Lawmakers debate same-sex marriage impact on birth certificates

Lesbian couples must petition to be listed as parent in Florida


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida is one of four states with birth certificates that don’t reflect changes in modern parenting, but legislation that tries to modernize the wording is running into opposition.

In Florida, by law, parents are still listed as father and mother on birth certificates. Lesbian couples who give birth must petition a judge if they want to be listed as the mother, the spouse or the parent.

Equality Florida says the legalization of same-sex marriages means Florida birth certificates should reflect modern realities.

"Parental presumption is one of the many rights which is afforded to marriage, and so if a same sex couple is married, one of the rights that they have is the right to an accurate birth certificate so they can be treated in the exact same way as opposite sex couples," said Carlos Smith, of Equality Florida.

But the Department of Health doesn’t have the authority to list same sex couples as parents in Florida.

"We have always assumed we know who the mother is, because the mother is the one bearing the child," said Rep. David Richardson. "But even that has changed, given the advances in reproductive technologies."

The legislation was unanimously approved by a House Committee. Three members did not vote.

"Now I recognize that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle may not want to take a vote on this issue," Richardson said. "But they’ll let a judge do it, perhaps, and then when the judges does it, they’ll cry they are just being an activist judge and legislating from the bench."

Under the new legislation, new parents have a right to designate what they want to be called. Their choices are mother, father, or parent.