Dispute over naming both same-sex parents halts Arkansas birth certificates

Arkansas issues approximately 400 to 500 birth certificates a day.

A dispute over listing the names of both same-sex parents of a child on a birth certificate in Arkansas boiled over today. State law requires the name of the husband in a straight couple to be listed as the father, even if he isn’t the biological parent.

In the case of same-sex parents, in this case three lesbian couples, the parents have to go to court in order to get both names on their child’s birth certificate.

Today, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, blocked the state from issuing any birth certificates “until officials are able to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state's birth certificate law illegally favors heterosexual parents,” said the Associated Press.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Official photo.

Judge Fox's order resulted in Arkansas' Gov. Asa Hutchinson issuing a directive to the Arkansas Department of Health, to "list female spouses of women who give birth to be listed on their children's birth certificate on the same terms as male spouses of women who give birth."

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The U. S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the state’s law discriminates against same-sex couples, reversing an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law.

In the intervening six months, the state court sent the case back to Fox to determine how the state would comply with the high court’s ruling. Fox ordered the parties in the dispute to mediation to determine how the state would comply.

In November, Fox threatened to halt the issuance of birth certificates if both sides couldn’t find language by January 5, said the AP.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Danny Johnston, AP, File.

On Wednesday, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the state Supreme Court to lift Fox’s order. The Attorney General’s filing said both sides negotiated a proposed order to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but Fox had rejected it.

"This case has been pending for over two years and it has been more than six months since the United States Supreme Court ruled the Arkansas statutory scheme unconstitutional," Fox wrote in his order. "There are citizens and residents of the state of Arkansas whose constitutional rights are being violated on a daily basis."

“The state Department of Health said it would stop issuing and amending birth certificates, but would take information from parents who request one for when the state can resume. Health Department Spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said the state issues roughly 400 to 500 new, amended or replacement birth certificates a day,” said the AP. The governor's order, issued shortly after noon, eliminates the need for that action.

Cheryl Maples, the attorney for the couples, said a fix could be as easy as the state saying it would treat birth certificates in a gender-neutral manner.

The three couples who had sued the state originally were allowed to amend their children’s birth certificates in 2015 under a ruling by Fox.

Copyright The Gayly – December 8, 2017 @ 12:15 p.m. CST.