Fixing birth certificates

Trying again, with some hope for progress.

The Texas Legislature added a provision to the Health & Safety Code in 1997 requiring supplemental birth certificates issued to adoptive parents to contain the name of one female, the mother, and one male, the father.

According to the legislation’s author, former state Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas), it was part of a renewed commitment to “conservative values.” But Hartnett acknowledged last year that the law should be revisited if it’s negatively impacting children.

On Wednesday, state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) [introduced] a bill for the fourth consecutive session that would remove gender requirements for adoptive parents on supplemental birth certificates. And for the first time, a companion to Anchia’s bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate later [Wednesday] by Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston).

Many judges in Texas routinely grant joint adoptions to same-sex couples, so the legislation wouldn’t create new parental rights. But not having accurate birth certificates causes problems when it comes to enrolling children in school, adding them to insurance policies, admitting them for medical care and obtaining passports.

Anchia, whose bill has never made it out of committee, said if it fails to do so in 2015, he plans to force a floor vote by offering it as an amendment, and he’s confident it will pass.

“I think if you asked every member of the Legislature, they would say they care about orphaned children, and if we can get them to understand that this bill is about children and not about who their parents are, then that should carry the day,” Anchia told the Observer this week. “There’s no doubt that this policy has cruel effects.”

According to Equality Texas, the birth certificate restriction is among the inequities facing the LGBT community that wouldn’t be solved by legalization of same-sex marriage—since it involves the relationship between a parent and a child, not between parents.

About 9,200 same-sex couples in Texas are raising children, according to Census estimates, but it’s unclear how many are adoptive parents.

Rep. Anchia’s bill is HB537, and his press release announcing it is here. Sen. Garcia’s companion bill is here – Sen. Jose Rodriguez appears to be a co-author – and her press release for it is here. I noted Rep. Anchia’s efforts from the last session. I have some hope that he’ll have more success this time, but I can’t say I have any faith. Speaking of faith, it sure would have been nice if all those people that had been pushing that “commitment” for a “renewal” of “conservative values” back in 1997 had stopped for a moment to consider the possibility that their actions might have real consequences for a bunch of people who had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve the hardship they were about to face. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Fixing this self-inflicted damage to birth certificates is one of many things that will remain on the “to do” list after marriage equality is finally the law of the land. The more we take care of now, the easier it will be later, and the better off many people will be.

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