LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Christian Examiner) - Circuit Judge Tim Fox of Little Rock ruled on Nov. 23 the state of Arkansas must record same-sex parents on three children's birth certificates.
Three lesbian couples sued the state when Arkansas Health Department's Vital Statistics Bureau refused to place both spouses' names on the birth certificates of their children, who were conceived by in vitro fertilization, after same-sex marriage was legalized this year.
Arkansas joins several other states in litigation over same-sex parents on birth certificates, including Texas, Florida, and Nebraska.
The judge stated his finding would likely be broadened to include all same-sex couples in the state, Reuters reported.
"He [Fox] made it pretty clear where he's going," said Cheryl Maples, the plaintiffs' attorney. "It's another step forward for gay couples, and I'm sure the next step is right around the corner."
During the argument before the judge's bench, the state made the point the issue was not "same-sex marriage but long-established regulations governing the identification of biological and adoptive parents on official documents," Reuters indicated.
REDEFINED MARRIAGE 'HARMS CHILDREN'
Upon the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage in June, Focus on the Family released a list of ways redefining marriage affects Christians. The first point was it harms children.
"Redefining marriage denies children of same-sex couples either a mother or a father," the Christian organization said. "Decades of social science research has shown children do best when they're raised in a home with their married mom and dad. Government policies should reflect the benefits of both a mom and a dad."
University of Arkansas at Little Rock law professor John DiPippa said in an interview birth certificates assume children will have a father and a mother by default. "States like Arkansas were at the forefront of allowing non-biological parents to be listed on the birth certificate. So that if a woman went through in vitro fertilization her husband wouldn't have been the biological father but he could be listed on the birth certificate as the father."
Because birth certificates do not necessarily reflect biological parentage, DiPippa sees a precedent for the same-sex couples' demands.
In response to a question about whether Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge might appeal the question, DiPippa said, "[S]he could ask Judge Fox to stay the order which may or may not be granted. We saw that go back and forth with the marriage litigation."
Focus on the Family also referenced hindered freedoms as a consequence of the new law defining marriage. "Freedom of speech will become endangered as the government passes regulatory and even criminal laws punishing Christian views of marriage, deeming it as 'hate speech' in any type of media, including radio, print, television, and the Web."
The judge's verbal order might not be sufficient to change the birth certificates. The state said the regulations concerning official identification could be changed only by the Arkansas Health Board or the state legislature.