“Wisconsin needs to treat all married couples and their children equally.”
Wednesday, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf Chelsea and Jessamy Torres, a married lesbian couple, seeking a birth certificate listing both mothers as parents of their son, born in March 2015.
“Children born to married parents in Wisconsin need the same protection and acknowledgement of their relationships to their parents by the State, regardless of their parents’ sex or sexual orientation,” said Kyle Palazzolo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “Birth certificates document a child’s legal parent-child relationships, not biological connections, and the State’s refusal to provide the Torres family with an accurate birth certificate poses significant and ongoing harm. This is an outdated and discriminatory practice in Wisconsin, where the ban on marriage for same-sex couples was struck down last year, and Wisconsin needs to treat all married couples and their children equally.”
Chelsea and Jessamy live in Madison and were married in New York in September 2012. About a year after getting married, the couple started planning a family. They used assisted reproductive technology and after several attempts and significant cost, Chelsea was able to get pregnant. After an overall healthy pregnancy, Chelsea was in labor for 72 hours and their son’s heart rate dropped dramatically at one point, requiring an emergency C-section. Their son was in intensive care for several days following his birth. The hospital staff treated the family very well, often referring to Jessamy as “Big Mom” and Chelsea as “Little Mom,” as Jessamy is 6’3” while Chelsea is 5’6”.
Upon arrival of their newborn son, hospital staff instructed Jessamy to fill out the “father” part of the birth certificate application. A couple of weeks later, Chelsea received a form from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services asking for confirmation of the information that was provided to generate a birth certificate. The form did not contain any reference to Jessamy, effectively eliminating her from the family in the eyes of the State.
Lambda Legal has successfully litigated on behalf of married same-sex couples seeking accurate birth certificates for their children in Iowa in the case Gartner v. Newton and in Ohio in Henry v. Hodges. Last month the United States Supreme Court heard consolidated marriage cases—one of which was Henry v. Hodges – a decision is pending.
“Our son should grow up knowing his family is just like any other loving, caring family,” said Jessamy Torres. “He needs the same respect and treatment that every other child born to married parents receives.”
For more information about the case, Torres v. Rhoades, see the case page.
Read the complaint on Lambda Legal’s website.
Along with Kyle Palazzolo, the Torres family is being represented by Camilla Taylor and Kenneth Upton of Lambda Legal, Claire Lepak of Lovell-Lepak Law Office and Tamara Packard of Cullen Weston Pines & Bach in Madison, Wisconsin.