ACLU celebrates new procedures on birth certificates for children of married, same-sex couples
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia welcomes action taken by Janet M. Rainey, Virginia’s Registrar for Vital Records, to ensure that the children of same sex married couples have the legal protection of two officially recognized parents just like children of opposite sex married couples.
Rainey outlined new procedures for documenting the parentage of children of same-sex married couples in a letter instructing hospitals that the children of two women who are married to each other should have both parents listed on their birth certificates. The new procedures are described in a January 22, 2015 letter from Rainey to hospital administrators. In response to a letter from the ACLU of Virginia, Rainey is also accepting applications for amended birth certificates from same-sex parents who were married at the time of their children’s birth but prior to court decisions requiring the Virginia government to recognize those marriages.
“These are important steps toward implementing marriage equality in Virginia,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg. “All Virginia agencies should be carefully reviewing their procedures to ensure that the marriages of same-sex couples are treated the same as all other marriages.”
Under Virginia law, when a married woman gives birth as a result of assisted conception (e.g., artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization), she and her spouse are presumed to be the legal parents of the child, and both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certificate. Under the new procedures, this presumption applies to same-sex spouses just as it does to opposite sex spouses.
Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd, two of the named plaintiffs in the successful marriage equality casebrought by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Jenner & Block, have applied for an amended birth certificate for their daughter, Lydia. Victoria and Christy were legally married in Washington, D.C. in 2011, and Lydia was born in Virginia in 2012. Because Virginia did not recognize their marriage at the time that Lydia was born, only the birth mother, Christy, was listed on the birth certificate.
“We have always been a two-parent family,” said Christy. “Victoria has always been as much Lydia’s mother as I have, and we are thrilled that Lydia will finally have a birth certificate that reflects that reality.”
This issue goes beyond symbolism. It is essential to have a birth certificate with both parents’ names to allow both parents the same legal rights to interact with schools, doctors and others. “I am the parent who stays home with Lydia during the day, but according to the birth certificate, only Christy may enroll her in school, consent to medical treatment, or otherwise act legally on her behalf,” said Victoria. “It is a huge relief to know that when Christy is away at work, I will be able to take care of any emergencies that may arise for Lydia.”
Rainey has advised Victoria and Christy that they may apply for an amended birth certificate for Lydia by submitting a certified copy of their marriage certificate along with a new “Acknowledgment of Parentage” form , signed by both parents, indicating that both of them recognize Victoria as a parent.