Metro Weekly

Arkansas governor orders Dept. of Health to list lesbian mothers on birth certificates

Directive follows court orders that same-sex parents have their parental rights recognized

Asa Hutchinson – Photo: Facebook.

Last week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson finally waved the white flag in the Razorback State’s attempt to deny recognition of same-sex couples’ parental rights.

Hutchinson instructed the Arkansas Department of Health to begin issuing accurate birth certificates to same-sex married parents, provide corrected copies to parents who require them, and direct hospital administrators to treat same-sex parents equally.

Hutchinson’s directive was handed down after an Arkansas Circuit Court judge ordered the state to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Pavan v. Smith, which found that same-sex couples, including non-biological parents, have a right to be listed as parents on their children’s birth certificate.

The Supreme Court found that since Arkansas has a “presumption of parentage” statute, where a male married to the mother of a child is legally considered to be the child’s father, even if he is not biologically related to the child, the same should legal rights should be granted to the non-biological parent in a same-sex marriage.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented two lesbian couples, argued before the Supreme Court that by refusing to list both parents on a child’s birth certificate, Arkansas was subjecting the couples and their children to stigma and bias, sending a message that they were unworthy of equal recognition by the state. By refusing to list both parents, the state created additional complications for parents who wanted to make medical or other decisions for their children, or enroll their children in school or recreational sports.

Arkansas state officials defended their decision not to list same-sex parents on a child’s birth certificate, claiming the exclusion of their names is justified for reasons related to health and family medical history. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled similarly, finding that the Department of Health had a vested interest in recording biological lineage, thereby necessitating the exclusion of non-biological parents from birth certificates.

“We are pleased Governor Hutchinson is taking this step to ensure that married same-sex parents in Arkansas are treated equally,” Catherine Sakimura, the family law director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement praising the issuance of the Department of Health directive. “This is settled law.”

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