The United States Supreme Court upheld California’s decision to allow same-sex marriages in 2013. In another case heard two years later, a Supreme Court decision prevented states from banning same-sex marriage. But even so, these decisions did not iron out all of the legal wrinkles faced by gay couples. For example, spouses sometimes found they were not their child’s legal parent unless they went through a formal adoption. One reason for this is that it was difficult, if not impossible, to have a birth certificate with two moms or two dads.
Considering the importance of birth certificates, this situation proved to be a giant legal hurdle – until recently.
The Birth Certificate Is Important for New Parents.
Having a baby is a momentous occasion. Before leaving the hospital with their bundle of joy, parents fill out paperwork that allows the proper authority to generate a birth certificate. The certificate lists specific details about the baby, along with the mom. Dad’s name can be added at the same time.
However, problems arose with same-sex couples. Birth certificate forms were not designed to accommodate parents of the same gender – moms were expected to be women, and fathers were expected to be men. For gay couples, this presented an obvious problem.
Birth Certificates Are More Than Just a Piece of Paper
The emotional value of a birth certificate can be huge. Likewise, the emotional toll of knowing your name won’t be on your child’s birth record is enormous. But it’s also important to have an accurate record for legal reasons.
For example, valid birth certificates are required to prove someone’s age, identity, and citizenship status. You’ll need one to:
- Apply for certain government benefits,
- Obtain a driver’s license,
- Enroll in school,
- Get a job,
- Obtain a Social Security card,
- Get married,
- Apply for a U. S. passport, and
- Receive California Paid Family Leave.
People also use birth certificates to research their family history.
But what about couples who have been unable to get an accurate birth record because of their same-sex marital status?
A Birth Certificate with Two Moms – or Two Dads – Is Possible and Legal
Another Supreme Court decision in 2017 ruled that same-sex parents are to be treated the same as opposite-sex parents. This ruling brought about significant changes in birth certificates.
Parents now complete a form that asks for their names and then check one of three boxes: mother, father, or parent. This allows same-sex couples to have an accurate birth record for their children.
However, this law currently applies only to married couples. The 2017 Supreme Court decision excluded unmarried same-sex partners.
As of January 1, 2020, same-gender couples might be able to sign a voluntary declaration of parentage. California Family Code 7573 states that the following people can sign the voluntary declaration to establish a child’s parents:
- The unmarried woman who gave birth to the child and another person who is a genetic parent,
- A married or unmarried woman who gave birth and a person intended to be the parent of a child “conceived through assisted reproduction.”
Birth certificates may now record birth more accurately because of the changes for both married and unmarried same-gender couples. At least in California, you may now see a birth certificate with two moms or two dads.
About the Author
Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.