Arkansas Asks Court to Overturn Birth Certificate Ruling

By CLAUDIA LAUER

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas attorney general's office asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to overturn a lower court decision that was poised to clear the way for married same-sex couples to get the name of both spouses on their children's birth certificate without a court order.

The state asked the court to overturn that decision, arguing Arkansas' birth certificate law is based on biological parenthood, not sexual orientation or marriage. It also suggested that if the court was to decide that same-sex couples were entitled to have both spouses listed, a more appropriate way to go about that change would be to amend the state's assisted reproduction law.

The state also requested oral arguments.

"The attorney general believes that the state has the right to require an adult who is not the biological parent of a child to obtain a court order prior to being placed on that child's birth certificate," said Judd Deere, spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

The state's high court agreed in December to temporarily halt Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox's decision to strike down part of the state's birth certificate law as unconstitutional until the state's appeal could be heard. The court did not halt a separate order from Fox allowing the three same-sex couples who brought the lawsuit to amend their children's birth certificates.

In the appeal, the state said Fox made a mistake by basing his ruling on state and federal court opinions that struck down bans on gay marriage. The attorney general's office said those decisions did not specifically address birth certificates.

Attorney Cheryl Maples, who represents the three couples, said the circuit court judge in Arkansas' gay marriage challenge agreed to grant all injunctive relief related to the rights and benefits of being married for same-sex couples. She said that would include birth certificates.

"If they didn't like that wording, they should have appealed that ruling, not challenge that language now," she said.

The appeal also argued that the existing birth certificate law was not discriminatory against same-sex couples because it is based on biology. A heterosexual spouse who is proven not to be the biological parent of a child has to obtain a court order to be listed on the birth certificate.

Maples said a woman's husband or the man she says is the father is automatically added unless his paternity is challenged, while a same-sex spouse is excluded automatically under the birth certificate law.

The assisted reproduction law allows for the husband of a woman who has been artificially inseminated to be listed on the birth certificate even though he does not have a biological connection to the child as long as some conditions are met.

It was unclear whether changing that statute to "spouse" instead of "husband" would also cover same-sex male couples who use an egg donor or surrogate mother to have a child. The state has a separate law governing surrogate mothers and parental rights.


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