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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 17, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 29
Utah must recognize parental rights of Lesbian couple, judge rules
Arkansas couples also sue
Section One
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Utah must recognize parental rights of Lesbian couple, judge rules
Arkansas couples also sue

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In what is possibly the first legal fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a federal judge ruled on July 15 that Utah must recognize the parental rights of a married Lesbian couple and list both of them as parents on their daughter's birth certificate.

In a related case, three Lesbian couples filed suit against Arkansas health officials for refusing to name both spouses on their children's birth certificates.

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said that Utah must recognize both Angela and Kami Roe as legal parents of their child, Lucy.

'The state has failed to show any legitimate reason, actually any reason at all, for not treating a female spouse in a same-sex marriage the same as a male spouse in an opposite-sex marriage with regard to be recognized as the legal parent' when the child has been conceived with donated sperm, Benson wrote.

The Roes married on December 20, 2013, the same day a different federal judge tossed out Utah's law barring Gay unions, and welcomed baby Lucy into their family in February.

Lucy is the biological child of Kami and was conceived with the help of donated sperm, but the couple was denied a birth certificate that bore both of their names. Under Utah laws governing assisted reproduction, however, a married husband whose wife conceives with donated sperm is automatically considered the child's father.

The ACLU sued the Utah Department of Health and the state's Office of Vital Records and Statistics on behalf of the Roes in April, charging that Utah state policy violates the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Benson agreed, saying that in light of the sweeping changes in marriage laws in both Utah and the nation, the discrimination was clear.

'I don't think it's a hard case,' Benson said. 'The laws that now stand are not applicable to the marriage of Angela and Kami Roe.'

Benson's decision also prohibits Utah from requiring the spouse of any birth parent to have to take extra measures to be recognized as a legal parent, which means the Roes won't have to go through what is essentially a stepparent or second-parent adoption.

Utah's assisted-reproduction statute addresses only donated sperm, not a donated egg or surrogacy, so the decision does not affect married Gay men.

Benson's decision was 'not unexpected,' Utah Solicitor General Parker Douglas said after the hearing. It is likely there are other aspects of Utah marriage and family law that will have to be reviewed in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling, he added.

Arkansas suit
In Arkansas, three Lesbian couples filed suit against state health officials for refusing to name both spouses on their children's birth certificates.

Two of the couples were married in other states before the Supreme Court ruling, and the third was married in Arkansas just days after the decision. The couples' children were conceived through anonymous sperm donors.

According to documents filed July 13, the Arkansas Health Department would list only the biological mother on the child's birth certificate, and said they would need a court order to name both parents.

The suit asks the court to prevent the state from refusing to issue birth certificates naming both parents to same-sex couples. It also asks that the state laws regarding rights of parents in relation to their children be construed in a gender-neutral fashion.

The three married couples asked for the birth certificates after the Obergefell decision and say that in light of the Supreme Court's ruling they are entitled to the same rights as any parents.

The lawsuit charges that not providing the birth certificates as requested '[deprives] these children of the dignity, legitimacy, security, support and protections provided to children of heterosexual couples, regardless of marital status.'

Cheryl Maples, the attorney representing the couples, said she hoped to get a hearing soon before a judge. Maples said she knows of several other same-sex couples who have faced the same problem.

'Some of them have gone ahead and gone through adoption procedures because of the problems they had. They shouldn't have to,' Maples said. 'They should be treated like heterosexual couples.'

Health Department spokesperson Kerry Krell said her department believed that formal court orders would be the best way for same-sex couples to get the names of both spouses onto birth certificates, because doing so would require changes to department regulations and state vital records laws.

Any changes in state regulations would have to go through the Arkansas Board of Health and be reviewed by the state legislature, Krell added.

Krell declined to comment on the lawsuit to The Associated Press. A spokesperson for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would represent the department in the case, but also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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