LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Supreme Court of Arkansas has overturned a lower court ruling that allowed lesbian partners to be recognized on birth certificates even though they are not the biological parent, stating that it is not unconstitutional to “acknowledge basic biological truths.”
“What is before this court is a narrow issue of whether the birth-certificate statutes as written deny the appellees due process,” Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote on behalf of the majority. “In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has. It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths.”
As previously reported, six lesbians had filed suit last year against the Arkansas Health Department’s Vital Statistics Bureau after it declined to recognize both women as the parents on the birth certificates, which they sought to do in order to obtain insurance coverage for the children.
The bureau stated that the women needed to obtain a court order in the matter.
In their lawsuit, the women alleged that the refusal violated the U.S. Constitution because they could not both be listed just like heterosexual parents. But the state argued that the requirement to obtain a court order is the same for heterosexual couples who have children out of wedlock and marry after the birth.
Last November, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox sided with the lesbian women, stating that the birth certificates should be amended to include both of their names.
He drew a distinction between the various plaintiffs, however, as some had “married” before the birth and some after. Fox said that the latter scenario was not as clear in his mind in siding with the women, but decided to likewise allow their names to be listed.
But on Thursday, the state Supreme Court overturned Fox’s ruling, stating that there is an “important governmental objective” in requesting that biological parents be listed on the birth certificate, such as having genetic information available for medical purposes.
“The purpose of the statutes is to truthfully record the nexus of the biological mother and the biological father to the child,” it outlined. “On the record presented, we cannot say that naming the nonbiological spouse on the birth certificate of the child is an interest of the person so fundamental that the State must accord the interest its respect under either statute.”
“[T]he challenged classification serves an important governmental objective—tracing public-health trends and providing critical assistance to an individual’s identification of personal health issues and genetic conditions—and that the means employed—requiring the mother and father on the birth certificate to be biologically related
to the child—are substantially related to the achievement of those objectives,” the court declared.
Cheryl Maples, the attorney for the women, decried the ruling, stating, “There’s no requirement that DNA be given or that there be a biological relationship to a child to get on a birth certificate for a father, for the non-birth parent. All you have to do is legitimize the child, and you’re entitled, if you’re heterosexual. This is wrong.”
But Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office said that they are satisfied with the outcome.
“If any changes are appropriate, it is the job of legislators to do so, not the circuit court,” spokesman Judd Deere told reporters.