A Federal Court has ruled that a same-sex couple in California is entitled to have the Louisiana birth certificate of their adopted son changed to reflect the two of them as the boy’s parents. The question was one of Louisiana being required to recognize the decision of the New York court that oversaw the adoption of the boy by the two men. The Louisiana Office of Vital Statistics had refused to issue a birth certificate showing both men as the boy’s adoptive parents. The Federal Court ruled that the facts were so clear there wasn’t even any need for a trial: Louisiana must recognize New York’s laws in this regard under the Full Faith and Credit provisions of the U.S. Constitution, which (essentially) mandates that each state must give full faith and credit to (i.e., must recognize) the laws of the other states.
Over and above the obvious desire to have a parent’s name on a child’s birth certificate, there are other reasons for wanting this as well. For example, in this case, the employer of one of the parents (the breadwinner) was refusing to enroll the boy under the employer’s health insurance plan because the employee failed to show on the birth certificate as a parent. There are additional concerns involving traveling with the child and such things that make having your name on the birth certificate a plus. For example, one of the fathers noted that because he and his partner are white and the child is African American they were sometimes stopped at airports by personnel fearing the child was being kidnapped. This amendment of the birth certificate should help in that situation.
This area of the law is continually changing and evolving. Concepts of equal rights and equal protection, so firmly grounded in our Constitution and engrained in our society are being challenged and tested from both sides. Look for many new developments throughout 2009 as these issues work their way through the court system.
For information on the history of same-sex marriage in California, see “Same-Sex Marriage in California,“ a brief history of this subject written by Feinberg & Waller lawyer Veronika Melamed.