This is one of those next steps that needs to be taken.
After the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, some gay and lesbian couples in Texas have raised questions about another legal document – birth certificates.
They want Texas birth certificates to list two parents’ names, even if a child has two moms or two dads. Birth certificates issued by the state list one mother and one father.
Change could come in the next few weeks, said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for Texas Department of State Health Services. She said state officials are reviewing the Supreme Court decision with attorneys and the attorney general’s office. They’re looking at how the ruling could compel revision to other vital records, such as death certificates that list a surviving spouse, she said.
“Once we complete that analysis, we would make any necessary changes as soon as possible,” Williams said in an email.
As you may recall, a bill to reform how birth certificates list parental names got some traction in the Lege but ultimately fell short. We can wait till 2017 to try again, or we can hope for direct intervention.
Texas birth certificates only allow for a mother and a father to be listed. That means, for instance, when a woman has a child, her same-sex spouse is not automatically listed on the birth certificate — and considered the child’s parent — as a male spouse would be. The non-biological parent has to adopt the child later to gain parental rights.
Same-sex couples adopting a child run into the state’s requirements for supplemental birth certificates, which are issued to establish parental rights for adopters. Texas supplemental certificates allow for two parents to be listed, “one of whom must be a female, named as the mother, and the other of whom must be a male, named as the father.” As a result, only one parent is listed for same-sex couples.
The Department of State Health Services has already modified marriage licenses to accommodate same-sex couples, but a spokeswoman for the department said it is analyzing what to do about birth certificates in light of the high court’s decision.
“We are reviewing the ruling to determine what, if any, changes will be needed to our forms or processes relating to issues other than marriage applications,” said the department’s Carrie Williams.
Family law attorneys who handle same-sex adoptions aren’t hopeful the matter will be easily resolved, predicting it’ll take a legal challenge to force the state to modify the birth certificates.
It is estimated that 9,191 same-sex couples in Texas are raising children, according to the Williams Institute, a nonpartisan think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dallas family law attorney Susan Vrana said she expected the state’s top elected officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, to provide leadership on the issue. (Paxton, a conservative who staunchly opposes same-sex marriage, has said county clerks with religious objections can opt out of issuing marriage licenses.)
“I’m hoping that good judgment and good lawyering by the attorney general and the governor will” resolve the issue, Vrana said. “We all live in hope that they’ll put their lawyer hats on and remember their oath.”
I know Ms. Vrana is trying to catch some flies with a honey jar, but we all know that ain’t gonna happen. I’ll put my money on a lawsuit being filed sometime before the 2017 Lege convenes. We are incapable of doing things the easy way in this state.