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Officials: Nebraska birth certificates changing to list same-sex spouses

Officials: Nebraska birth certificates changing to list same-sex spouses
Nebraska is changing state policy on how same-sex parents are identified on their children's birth certificates.
Nebraska is changing state policy on how same-sex parents are identified on their children’s birth certificates. File

OMAHA, Neb. — The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has quietly changed state policy and plans to list the names of both same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates, although it has not revealed how that change will look.

The change was disclosed in court documents filed last week by state attorneys in a lawsuit filed on behalf of several same-sex couples last year challenging Nebraska’s gay marriage abn. The U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in June, but the couples and the American Civil Liberties Union are pushing a Nebraska judge to officially strike down the state ban.

HHS spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White on Thursday confirmed that the agency has begun the process to list both a child’s biological parent and the parent’s same-sex spouse on the child’s birth certificate. Until the process is complete, the state’s current birth certificate form — which does not include a place for same-sex spouses — will be used, Bucco-White said.

ACLU Nebraska legal director Amy Miller said she was concerned about how same-sex spouses would be listed on state birth certificates. She said her office has received calls from family attorneys in the last two weeks who were told birth certificates issued to same-sex parents will list the non-biological parent as “friend.”

Bucco-White said the form would not use the term “friend,” but she declined to say how it might be worded.

State officials initially fought changing birth certificate forms, arguing that complaints about birth certificates came from couples who weren’t part of the original lawsuit. That objection was dismissed last month by U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon, who ruled that the original allegations that the ban denied various marriage rights and responsibilities “can be construed as encompassing the birth-certificate issue.”

Bataillon ordered the state and ACLU to submit arguments about whether the state should be forced — though a court injunction — to include the names of both same-sex spouses on Nebraska birth certificates.

But the state’s response, filed Nov. 3, said the injunction was no longer necessary because Health and Human Services officials promised to make the change.

Miller said a promise isn’t enough and that the ACLU wants an injunction.

“If they have decided to start listing ‘parent’ and ‘parent’ with equal dignity, that’s great,” Miller said. “It does not change the fact that this case needs a ruling from the judge, and the state’s efforts to avoid a ruling are really inexplicable.”

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