Breakthrough: Health Department to issue birth certificates for both same-sex parents | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Breakthrough: Health Department to issue birth certificates for both same-sex parents

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 4:11 PM

Good news: The state Health Department has decided to do something it could have done months or years ago — issue birth certificates that carry the name of both parents of a same-sex married couple, biological mother or not.

This extends to same-sex couples the same presumption of parentage given to opposite-sex couples. The discriminatory treatment was struck down Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court. But as late as Tuesday afternoon, the attorney general's office was saying further hearings and statements from other parties would be necessary for the Arkansas Supreme Cout, which had upheld the discrimination, to change policy. The news release:

After conferring with the offices of the Governor and the Attorney General, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will now begin issuing birth certificates for same-sex couples who utilized artificial insemination and were married at the time of the birth of their child.

Amended birth certificates will only be issued in cases where the birth mother is listed on the certificate and no one is listed as the father.

This decision was based on the US Supreme Court's order in Pavan v. Smith on Monday, June 26, and ensures equal treatment under the assisted reproduction statute in Arkansas law.

Couples who have left their information with ADH will be contacted.
I've asked what prompted the sudden reversal. I also note that that coverage described doesn't cover all permutations of conception for children born to same-sex married couples. But, it might surprise you to know (as it did me), to learn that male married couples already have the right to both be listed as parents on a birth certificate.

I wrote yesterday about a married woman in a same-sex couple still facing a stonewall — and some brusque treatment — when she tried to obtain a birth certificate with the name of both female parents of her newborn.  No one at the state Health Department or attorney general's office displayed a sense of urgency about the matter. A letter from the attorney general to the Supreme Court was released late in the day Tuesday. It suggested comments from affected parties would be a good idea and expressed support for "gender neutral" birth certificates. That didn't promise speedy action, not only because of the time required for solicitation of comments and scheduling of a hearing, but also because the Supreme Court is about to go on summer vacation. Perhaps the appearance of foot-dragging on compliance with what is now the law of the land troubled someone. Perhaps, though official compassion for LGBT people has been and remains in short supply in Arkansas.

In short: If they could do this today, why didn't they do it Monday?

I've also sought comments from the attorney general and governor about today's decision.

UPDATE: Best I could get from the Health Department spokeswoman, Meg Mirivel:

After further discussion with the AG’s office and the Governor’s office, we were comfortable with making this change prior to the Arkansas Supreme Court issuing a final rule.

Judd Deere, spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge responded:

It's not a change of position. The case is still on remand and the State Supreme Court will need to act.
Uh, ok. Maybe they'll reverse the decision of the Arkansas Health Department, reached in consultation with Deere's boss and others, without Supreme Court guidance. (And, who knows what Justice Jo Hart might decide?)

Leigh Jacobs, who complained about continuing Arkansas resistance to the Supreme Court ruling, said this:

I am thrilled that the Arkansas Department of Health has expedited their implementation of the Supreme Court's ruling. I am happy that our state has moved toward equality for same-sex couples.

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