahassee handed down a 33-page ruling against the state's same-sex marriage ban. After staying the ruling, and some challenges from state attorney general Pam Bondi, and some conservative groups, the ruling finally became official on January 6 of this year.

State officials then announced that they would be sending out new marriage forms with check marks that had "spouse" on them instead of "husband" and "wife" to court clerk in October.

Now, the fight to have a similar change made to birth certificates goes on.

“It is simply unacceptable for Florida to deny these families equal dignity and equal protection under the law," says Hannah Willard, policy and outreach coordinator at Equality Florida. "The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear in June that all married couples must be treated equally. We urge Judge Hinkle to tell the Bureau of Vital Statistics to follow the law.”    

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