Battle over same-sex status on birth certificates in Texas and Arkansas

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 14, 2015 7:43 PM

By Jon Herskovitz and Steve Barnes

AUSTIN, Texas/LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Two states that had blocked gay marriage are in legal battles over granting parenthood status to same-sex couples: Arkansas is trying to throw out a suit from couples seeking the status and Texas is saying it does not have forms ready.

The cases come as states that had barred same-sex marriage grapple with changes brought by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that made gay marriage legal in the United States.

Three Arkansas same-sex couples have sued the state Health Department for refusing to record both partners as parents on birth certificates of the children they are raising.

The state this week asked a trial judge to dismiss the case, arguing the issue is subject to formal adoptive status granted by a court and that marriage does not convey parental status.

A spokesman for the state attorney general, who represents the Arkansas Health Department, said on Friday the office would not comment on pending litigation.

The state's brief in the case said the department "lacks the statutory and regulatory authority to amend the child Plaintiffs’ birth certificates as requested without a court order."

Cheryl Maples, an attorney representing the couples, said the state's refusal to record both same-sex parents "is obviously a denial of their equal protection and due process rights."

No hearing has been scheduled in the Arkansas case.

In neighboring Texas, a federal judge has ordered the state to adjust its records on documents such as death certificates to reflect the same-sex marriage being legal in the state.

In a federal court filing this week, the Department of State Health Services said it could not issue birth certificates to same-sex couples because of problems with software.

It did not say when it would be able to fix the problems. A federal judge said officials could be held in contempt if they did not make the changes.

Months after Florida's gay marriage ban ended, the state is not allowing hospitals to list both same-sex parents on their babies' birth certificates, according to a federal lawsuit filed by three gay couples.

Not having an accurate birth certificate denies children with same-sex parents normal birth rights and prevents parents from taking care of their children’s needs such as obtaining government benefits, said civil rights group Equality Florida, which is also a plaintiff in the case.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)