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Adoption and Surrogacy Case Law: Pavan v. Smith | Adoption Law

Changing and obtaining birth certificates is a large part of what we do at the Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC.  Every Petition For Adoption has the child’s original birth certificate attached.  And every Final Decree of Adoption includes an Order for Vital Records to issue a new birth certificate that reflects the new parental relationships and name change if requested.

In 2015, the United States Supreme Court held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.  States then had to make a decision about who would be listed on the birth certificate of children born to that marriage.  The Supreme Court in Pavin v. Smith, held that same-sex couples must be treated the same as opposite-sex couples for purposes of listing parents on their child’s birth certificate.

The case involved two lesbian couples who conceived children through anonymous sperm donors. Both couples listed the birth mother and her spouse as the parents of the child. And on both occasions, the Arkansas Department of Health issued the birth certificates listing the birth mother’s name only, leaving out the spouse’s name.

Arkansas argued that they left out the female spouse due to a State law which set out which individuals would be considered parents on a child’s birth certificate. The first parent to be listed was the birth mother. The second person to be listed, in cases of artificial insemination, was the husband of the birth mother. This excluded same-sex spouses from being listed on their child’s birth certificates.

As a result, same-sex parents in Arkansas lacked the same right as opposite-sex parents to both be listed on the child’s birth certificate. The difference in treatment on listing parents on the birth certificate contradicted the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.  The Court wrote, “the Constitution entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage of the same treatment on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples.  Further, the Court in Obergefell expressly stated that same-sex couples must be treated the same as opposite-sex couples with regard to birth and death certificates.

The Court held that a birth certificate is an important document, often used for making important transactions throughout a child’s life and both parents should be listed.  By denying the same treatment to same-sex couples, the., Arkansas failed to uphold the married couple’s constitutional rights.

Call the Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC if you have questions birth certificates, requesting a name change, or the adoption process. We look forward to your call!

(615) 543-8640