Supreme Court backs Indiana lesbian couples on children’s birth certificates
A group of Indiana lesbian couples won a victory after the Supreme Court ruled that they can include both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates.
Eight lesbian couples in Indiana brought their case to court allowing the right to include both birth mother and her partner in the birth certificates.
Lesbian parents take on the state of Indiana
The issue began in 2016, when the couples decided to contest how Indiana birth certificates listed only the names of the mother and father.
The couples argued that denying them their place on the birth certificate cost them rights and benefits.
Meanwhile, the state said the couples should go through the adoption process, which the couples argued was both lengthy and costly.
Both the federal district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the couples.
Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill brought the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that Indiana was following “basic biology” in including birth mother and father on a birth certificate.
In his filing, Hill said “common sense” should allow states to presume the child born to lesbian parents had a biological father.
Court rules in favor of Indiana lesbian couples
However, the Supreme Court– despite the new 6-3 conservative majority– refused to hear the case, which left in place the appellate court decision siding with the couples.
The high court signaled it had denied certiorari without explanation in the case, called Box v. Henderson.
A possible decision could have challenged the Obergefell v. Hodges decision granting marriage equality for LGBTQ families.
In particular, the petition asked the court to “take this case to address whether Indiana’s paternity-presumption law is consonant with Obergefell.”
Lawyers with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and other groups took up the cudgels for the couples before the Supreme Court, citing the ruling of the Seventh Circuit as “correctly construed state law.”
Legal arguments addressed in the Indiana case
The Supreme Court had already addressed the issue of same-sex couples being entitled to the “constellation of benefits” of marriage– including the issue of birth certificates– in the 2015 Obergefell decision.
Obergefell was a consolidation of several lawsuits on marriage rights for same-sex couples– including Henry v. Wymylso, involving four lesbian couples in Ohio seeking to have their names listed on birth certificates.
Two years later, the high court affirmed that decision in the Pavan v. Smith case, with Arkansas arguing the decision to place the name of the non-birth mother on the birth certificate of a child of lesbian parents.
However, Hill said their case was different from Pavan as the identity of the birth father is known, unlike the anonymous donor with Pavan.
With the Supreme Court decision, the justices have signaled that the two cases are not different and reaffirmed Obergefell and Pavan.