Supreme Court Rules That Same-Sex Parents Get Equal Recognition On Birth Certificates

by Meredith Bland
Image via Ty Wright/Getty Images

The Court ruled that both partners must be named on their child’s birth certificate

In another case of “how can this be a thing that was still allowed to happen,” the Supreme Court has ruled against a law that allowed some states to treat same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples on children’s birth certificates. The 6-3 decision mandates that states must recognize both partners in a same-sex relationship as a child’s parents on their birth certificate. Because they are the child’s parents. And that’s how that works. Come on, 2017.

In 2015, the Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal, meaning that gay couples were entitled to all the rights that their heterosexual counterparts, even the ones who get married on television and at drive-through wedding chapels, had access to. Some states, however, said, “Ok. Same-sex couples get equal rights. But do they have to have all the equal rights? We’re going to go ahead and say no.” (Those states, by the way, include Alabama, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Alaska.)

The case that went before the Supreme Court involved two married female couples in Arkansas, who argued that both partners should be listed on their children’s birth certificates. In Pavan v. Smith, the couples had their children via anonymous sperm donors, but only the name of the woman who carried the child was put on the birth certificate. With heterosexual married couples in Arkansas, however, the husband’s name is put on the child’s birth certificate regardless of whether or not there is a biological connection. In fact, even when heterosexual couples use sperm donors — as the same-sex couples in the suit did — those women’s husband’s are still put on the birth certificates as the child’s father.

This makes the state’s argument that the decision was a matter of biology ring false. In the state’s appeal to the court, they wrote that “unlike a husband, a mother’s female spouse will never be a marital child’s biological parent.” Right. You know who else will never be a marital child’s biological parent? A husband whose child was conceived using a sperm donor. And yet…you see where we call B.S. on that way of thinking.

Before the case made it to the Supreme Court, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against the women, saying that leaving a spouse’s name off a birth certificate was appropriate because “it does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths.” But that’s just not true. As lawyers for the couple pointed out, “A child’s birth certificate affects parental decision-making authority in the medical and educational context…For example, some Arkansas public schools allow only those parents named on the child’s birth certificate to receive educational information absent a court order.”

So better luck next time, homophobes. Trying to dress up discrimination as a matter of biological fact hasn’t worked too well in the past for others, and it’s not going to work here.