A same-sex couple that won a court order that their names should appear on their children’s birth certificate went to the state Health Department today to get the birth certificate. They succeeded, but a couple of other couples did not.
Judge Tim Fox yesterday released his written order, affirming an earlier ruling from the bench that three married same-sex couples who sued were entitled to have names listed on birth certificates just as heterosexual couples are able to do. He noted that a birth certificate doesn’t provide proof of biological parentage. Legal rights aren’t necessarily conferred by birth certificate listing either. He said the larger process would take correction by changes in state Health Department rules and perhaps legislation.
Here’s John Lynch’s article in the Arkanas Democrat-Gazette on yesterday’s court proceeding.
Fox denied the state’s request for a stay of his ruling pending appeal. Fox said there’s no staying constitutional rights.
Here’s Fox’s detailed opinion in the case.
UPDATE: Michael Hibblen of KUAR reports that the Health Department issued birth certificates ONLY to a couple that was one of three plaintiff couples in the suit, Marisa and Terrah Pavan. Two other couples who were not plaintiffs but who were also married with children, sought birth certificates today, too. Information was taken from them, but birth certificates weren’t issued, Hibblen said, though there’s some confusion on precisely what counsel the Health Department gave all three couples who went there today. I’m seeking comment from Health Department and the attorney general’s office on the matter. It would appear that the state is processing certificates only for those with court orders, such as a legal adoption. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge still plans an appeal, so far as is known.
NOTE CORRECTION: I’ve been struggling to get the proper names with the photos of the Pavans and have revised original captions.
UPDATE: Meg Mirivel, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said the department would issue birth certificates to plaintiffs in the suit. (At least one couple took formal adoption steps, given uncertainty of the birth certificate process). Others may submit information and be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as heterosexual couples seeking amended birth certificates are evaluated.
The department hasn’t decided if it will appeal the ruling in the case of the three couples. And as for adopting a rule to make it easier for same-sex couples to be listed on birth certificates (a step other states have taken), Mirivel said, “We are still evaluating our next steps.” She noted that the judge had said legislation might be necessary.
I can guess that the Health Department will NOT on its own adopt rules making life easier for same-sex couples. That leaves the question of how the Arkansas legislature will react to the necessity to make various rules comply with marriage equality (Fox’s ruling cited a long list). Based on the record so far, massive resistance by the legislature and the attorney general seem likely.
This is all a spokesman for Attorney General Rutledge would say:
Attorney General Rutledge has advised the Department of Health to follow Judge Fox’s order with regard to amending the birth certificates of the three minors in this case.
BUT NOW THIS UPDATE: Added to the statement above was this sentence:
However, to avoid confusion and uncertainty created by other parts of the order, the Attorney General will ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to stay the decision and will appeal.”