Supreme Court Reverses Arkansas Decision Denying Birth Certificate to Same-Sex Parents

The Supreme Court has made clear, again, that states must comply fully with the Obergefell marriage equality ruling, and cannot simply opt out of following the law.

NEW YORK — Today Family Equality Council welcomes the opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that summarily reverses the decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court in the case of Pavan v. Smith, which denied Marisa and Terrah Pavan’s legal right to have both of their names listed on their daughter’s birth certificate. This is a clear victory for LGBTQ families, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states must treat married same-sex couples same way as other couples, including when issuing birth certificates.

Family Equality Council worked in partnership with COLAGE to submit a “Voices of Children” Amicus Brief in this case, in which Marisa Pavan et. al. were represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Family Equality Council’s brief called on the U.S. Supreme Court to correctly rule that the Arkansas Supreme Court was defying the 2015 marriage equality decision, that children suffer serious harm when denied a legally accurate birth certificate, and that states should not stigmatize the families of married, same-sex couples by denying them the legal recognition to which they are entitled.

In the Voices of Children Brief, Family Equality Council quoted from the 2015 Obergefell decision to argue that when the Arkansas Supreme Court held that a state agency can refuse to name the spouse in a same- sex married couple on the birth certificate of their child — though it clearly could not refuse if the married couple is of different sexes — it sanctioned a legal framework “where children” once again “suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser.” Today’s legal victory comes on the two-year anniversary of the Obergefell ruling, and demonstrates the power of the Constitution’s guarantee that all Americans should enjoy equal protection under the law, including LGBTQ families.

Spencer Lucker, who grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas with his two mothers, contributed to the Family Equality Council Brief, explaining that he knows exactly what the denial of such rights means for children born to same-sex parents. Spencer writes that:

“Despite my parents having lived together and pursued thirteen artificial insemination procedures together as a couple (I was conceived on the thirteenth try), when I was born my [birth] mother was the only one allowed to be listed on my birth certificate.”

Family Equality Council CEO Rev. Stan J. Sloancelebrated today’s decision, stating “The Supreme Court has made clear, again, that states must comply fully with the Obergefell marriage equality ruling, and cannot simply opt out of following the law. We are delighted to have played a role in achieving another legal victory for LGBTQ families.”

Family Equality Council gratefully acknowledges the support of Bryan Cave LLP in preparing and delivering the Voices of Children series of Amicus Briefs.

Read Family Equality Council’s Voices of Children brief.

Read today’s Supreme Court order (see page 13).

Media Contact

Ed Harris, Director of Communications
646–880–3005 x117 / eharris@familyequality.org

About Family Equality Council

Family Equality Council connects, supports, and represents the three million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer in this country today and their six million children of all ages. We are changing attitudes and policies to ensure that all families are respected, loved, and celebrated — including families with parents who are LGBTQ. We are a community of parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren and unattached youth that reaches across this country. For almost forty years we have raised our children and raised our voices toward fairness for all families. As we look to the next chapter of our work, we are also focused on LGBTQ youth needing families and the two million LGBTQ adults waiting to foster or adopt in our country.