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Florida Agrees to Recognize Same-Sex Couples on Birth Certificates

Florida has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over birth certificates issued to children born to same-sex couples, removing language from state law that directed state officials only to list the child's mother and father on the document.

(CN) - Florida has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over birth certificates issued to children born to same-sex couples.

In 2015, two married lesbian couples and gay rights advocacy group Equality Florida sued state officials in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida for refusing to list both mothers' names on the birth certificates of their newly born children.

The plaintiffs named Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong and state registrar Kenneth Jones as defendants.

At the time, Florida law directed the state's Bureau of Vital Statistics to only issue a birth certificate listing the mother and her spouse as parents of a child.

But the language of the law, which predated the U.S. Supreme Court law that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, was gender specific: "If the mother is married at the time of birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the birth certificate as the father of the child, unless paternity has been determined otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction."

Last May, a year after Florida’s gay marriage ban was overturned, state health officials started listing both same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates. The state asked U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to dismiss the case, but the couples and Equality Florida argued there were no protections for children born before January 2015, when gay marriages were legalized in Florida.

Under the settlement, same-sex couples can receive corrected birth certificates at no charge. The state will also pay $55,000 in attorney fees.

“The LGBTQ community can now celebrate a long-awaited victory,” said Hannah Willard, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida, in a statement. “Married same-sex couples deserve to be treated fairly and equally before the law in all ways, including in the recognition of our families. Thanks to years of hard work by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and our local attorneys, the State of Florida has agreed to our terms so that we can put this discrimination behind us."

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