The married same-sex couples suing the State of Florida asked a federal court Thursday to order state officials to list both parents on their children’s birth certificates as Florida already does for children born to married different-sex couples.
On August 13, 2015, the couples, along with Equality Florida Institute, the largest organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Floridians, filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s unconstitutional refusal to issue birth certificates listing both spouses as parents of their children. The plaintiffs are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Florida attorneys Mary Meeks and Elizabeth Schwartz.
Thursday’s request asks the court to decide the case without a trial. The filing explains that that same-sex and different sex spouses must be treated equally in all respects. There are no additional facts needed to show that Florida is violating the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and other Florida families.
“There is no justification for Florida’s refusal to treat same-sex spouses equally,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan. “The Supreme Court has already ruled that same-sex spouses and their children have a constitutional right to have their family relationships respected in every state.”
Not having a birth certificate listing both spouses is discriminatory, stigmatizing, and humiliating to these families, who deserve the same security and respect as the families of other married couples. It also prevents parents from taking care of their children’s everyday needs like obtaining health care, making medical decisions, signing up for daycare, and enrolling in government programs and benefits.
In August 2014, Judge Robert L. Hinkle issued a decision striking down Florida’s marriage ban and ordering state officials, including Florida’s Surgeon General, who oversees the Florida Department of Health and the Bureau of Vital Statistics, to treat married same-sex couples and their children equally in all respects. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling held that state marriage bans are unconstitutional.
Debbie and Kari have been together for 15 years and were married in Boston in 2013. Kari is a social worker with a local school district, while Debbie, a former elementary school teacher, is a stay-at-home mother to their two children. When Kari gave birth to their second child, a son, in February, they were told that Debbie could not be listed on his birth certificate.
“I’m just as much of a parent as Kari and as anyone else with children,” said Debbie. “It was humiliating to be denied the right to have my name added to our son’s birth certificate. All we want to do is love, protect, and provide the best opportunities for our children and to be treated equally under the law. Without being on our son’s birth certificate, in the event of an emergency or if something were ever to happen to my wife, I am not sure where that would leave us.”
Yadira and Alma have been together for three years and were married in New York in 2013. Alma is a medical assistant in a pediatric office and Yadira is a pharmacy technician. When Alma gave birth to their first child, a daughter, in March, they were not allowed to put Yadira on the birth certificate as a parent, and Alma was told that she had to be listed as “single” on the form.
“We’re hoping that one day soon I’ll be added to our daughter’s birth certificate,” said Yadira. “She has two, loving mothers and our family deserves equal protection and respect. We don’t want our child to grow up feeling that the State of Florida does not respect us or recognize us as a family.”
Added Hannah Willard, policy and outreach coordinator at Equality Florida: “It is simply unacceptable for Florida to deny these families equal dignity and equal protection under the law. The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear in June that all married couples must be treated equally. We urge Judge Hinkle to tell the Bureau of Vital Statistics to follow the law.”