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Birth certificates battle as US state refuses to list parents of same-sex in babies’ certificates

By Reuters | August 14th 2015

MIAMI: Eight months after Florida's gay marriage ban ended, the state is not allowing hospitals to list both same-sex parents on their babies' birth certificates, according to a federal lawsuit recently filed by three gay couples.

Last week the first same-sex couple to be married in Florida, Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello, discovered the hospital would only include the birth mother's name on the birth certificate for their twins.

They have sued, saying the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics violates the US Constitution by issuing "a certificate that falsely indicates that the child has only one parent."

Florida's ban on same-sex marriage ended on Jan. 6 after it was struck down by a judge. Then, in June the US Supreme Court issued a nationwide ruling that state marriage bans are unconstitutional.

The Florida Department of Health, which handles birth certificates, responded on Thursday with a legal motion seeking clarification from a judge on whether the Supreme Court's ruling "may be read to require issuance of birth certificates to married same-sex parents."

It said current Florida law regarding birth certificates is "gender specific," referring to a mother and her husband. It added the Supreme Court ruling referred only "to the issue of same-sex marriage, not vital statistics records."

Shannon Minter, legal director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) that is representing the plaintiffs, said most states quickly changed birth certificate rules to reflect the Supreme Court ruling, although Texas, Utah and Arkansas only did so after lawsuits were filed.

Since the ruling, legal fights over gay marriage have erupted across the country. On Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals said a baker cannot cite religious beliefs in refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The Florida plaintiffs made repeated requests to Florida officials "but enough is enough," added Minter, saying they would have preferred not to go to court.

Not having an accurate birth certificate denies children with same-sex parents normal birth rights and also prevents parents from taking care of their children's everyday needs like obtaining government benefits, said Equality Florida, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Floridians, and is also a plaintiff in the case.

Pareto and Arguello were married in January 2015.

"The state's refusal to recognize that they have two parents and to list both of us on the birth certificates is demeaning and hurtful," Pareto said in a statement.

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