Metro Weekly

Florida settles lawsuit with same-sex couples over children’s birth certificates

Photo: WiLPrZ, via Wikimedia.

The State of Florida has settled a lawsuit with two same-sex couples who were denied accurate birth certificates for their children because of the state’s refusal to list them as the children’s parents.

Debbie and Kari Chin, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who were married in Boston in 2013, were informed that, after Kari gave birth to their second child, Debbie was not permitted to be listed as “Parent 2” on Florida’s birth certificate. Similarly, Yadira Arenas and Alma Vazquez, of Winter Haven, Fla., who were married in New York in 2013, were informed that Yadira could not be listed on their daughter’s birth certificate because she was not the biological parent of the child.

Both couples enlisted the help of Equality Florida, which agreed to be a plaintiff in the case, and, with the help of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued the state, alleging they had been unfairly discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Under the terms of the settlement, Florida’s Department of Vital Statistics agrees to treat same-sex spouses the same way it treats heterosexual spouses for the purposes of vial records. The state also agreed to issue corrected birth certificates to any married same-sex couples in the state at no charge, including any couples who were married in other states at the time their children were born in Florida. The state will also reimburse the couples for attorney fees.

“The LGBTQ community can now celebrate a long-awaited victory,” Hannah Willard, the public policy director for Equality Florida, said in a statement. “Married same-sex couples deserve to be treated fairly and equally before the law in all ways, including in the recognition of our families. Thanks to years of hard work by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and our local attorneys, the State of Florida has agreed to our terms so that we can put this discrimination behind us.”

Amy Whelan, a senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the organization was happy with the settlement. LGBT rights advocates have pointed out that not having an accurate birth certificate can create major complications in the lives of same-sex couples raising families, with respect to issues like insurance coverage, school enrollment, or applying for government programs or benefits.

“Leaving children and families vulnerable in this way benefits no one, and we hope other state’s will follow Florida’s example,” Whelan said in a statement.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com