Lesbian couples win right to have both parents listed on birth certificates


Indiana statute dictating how the births of Hoosier children are recorded by the State Department of Health is biased against same-sex couples and therefore unconstitutional. That is the opinion of U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in Henderson v. Adams.

Eight Hoosier lesbian couples used the Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams and several county health department commissioners as the issuers of Indiana birth certificates. Indiana laws dictating the record of birth only allows for a birth mother and a presumed birth father. The designation forces the non-birth mother to go through adoption proceedings to be recognized as the second parent and the child is labeled as born out of wedlock, despite the marital status of the same-sex parents.

Pratt agreed with the plaintiffs' case, stating that because of the presumptions allowed in Indiana statute and the way the Indiana Birth Worksheet is written, there is a "lack of clarity and comprehensiveness in Indiana's statutory framework that has led to the State's discriminatory treatment of same-sex married couples."

Pratt also noted that despite the state's claims that the parenthood statutes are designed to protect the rights of biological fathers by accurately recording the biological parentage of children, the legitimacy statutes do not refer to or imply biology in the definitions of a child born in or out of wedlock.

The judged used the opinions of the marriage equality case in Indiana, Baskin v. Bogan, and the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized marriage equality throughout the nation, Obergefell v. Hodges, as the metric for the rights afforded a same-sex couple.

"When the State Defendant created and utilized the Indiana Birth Worksheet, which asks 'are you married to the father of your child,' the State created a benefit for married women based on their marriage to a man, which allows them to name their husband on their child's birth certificate even when the husband is not the biological father," wrote Pratt in her decision. "Because of Baskin and Obergefell, this benefit — which is directly tied to marriage — must now be afforded to women married to women."

The Indiana Attorney General's office is currently reviewing the opinion and has not yet decided if it will appeal the decision or ask for a stay of the ruling.

"Whenever any plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of a statute that the people's elected representatives in the Legislature have passed, the Office of the Attorney General has an obligation to defend that statute in court. We will confer with our state government clients to ascertain the impact of the court's ruling reinterpreting parental rights, and will determine next steps by the appropriate deadlines," said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.