Gay Couples Sue Florida|Over Birth Certificates

     (CN) – A year after a federal judge ruled Florida’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, the fight for gay rights continues in the state – this time over spouses’ names on birth certificates.
     Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello – the first same-sex couple married in Florida – sued state officials last week for refusing to list both mothers’ names on the birth certificates of their newly-born twins.
     Two other lesbian couples and Equality Florida Institute, a gay rights advocacy group, joined the suit filed in a Northern Florida district court. The named defendants are Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong and state registrar Kenneth Jones.
     Under Florida law, the Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics must issue a birth certificate listing the mother and her spouse as parents of a child. However, the language of the law is 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.”
     The lawsuit argues that, since gay marriage is now legal in Florida and across the country, the other spouse – no matter their sex – should be listed.
     After Arguello had twins on Aug. 6, a hospital representative told them the Department of Health would not list Pareto as the other parent on the birth certificate.
     The other couples — Kari and Deborah Chin and Yadira Arenas and Alma Vezquez – were also denied birth certificates listing both spouses’ names. Both couples have been married for years and have at least one child born after the state ended the same-sex marriage ban.
     Without the two-parent birth certificate, the lawsuit states, the couple will have a more difficult time enrolling children in school and authorizing medical treatment.
     “Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a new born baby’s family,” Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said in a press release. “Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections. Denying our families this is not only spiteful and harmful, it is illegal.”
     The complaint asks the court to declare the state’s policy unconstitutional, prohibit any refusal to add both parents to future birth certificates, and issue corrected birth certificates.
     Judge Robert Hinkle is presiding over the case. Hinkle declared Florida’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional last year. A few months of appeals by the state followed until Florida officially began issuing marriage licenses in January.
     The Department of Health filed a motion last week asking for clarification of Hinkle’s 2014 ruling and if it requires issuing birth certificates to married same-sex parents.
     The three same-sex couples and Equality Florida are represented by Mary Meeks, Elizabeth Schwartz and the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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