POLITICS
08/12/2015 2:46 AM AEDT | Updated 08/12/2015 3:51 AM AEDT

Arkansas Says Same-Sex Parents Can Now Be Listed On Birth Certificates

Health officials are defying the attorney general's recommendations.

Courtesy of Jennifer Gardner-Glaze
Tracee and Jennifer Gardner-Glaze both wanted to be listed on their son's birth certificate in Arkansas.

Same-sex parents in Arkansas are now able to be named on their children's birth certificates, in new guidance issued by the state Department of Health. 

On Tuesday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, from the state's largest county, struck down part of a state law that barred same-sex couples from being listed on their children's birth certificates, ordering government officials to immediately issue amended certificates to the three plaintiff couples.

But the state did not allow other same-sex couples who weren't part of the lawsuit to do the same. Health officials initially turned away at least one couple who tried to change their son's document.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge advised state officials not to issue more amended birth certificates because she planned to appeal the ruling and ask for a stay of the decision. 

But the Department of Health has decided to defy that recommendation. 

"After further review of Judge Fox’s order, we have decided to issue amended birth certificates to same-sex couples who can show that they were married before the birth of their child," Arkansas Department of Health spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said. "This may change depending on the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision on ADH's request for a stay. Because this is a legal matter that continues to develop, this is all the information we have to share at this time."

Mirivel confirmed that this policy applies statewide. 

Jennifer and Tracee Gardner-Glaze, the couple who unsuccessfully tried to amend their 4-month-old son's birth certificate on Wednesday, were finally able to do so late Friday after hearing health officials had changed their policy. It was not clear at the time, however, whether that change applied statewide and whether other couples would be able to follow suit. 

Cheryl Maples, who represented the plaintiffs in the case before Fox, said she knows of at least one other couple that was able to successfully amend their child's birth certificate Monday morning. She said a stay could come as early as Monday.

"I'm hoping that the Supreme Court will not issue a stay because there is a clear violation of fundamental constitutional rights that would be going on while the stay is happening," she said.

Maples pointed out that right now, the only same-sex couples that are able to get an amended birth certificate are ones who were married before the birth of their child. She hopes that soon, the Department of Health will change that policy for couples who were married after the birth of the child as well.

"That is done without a court order for heterosexual couples in the state," she noted.

In his ruling, Fox noted that since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans on marriage equality, "the plaintiffs, as same-sex couples, [must be afforded] the same constitutional rights with respect to the issuance of birth certificates and amended birth certificates as opposite-sex couples."

This piece has been updated with comment from Maples. 


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