Just a quick note about some news out of New York City. Something of a caution, too.
The NYC Department of Public Health has agreed that when a married lesbian gives birth, her wife’s name will also be placed on the birth certificate. To be clear, this is exactly what happens when a woman married to a man gives birth–her husband’s name is placed on the birth certificate. So this does appear to be a nice equality move.
There is, however, a couple of things here people do need to know about. First off, there’s this thing about putting names on birth certificates. Being named on a birth certificate does not, in and of itself, make you a legal parent. I’ve noted recently that being a legal parent may give you a right to be named on a birth certificate, but it doesn’t necessarily work the other way round. The mere fact that my name may appear on a birth certificate does not give me legal rights in the state where the birth certificate was issued or anywhere else. I’m not convinced that in announcing its new policy the New York City Health Department is making a legal judgment about who is and who is not a parent.
But return to my earlier note about how men married to women are treated when a child is born to the woman. Their names go on birth certificates. But at least as importantly, they are legally recognized as parents.
It may well be that married lesbians who give birth in NY will find that their wives are also legally recognized as parents. But even if they are, it is doubtful that this recognition will extend throughout the country. This is the problem of portable parenthood. States that do not recognize the relationship between the mother may well refuse to recognize the parent/child relationship that arises by reason of the marriage. One has only to look at the Vermont/Virginia saga to see what this could lead to. (These same states are far more likely to recognize–indeed probably have to recognize–adoptions. I thought I’d discussed that in the past, but I cannot seem to find the post–so perhaps that’s a topic for the future.)
All of which is to say that while you might applaud what NYC is doing, you shouldn’t over-rely on it.