NCLR and Equality Florida Ask Federal Judge to Order
Immediate Issuance of Birth Certificates Acknowledging Same-Sex Spouses as Parents
(Tallahassee, FL, October 16, 2015)—Today, the same-sex couples who filed a federal lawsuit challenging Florida’s refusal to add both of their names to their children’s birth certificates asked the court for immediate protection for their families.
The request for a preliminary injunction filed by Debbie and Kari Chin of St. Petersburg and Yadira Arenas and Alma Vazquez of Winter Haven says: “Defendants’ discriminatory denial of equal birth certificates to Plaintiffs and their children ... violates plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry and to have their marriages treated equally and denies these families the privacy, dignity, legitimacy, security, support, and protections available to similarly-situated married different-sex parents and their children. There is no justification, let alone a constitutionally adequate one, for imposing these irreparable harms on the Plaintiffs’ families.”
”There is no excuse for the State of Florida’s continued delay in issuing birth certificates listing both spouses as the parents of their own children,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represents the plaintiffs. “Florida law requires the state to issue birth certificates listing both spouses to all married couples, and the Supreme Court’s decision this past summer makes clear that it is unconstitutional for the state to treat married same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples with respect to birth certificates.”
On August 13, 2015, the couples, along with Equality Florida Institute, the largest organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Floridians, filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s refusal to issue birth certificates listing both spouses as parents of their children. The plaintiffs are represented by NCLR and Florida attorneys Mary Meeks and Elizabeth Schwartz. Today’s filing asks the court to order immediate relief.
Not having a birth certificate listing both spouses is discriminatory, stigmatizing, and humiliating to these families, who deserve the same security and respect as the families of other married couples. It also prevents parents from taking care of their children’s everyday needs like obtaining healthcare, making medical decisions, signing up for daycare, and enrolling in government programs and benefits.
In August of last year, Judge Robert L. Hinkle issued a decision striking down Florida’s marriage ban and ordering state officials, including Florida’s Surgeon General, who oversees the Florida Department of Health and the Bureau of Vital Statistics, to treat married same-sex couples and their children equally in all respects. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a nationwide ruling, confirming that state marriage bans are unconstitutional.
Debbie and Kari have been together for 15 years and were married in Boston in 2013. Kari is a social worker with a local school district, while Debbie, a former elementary school teacher, is a stay-at-home mother to their two children. When Kari gave birth to their second child, a son, in February, they were told that Debbie could not be listed on his birth certificate.
"Being denied a birth certificate that includes both of us as our son’s parents was shocking and humiliating,” said Debbie. “All we want to do is love, protect, and provide the best opportunities for our children and to be treated equally under the law. Without being on our son's birth certificate, in the event of an emergency or if something were ever to happen to my wife, I am not sure where that would leave us."
Yadira and Alma have been together for three years and were married in New York in 2013. Alma is a medical assistant in a pediatric office and Yadira is a pharmacy technician. When Alma gave birth to their first child, a daughter, in March, they were not allowed to put Yadira on the birth certificate as a parent, and Alma was told that she had to be listed as “single” on the form.
“I never imagined that the joy of my first child’s birth would be followed by fear and uncertainty because we can’t get a birth certificate listing me as a parent,” said Yadira. “Our family deserves equal protection and respect. We don’t want our child to grow up feeling that the State of Florida does not recognize us a family.”
Added Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith: "The state of Florida is breaking the law every day it denies married same-sex couples equal treatment and equal dignity. This delay is unacceptable: same-sex couples should not have to endure the humiliation and stigma of being denied the simple recognition of their family."