Judge Rejects Changes to Indiana Birth Certificate Rules

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – A federal judge in Indiana declined to amend her earlier ruling that the state must name both same-sex parents on their child’s birth certificate, not just the birth mother.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a motion on behalf of the Indiana State Health Commissioner to amend a June 2016 judgment in favor of eight female same-sex couples who brought discrimination and civil rights claims against the state.

The motion stems from a federal lawsuit filed in 2015 in Indianapolis federal court, in which the lesbian couples claimed Indiana violates their constitutional rights regarding the information included, and excluded, on their children’s birth certificates.

Until a recent ruling from U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, Indiana omitted the non-birth mother’s name from the birth certificates of children born into same-sex marriages, and classified such births as “out of wedlock” on the state-issued certificates.

In the judgment handed down in June 2016, Pratt found that Indiana law regulating birth certificate documentation violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Pratt issued a permanent injunction requiring state officials to identify both spouses as parents on their respective child’s birth certificate. The judge also barred the state from classifying children born to a birth mother who is married to a same-sex spouse as born out of wedlock.

But just weeks after the injunction order, Attorney General Zoeller, on behalf of Indiana State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, a defendant in the original lawsuit, asked the court to amend or alter the judgment.

In the motion, Zoeller and two other state attorneys raised questions of jurisdiction and asked for clarification regarding whether the injunction applies to wives of all birth mothers, or only to wives of birth mothers who conceived through artificial insemination by an anonymous donor.

The state attorneys further argued the judgment is unclear whether the presumption of parenthood for wives of birth mothers is rebuttable under any circumstances.

On Friday, Pratt refused to amend her earlier decision, finding that Indiana “has failed to point out a manifest error of law or fact and seems to simply re-litigate its argument.”

Indiana said in its motion to amend that the court “appears to intend to give wives of birth mothers comparable rights to husbands of birth mothers.”

“The [state’s] observation is correct,” Pratt wrote in her 10-page ruling issued Dec. 30.

The judge said, “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. It does not apply additional limitations as the state defendant questions.”

Pratt’s ruling is in stark contrast to one issued by the Arkansas Supreme Court last month. A split court reversed a Little Rock circuit court judge’s ruling that directed Arkansas to include both same-sex parents on their child’s birth certificate.

Writing for the majority, Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Josephine Linker Hart said, “It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths.”

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