Indiana same-sex couple files lawsuit alleging birth certificate discrimination

Ruby, left, and Ashlee Henderson of Lafayette are suing Tippecanoe County and Indiana health departments after they were denied having both of their names on the birth certificate for their son, even though they were legally married in Indiana before their son was born in Lafayette, Ind. Dave Bangert, Journal & Courier (AP)

Ruby, left, and Ashlee Henderson of Lafayette are suing Tippecanoe County and Indiana health departments after they were denied having both of their names on the birth certificate for their son, even though they were legally married in Indiana before their son was born in Lafayette, Ind. Dave Bangert, Journal & Courier (AP)

Ruby, left, and Ashlee Henderson of Lafayette are suing Tippecanoe County and Indiana health departments after they were denied having both of their names on the birth certificate for their son, even though they were legally married in Indiana before their son was born in Lafayette, Ind.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Indiana’s birth certificates discriminate against gay married couples and their children because they don’t account for both spouses being the same gender, a federal lawsuit filed Friday says.

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis challenges how state law defines “born in wedlock” and “born out of wedlock,” saying it violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Ashlee and Ruby Henderson of Lafayette told the Journal & Courier that when they asked to have both of their names on the birth certificate of their son, the Tippecanoe County Health Department replied they could not under Indiana code. Ruby Henderson was listed as the mother.

“Not without a court order, they told us, even though we were legally married,” Ashlee Henderson said. “If that’s what it takes, I guess.”

The lawsuit says the birth certificate defines their son, listed in the lawsuit by his initials, L.W.C.H., as born out of wedlock Dec. 22 “because by statute, he was not born to a woman married to a man but instead was born to a woman married to another woman, despite the fact that Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriage.” The Hendersons were married in November.

As things stand now, the only option for Ashlee Henderson is an adoption.

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“We could just do that,” Ashlee Henderson said. “But we don’t understand why we’d have to. We’re married. Indiana says so. Why do we have to do more than that?”

Tippecanoe County Health Department Administrator Craig Rich said the agency consulted its counterparts in other counties and the Indiana State Department of Health.

“Basically, the same-sex (marriage) ruling doesn’t really change the way a birth record is done, because birth certificates all have to do with biological parents,” Rich said.

Chris Paulsen, a spokeswoman for Indiana Equality Action, which is helping to cover legal expenses for the Hendersons, said she believes their case is the first of its kind in Indiana.

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