Thanks to the Supreme Court, we’re one step closer to equal rights for all, and what a beautiful way to celebrate LGNT Pride Month, right? This week, the Supreme Court ruled an Arkansas birth certificate law unconstitutional as it conflicts with the high court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
The source of the ruling is a lesbian couple who petitioned the Supreme Court to review their case against the Arkansas Department of Health, which formerly only issued birth certificates with the birth mother’s name and not that of the female spouse. As it stood, lesbian couples have to first acquire a court order to get both spouses listed on their children’s birth certificates.
Traditionally, when a married woman gives birth in Arkansas, the name of the husband appears on the birth certificate—whether he’s the biological father or not. Since children’s birth certificates play an important role in medical and educational decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex parents deserve that same right. “The Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision, we conclude, denied married same-sex couples access to the constellation of benefits that the state has linked to marriage,” the court said.
Justices had previously issued an unsigned order siding with an Arkansas county judge who denied the part of the state’s birth certificate law that defined parents by gender. In December, however, the ruling was reversed due to same-sex marriage now being legal. Understandably then, same-sex couples want the same rules applied to their married partner.
“They were trying to ignore the U.S. Constitution after the Obergefell ruling and I was just pleased that the Supreme Court isn’t going to allow them to do that,” said Jana Jacobs, whose wife, Leigh Jacobs, gave birth to their third son in 2015. The couple had been issued a birth certificate naming only Leigh as a parent despite both being listed on the application. “It makes things for my family and all Arkansas LGBT families much better going forward. We are truly equal as families now.”
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, mentions that similar issues are being litigated in other states, but Arkansas was the only court that ruled in favor of the decision.
“The Arkansas decision was an outlier in that regard and I’m very hopeful now that the U.S. Supreme Court has reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court that other state supreme courts will understand that the law really does require equal treatment of same-sex married parents,” Minter said.
Newly appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented the court’s decision, joining Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and saying that “nothing in Obergefell indicates that a birth registration regime based on biology, one no doubt with many analogues across the country and throughout history, offends the Constitution.”
As the Washinton Examiner reports, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, also disagrees, saying, “I will continue to review today’s decision to determine the appropriate next steps upon remand to the Arkansas Supreme Court to ensure that the law is followed properly.”
Additionally, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a case from Gorsuch’s home state of Colorado involving a baker’s refusal to design a same-sex wedding cake. We wrote about the lawsuit here.