LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – A split Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a ruling that directed the state to include both same-sex parents on their child’s birth certificate, finding “it does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths.”
The four-member majority threw out Little Rock Circuit Judge Timothy Fox’s December 2015 finding that the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year to legalize gay marriage had resolved the issue.
Fox had sided with three lesbian couples who argued that the decision essentially voided Arkansas statutes and regulations requiring that birth certificates only list the child’s biological parents.
“What is before this court is the narrow issue of whether the birth-certificate statutes as written deny the appellees due process,” Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote for the majority in Thursday’s opinion.
Hart said, “In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has. It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths.”
The Arkansas Supreme Court had previously stayed Fox’s ruling before reversing it Thursday.
“On the record presented, we cannot say that naming the nonbiological spouse on the birth certificate of the child is an interest of the person so fundamental that the State must accord the interest its respect under [state law],” the opinion states.
The high court’s majority also admonished Fox for the “inappropriate remarks” in his circuit court order, in which he wrote that the high court had previously deprived people of their constitutional rights in a separate manner.
“A remark made to gain the attention of the press and to create public clamor undermines ‘public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality,’ not only of this court, but also of the entire judiciary,” Hart wrote.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Paul Danielson said the issue has already been litigated, and that the court’s majority “is simply and demonstrably wrong.”
Danielson noted that the “United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell [v. Hodges] that states are not free to deny same-sex couples ‘the constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage.’”
“The majority errs in suggesting that the right to be named as a parent on a birth certificate is not a benefit associated with marriage and likewise errs in holding that the specific statutes at issue here focus on biological relationships rather than marital ones,” Danielson wrote.
An attorney for the lesbian couples has not yet decided whether to appeal the Arkansas ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kate Oakley, senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said Thursday’s decision was disappointing and “a clear violation of equal protection for married, same-sex couples.”
“It is a deliberate attempt to undermine the rights of couples who have been guaranteed equality under the law when it comes to marriage,” Oakley said in a statement.
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