Baby Steps Toward Marriage Equality in Maryland

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Lambda Legal is publicizing a change to the procedure for issuing birth certificates in Maryland. No later than March 1, the Division of Vital Records has ordered that, if a woman giving birth to a child indicates that she is married, the information regarding her spouse must be entered on the child’s birth certificate regardless of that spouse’s gender. This change was prompted by last year’s opinion from the Maryland Attorney General regarding the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages in Maryland. (Click here for the text of the letter from the Division of Vital Records.)

Before this change, a court order was necessary to add a woman’s same-sex spouse as a parent on their child’s birth certificate. Note that this change in procedure does not affect gay couples using surrogates. They must still obtain a court order to have the birth certificate reflect reality.

Underscoring the fragility of legal gains for same-sex couples (or, as I have put it, imposing a tax on the civil rights gains of same-sex couples, see Taxing Civil Rights Gains, 16 Mich. J. Gender & L. 319 (2010)), Lambda Legal quite wisely counsels married lesbian couples who avail themselves of the new procedure to still have the nonbiological parent adopt the child. (The reason for this is advice is that judicial decrees of adoption are far harder for other states to fight or refuse to honor than the automatic inclusion of the nonbiological parent on a birth certificate.) So, easier procedure, but still an added burden/extra cost to make sure that both parents are legally recognized.

And what would be a step forward without a step back? Late last week, Randy Forbes, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia, introduced the “Parental Title Protection Act.” This bill would require all federal agencies to use the terms “mother” and “father” when referring to the parents of a child. Denying recognition to same-sex families, the bill would specifically prohibit federal agencies from using “parent 1″ and “parent 2″ on forms. This attack on families headed by same-sex couples is apparently directed at changes that the State Department is making to the passport application forms to make them more inclusive (blogged here).

-Tony Infanti

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