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Judge: 3 gay couples can amend kids’ birth certificates

Judge: 3 gay couples can amend kids’ birth certificates
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Pulaski County judge said Monday that three same-sex couples who sued the state for refusing to name both spouses on the birth certificates of their children can get the documents amended to list both names.

Judge Tim Fox did not issue a formal ruling after a hearing on motions for summary judgment but said the three couples who filed suit can go to the Arkansas Department of Health to change the documents immediately. Fox said he will issue a written ruling, probably in December.

“As much as I would like to announce from the bench exactly what my ruling is, because I don’t know exactly what my ruling is I’m not going to announce that today. The easy part is to amend the birth certificates for the three main couples and that is the order of the court today so that there’s no more delay with respect to that,” Fox said.

The married women said in the lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court that the state Health Department would list only the biological mother on the birth certificate, and said they were told they would need a court order to name both spouses. The couples sought the birth certificates after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down gay marriage bans nationwide.

Two of the couples were married out of state before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and a third was married in Arkansas days after the decision. The couples’ children were conceived through anonymous sperm donors.

Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen argued the statute and related Health Department regulations allow biological parents to amend birth certificates. He said all non-biological parents, regardless of sexual orientation, have to go through a legal process to be listed on the birth certificates.

“They’re seeking a blanket rule that we’re going to create parental rights without even looking at the best interest of the individual children or the individual cases,” Jorgensen said.

Fox said the state’s argument that the statute was based solely on biology would be its “best argument on appeal.”

“I don’t see it framed that way, and if the high court does, then I’m going to get reversed. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as disparate treatment of same-sex couples,” Fox said.

Cheryl Maples, the attorney representing the couples, said in instances where heterosexual couples use fertility treatments that include sperm donations, the same requirements are not applied. She said sperm donation requires a waiving of parental rights by the donor and should be treated the same for heterosexual and same-sex parents.

Before the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza had struck down Arkansas’ 2004 voter-approved same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional. That ruling included an order that Maples said applied to the ability to list both parents on a birth certificate. The attorney general’s office said that order violated judicial rules.

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