Three lesbian couples have sued Arkansas’s state health officials, saying the department refuses to put both parents on their children’s birth certificates. They say the State Health Department will only put the biological mother on a birth certificate, and requires a court order to include the other parent.
The Associated Press reports that the couples sued in Pulaski County Circuit Court; all three couples sought to change their children’s birth certificates to include both parents’ names after same-sex marriage became legal nationwide. According to the Arkansas Times, the lawsuit points out that the department’s Bureau of Vital Statistis “routinely provides two–parent birth certificates to all children born to heterosexual couples, even those that are not married, without regard to how the children are conceived or whether a child shares a genetic connection to both parents.”
Health Department Spokeswoman Kerry Krell told the AP that court orders were the only way for same-sex couples to put both spouses on birth certificates for now, and that changing state vital records forms would require action by the legislature. Arkansas’ birth certificate forms ask for the name of the mother and father specifically; Krell seems to be saying the department can’t do anything until the forms are changed to be gender-neutral.
Leigh and Jana Jacobs, one of the three couples suing, told the Arkansas Times that they’ve been trying to add Jana’s name to the certificate since their son Finch was born June 26. Leigh gave birth to Finch, and tried to add Jana’s name when filling out the birth certificate form at the hospital. The hospital refused. The couple was able to successfully put Jana’s name on the birth certificate for their older son three years ago, when the Health Department briefly allowed same-sex couples to use the gendered birth certificate forms.
Krell told the Times, “The bottom line is we do want to comply with the Supreme Court ruling and the laws of Arkansas. But the best way now is for couples to secure a court order. We hope to identify a different process in the near future that will be more streamlined and not as cumbersome.” She said the department had incorrectly allowed same-sex spouses to be added to birth certificates in 2014, when same-sex marriage very briefly became legal in the state.
A woman who lists a man as the father on a birth certificate in Arkansas—and most other places—isn’t required to prove parentage. The lawsuit points out that, without both parents’ names on a birth certificate, it can make it harder for the non-birth mother to get Social Security numbers or passports for the child, make medical and school decisions for them, put them on their insurance, or protect their relationship in the case of a divorce. You can read the full suit here.
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