Constitutional Law

Lesbian moms' rights not violated by birth-certificate law, Arkansas Supreme Court rules

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Rainbow flag and gavel.

Arkansas laws that require the mother and father to be listed on birth certificates don’t violate the constitutional rights of lesbian spouses, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled.

The court on Thursday ruled against three lesbian married couples who used anonymous sperm donors to conceive, report the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the Huffington Post, Arkansas News and Arkansas Online. How Appealing links to additional coverage and the decision.

The couples had alleged the birth certificate laws violate their rights to equal protection and due process under Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court decision finding a right to gay marriage. Under Arkansas law, when a wife in a heterosexual marriage gives birth, the husband is automatically given assumed paternity, and can be named on the birth certificate regardless of whether he is the biological father. Lesbian mothers must obtain a court order for their female spouse to be added to a birth certificate. The plaintiffs sought the automatic right to have both spouses’ names on the birth certificate.

The Arkansas Supreme Court majority rejected the argument. “Obergefell did not address Arkansas’ statutory framework regarding birth certificates, either expressly or impliedly,” the court said.

“In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has,” the court said. “It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths.”

The court said the laws served the important governmental objectives of tracing public health trends and helping individuals identify personal health issues and genetic conditions.

Four justices also admonished the circuit judge who struck down part of the law for “inappropriate remarks’ in his court order. The justices said Judge Tim Fox essentially said that staying his order would deprive persons of constitutional rights, and that the state supreme court had previously deprived people of their rights in a separate matter. The justices said the judicial conduct code requires judges to act in a way that promotes confidence in the judiciary.

“A remark made to gain the attention of the press and to create public clamor undermines ‘public confidence in the independence integrity and impartiality’ not only of this court, but also of the entire judiciary,” the justices said.

See also:

ABA Journal: “After Obergefell: How the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has affected other areas of law”

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