In a major win for LGBTQ families, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday overturned an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling and said both parents in a same-sex couple have the right to be on their children’s birth certificates.
This comes as especially good news, not only for the Arkansas plaintiff couples, but also given the ruling from an Arizona appeals court last week in a child custody case that said a married nonbiological mother has no claim to parentage. Both cases center around the question of whether a birth certificate is intended to record only biological connections.
In the Arkansas case, which involved two (initially three) married, two-mom couples who had children using anonymous sperm donors, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote that because of the Obergefell marriage equality ruling:
A State may not ‘exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.’ Indeed, in listing those terms and conditions — the ‘rights, benefits, and responsibilities’ to which same-sex couples, no less than opposite-sex couples, must have access — we expressly identified ‘birth and death certificates.’ That was no accident.
The State insists … a birth certificate is simply a device for recording biological parentage—regardless of whether the child’s parents are married. But Arkansas law makes birth certificates about more than just genetics. As already discussed, when an opposite-sex couple con- ceives a child by way of anonymous sperm donation—just as the petitioners did here—state law requires the placement of the birth mother’s husband on the child’s birth certificate….
Arkansas has thus chosen to make its birth certificates more than a mere marker of biological relationships: The State uses those certificates to give married parents a form of legal recognition that is not available to unmarried parents. Having made that choice, Arkansas may not, consistent with Obergefell, deny married same-sex couples that recognition.
This hits directly at the arguments of both the Arkansas and Arizona courts, who believe that only biology matters. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling will have on the Arizona case.
A hearty congratulations to the plaintiffs and their legal team, including Lambda Legal, which filed an amicus brief in the case.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s recent appointee to the court, wrote a dissent, which Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined—but they weren’t enough to sway the majority.