Jan 07, 2009

Louisiana Birth Certificate Must Recognize Gay Dads

A gay couple in San Diego won a court fight in Louisiana over the birth certificate of a child they adopted in New York. Huh? It's not as complicated as it sounds, and it doesn't really matter where the gay dads live -- the issue is whether the state of Louisiana, where the child was born, should be required to change the child's birth certificate to identify his legal parents when those parents are both men.

The answer is, obviously, yes -- but when it comes to same-sex couples and parenting, nothing is obvious. Getting amended birth certificates after adoptions are completed has been a nuisance for many years in conservative states. The problem is that while LGBT parents may live in states that permit same-sex adoptions, a birth certificate is connected to the state where a child is born, and that state has control of the official document forever.

In this case, the two dads adopted a child who was born in Louisiana. The adoption took place in April 2006 in New York, where the men lived. After the adoption was completed, they wrote to the Louisiana Vital Records Registry and asked for an amended birth certificate showing their names as parents. All of this was standard operating procedure. But the director of the vital records office wrote back to them, saying that she could not issue a birth certificate that listed unmarried adoptive parents, as doing so would violate Louisiana's state public policy.

The men sued, and the federal district court agreed with them, citing the constitutional doctrine of "full faith and credit," which requires states to give full effect to judgments rendered in other states. The court concluded that there was no public policy exception to the full faith and credit clause, and ordered the state to issue the new birth certificate.

The state says it will appeal the decision.