One Equal World

A New Victory in Florida

Posted on: June 20, 2016

Catherina Pareto, left, and her partner Karla Arguello celebrate on the court house steps after Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel lifted a stay on her July ruling that Florida's same sex marriage ban violates equal protections under the U.S. Constitution, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 in Miami. Judge Zabel provided a jump-start Monday to Florida's entry as the 36th state where gays and lesbians can legally marry, saying she saw no reason why same-sex couples couldn't immediately get their licenses in Miami-Dade County ahead of a midnight launch statewide. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Image: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Only a year ago, Florida ruled for same-sex marriages. Ordinarily, a year after the wedding would be the time when young couples start getting asked about their first kid. But in for gay couples in Florida, it’s been a little more complicated than that.

Like many states, Florida still uses birth certificates that offer a space for two names; specifically labeled ‘mother’ and ‘father.’ Many defend this as both traditional and ‘scientifically accurate.’ But both of those defenses ignore the reality of same-sex parents. And the strict boxes have been used repeated by hospitals, birth centers, and midwives to only put one parent of a legally married same-sex couple on the birth certificate, with state support

In early 2016, three same-sex couples filed a joint federal lawsuit against the state of Florida to address this practice. In their suit, they specified that this policy violated their constitutional right to equal protection.

Most of us have never had to care what names are on our birth certificate. Whether we come from a married family or not, no one would question whether the people we name as mother and father are, in fact, our parents. For the children of gay parents, this is harder. If Parent A is on the birth certificate but Parent B is not, B may end up not being allowed to make health care decisions, visit the hospital, or even pick the child up from school, depending on how strict an administrator wants to be. Formal adoption processes after the birth can be very expensive. So it’s easy to see how this can become a major matter.

Federal judges clarified the matter for Florida officials, however. Any legally married couple is entitled to have both their names on the birth certificate, regardless of sex. New, gender-neutral birth certificate forms will come into use throughout Florida sometime in July, and any non-compliant hospitals, birth centers, or midwives should be reported to the Department of Health.

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