Spouses Keri Roberson and Molly Maness-Roberson of Texas, married in 2012, are now fighting for the right to have both of their names on their son’s birth certificate. (Photo: Facebook)
Most parents don’t give a second thought to filling out a new baby’s birth certificate. But for some same-sex spouses like Keri Roberson and Molly Maness-Roberson, who have been legally married since 2012, this routine state document has become a battleground.
Maness-Roberson gave birth to son Boston earlier this month; he was conceived from Keri Roberson’s egg, and donor sperm, according to the Dallas Morning News. Yet the Fort Worth–area couple’s bliss over Boston’s coming into the world was overshadowed by the fact that Texas law currently does not permit both women to be listed as Boston’s parents.
“It just really breaks your heart, that’s the only way I can describe how I felt,” Maness-Roberson told the Dallas Morning News. Roberson and Maness-Roberson did not respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment.
Just like birth certificates in many other states, Texas’ birth document has one line for the name of a father and another line for a mother; there’s no line for two parents of the same gender. The recent Supreme Court decision affirming marriage rights for same-sex partners forced Texas to amend its marriage license — but an equally important document, a child’s birth certificate, still reflects a pre–marriage equality era.
Why is this so crucial? Not allowing both parents’ names to be on a birth certificate can make things difficult for a child for the rest of his life when it comes to receiving benefits, visiting a parent in the hospital, getting a passport, and doing anything that requires establishing who the child’s legal parents are, Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy at Family Equality Council, tells Yahoo Parenting.
It also flies in the face of the recent SCOTUS decision. “When the Supreme Court sided with marriage equality, it meant that all the benefits that go along with marriage should be granted to same-sex couples, and one of those advantages is something called ‘presumption of parentage,’” says Hecht-McGowan, which means that a married couple’s names automatically goes on their child’s birth certificate.
“If the law assumes that the married opposite-sex partners are the child’s parents, it should be assumed that same-sex spouses are their child’s parents too,” says Hecht-McGowan.
States that had already granted marriage rights to same-sex couples before the Supreme Court ruling generally give presumptive parenting rights to LGBT couples too. But states that formerly prohibited same-sex marriage, such as Texas, need to catch up, she says. Family Equity Council is starting to work with officials in states that were forced by the court to permit gay marriage, making sure same-sex parents make it on birth certificates.
Texas state representative Rafael Anchia, from Dallas, wants to go one step further. He’s sponsoring a bill that would ban gendered language from birth certificates in Texas. That would make things easier for a child whose parents are married — as well as kids who were adopted by two same-sex family members, he says, such as two aunts.
“If we’re truly pro-family, we should have a state birth certificate that reflects a child’s real family,” Anchia tells Yahoo Parenting. The bill has yet to make it to a vote, but Anchia is hopeful.
“Almost 10,000 kids in Texas today have parents of the same gender, so this affects lots of families,” he adds.