Indiana Birth Certificate Case Goes to Seventh Circuit

(CN) – The state of Indiana appealed a federal judge’s decision granting same-sex couples the right to have the names of both parents listed on their children’s birth certificates, not just the birth mother.

Indiana filed an opening brief in the Seventh Circuit on Friday, asserting that under state law legal parentage of a child is only derived from either a “biological relationship to a child or the legal adoption of a child.”

The appeal stems from a 2015 federal lawsuit, in which eight lesbian couples living in Indiana claimed that the state violated their constitutional rights by failing to include both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates.

In addition, since the state did not allow for the inclusion of both sets of parents on the legal documents, children born to the couples were then legally defined as born “out of wedlock” on state-issued certificates.

A June 2016 ruling by U.S. District Judge Tonya Walton Pratt shot down the state law regulating birth certificate documentation, finding that requiring a biological relationship or a legal adoption to exist in order for both parents to be named was a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Pratt handed down a permanent injunction requiring state officials to identify both spouses as parents on their child’s state birth documentation, and barred the state from classifying children born to a birth mother married to a same-sex spouse as born out of wedlock.

Indiana fought the ruling just weeks later, however, with then-Attorney General Gregory Zoeller requesting that Pratt either amend or alter her judgment by providing specifics on whether the injunction applied to the wives of all birth mothers or only those who conceived through artificial insemination by an anonymous donor.

Pratt “appears to intend to give wives of birth mothers comparable rights to husbands of birth mothers,” Zoeller claimed, evidently requiring clarification on the matter.

Pratt responded by saying that the state was simply trying to relitigate its initial argument, and that it failed to point out any error of law in its later filing.

“The state’s observation is correct,” Pratt wrote in a 10-page ruling filed in December. “The order means what it says and says what it means. It applies to female, same-sex spouses of birth mothers and children born to a birth mother who is married to a same-sex spouse.”

Current Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill claimed Friday in his Seventh Circuit opening brief that Pratt’s ruling contradicts Indiana state law regarding legal parentage.

“Under Indiana law, legal parentage is derived from one of two sources: a biological relationship to a child or the legal adoption of a child,” Hill said. “In this particular case, the federal district court suggests there is a third source – a marital relationship with a legal parent. The fundamental problem with this decision is that Indiana statutes do not in fact bestow parental rights based on the mere fact of a marital relationship. This is true for both opposite- and same-sex couples.”

Hill argues Pratt’s ruling “has no grounding in fundamental constitutional rights and introduces inequality into Indiana’s parental rights system that did not previously exist.”

“The district court fundamentally misunderstood constitutional parental rights. The Constitution protects the fundamental right to procreate through sexual intercourse, and it protects the fundamental rights of parents in the care and upbringing of their children. It does not, however, otherwise protect a fundamental right to become a parent,” the brief states. (Emphasis in original.)

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