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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 50
Both same-sex spouses can't be listed on birth certificates, Arkansas Supreme Court rules
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Both same-sex spouses can't be listed on birth certificates, Arkansas Supreme Court rules

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled that only the biological parent may be listed on the birth certificate for the child of a same-sex couple.

In its December 8 ruling, the court reversed a lower court judge and admonished him for 'inappropriate remarks' when he decided against the state's birth certificate law.

Attorney Cheryl Maples, who sued on behalf of three same-sex couples wanting both partners listed as parents on their children's birth certificates, said she may appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

The couples had been allowed to amend their respective children's birth certificates under a 2015 ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox. Fox decided to support their claim on the basis of the US Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell, legalizing same-sex marriage.

The state Supreme Court, on the other hand, denied that the birth certificates had anything to do with marriage rights.

'What is before this court is a narrow issue of whether the birth-certificate statutes as written deny the appellees due process,' Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote in the court's majority opinion.

'...In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has. It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths.'

The birth certificate issue was the first major case involving same-sex marriage for the Arkansas court since the Obergefell ruling.

Judd Deere, a spokesperson for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who fought to uphold existing state law on birth certificates, said the state is 'gratified' by the court's decision.

'If any changes are appropriate, it is the job of legislators to do so, not the circuit court,' he said.

Arkansas Associate Justice Paul Danielson dissented from the ruling.

'There can be no reasonable dispute that the inclusion of a parent's name on a child's birth certificate is a benefit associated with and flowing from marriage,' Danielson wrote, adding that the US Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage 'requires that this benefit be accorded to same-sex spouses and opposite-sex spouses with equal force.'

Maples argued that the Arkansas Supreme Court decision was discriminatory and favored opposite-sex couples.

'There's no requirement that DNA be given or that there be a biological relationship to a child to get on a birth certificate for a father, for the non-birth parent,' she said. 'All you have to do is legitimize the child and you're entitled, if you're heterosexual. This is wrong.'

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