LGBT

After Denying Same-Sex Couple A Joint Birth Certificate, Utah Must Pay Them $24,000

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Angie and Kami Roe

The state of Utah has agreed that it will pay Kami and Angie Roe $24,302 in legal fees for having refused to provide the married couple with a birth certificate recognizing them both as parents of their daughter. A federal judge had ruled in the couple’s favor back in July and the state complied with adding Angie to the birth certificate and agreeing to close the case.

The Roes had married when Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was first overturned in December 2013. Six months later, Kami conceived using a sperm donor with Angie’s knowledge and consent. Their daughter was born on February 7, 2015 — months after same-sex marriage was permanently in place in the state — but Utah refused to recognize Angie as a legal parent or identify her as such on the birth certificate, insisting she complete a step-parent adoption.

A step-parent adoption would have required a filing fee of $360, a background check for Angie, then a waiting period until a judge scheduled a hearing on the adoption petition, at which they would both have to appear. Without her name on the certificate, Angie had no legal guardianship over her own daughter, a problem when it comes to interactions with doctors, daycares, and schools.

The Roes argued that this was discrimination against them as a same-sex couple, because different-sex couples do not have to jump through the same hoops to be recognized when reproductive assistance is used. Under the state’s law, a husband simply has to consent to his wife using a procedure like sperm donation to be acknowledged as the resulting child’s father. Angie completed the identical steps a man would have in the same situation and thus should be acknowledged as the child’s parent in the same fashion.

A federal judge agreed. Citing the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson concluded that Utah’s law’s referring to the “man” who is the mother’s “husband” are relics of marriage inequality laws that are no longer valid. “Defendants have offered no tangible harm that they would experience from applying the assisted-reproduction statutes to female spouses of women who conceive through donor sperm,” he concluded.

Utah had tried to argue it was trying to protect the accuracy of records and make the parentage clear, but could not explain why a female spouse being named as a parent “undermined the clarity of parentage,” particularly when it didn’t for a male spouse.

Though the Utah case is now resolved, similar birth certificate cases are still playing out in other states. A lawsuit was filed in Florida two months ago by a lesbian couple that was similarly denied a birth certificate recognizing both of them as parents. Mississippi is still defending its ban on same-sex adoption. Texas’s same-sex birth certificates have been delayed because of the need for a third-party software change. And couples looking to adopt in Alabama are also facing roadblocks, as the offices that are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses are also refusing to process same-sex couples’ adoption applications.