Lesbian Moms on NY Birth Certificates

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.

4 responses to “Lesbian Moms on NY Birth Certificates

  1. There is another issue here: the rights of the human being whose birth certificate is being falsified. Whether those adopting a child are hetero- or homo-sexual, the child’s original birth certificate stating to whom he was actually born is “sealed” for ever from the adopted person in 45 or so states. No matter how old that person is, they never have a legal right to their OWN birth certificate, their own heritage, their genetics.

    In its place they have not an a certificate of adoption, but a new certificate of BIRTH listing adoptive parents as the parents of birth with no indication that it is “amended.”

    This is a great human rights violation that. This is an innocent human being – the person in whose best interest adoption is supposed to be about.

    It is absolute and total DISCRIMINATION of a class of people based on birth status!

    And yet, few – not even many state ACLU’s – are fighting to protect the rights of these innocent children being victimized by state committed fraud.

    People who love and care about children and want to care for them…need to stand with the adoption reform community and fight this human rights violation once and for all.

    Being a parent is not slave ownership. Adoption records were sealed in the 1940’s when people were encouraged to adopt in order to have farm hands and the like…

    They were sealed at a time when “illegitimacy” and single parenthood were shameful. Today they serve to legalize that shame and punish innocent children.

    Prenthood is not ownership and one does not have to erase a child’s past in order to provide loving, safe care. That can be done by establishing guardianship that does not sever and erase a child’s past as if it did not exist.

    You want to ensure that your right to know your child and your child’s right to know you are guaranteed. What his right and his original family’s right to know one another? Not even so-called “open adoption” protects that right as such agreements are merely unenforceable promises.

    Lets get this “rights” right!

    Mirah Riben, author, “The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry”

    • I want to separate out a couple of issues here. If a birth certificate was to be a record of who gave birth, then one name should appear on it–the name of the woman who gave birth. And it should never change, unless there were some mistake in the original.

      But that’s actually not what a birth certificate shows, or at least, I don’t think it is the only thing it shows. A birth certificate generally shows who the legal parents of a child are. I think that’s why there is often a man’s name on it, too.

      During a child’s life, her or his legal parents may change. And when they do, a new birth certificate is issued, so show that these new people are now the legal parents.

      This doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, but there might be two other points you are making which should be considered. First, is it necessary or wise to seal the original birth certificate. Second, should the child know who the her or his original legal parent or parents were? Or perhaps I should ask whether the child should know where the genetic material the child carries came from?

      I think this second is a separate question which I have addressed in the blog. It may be that there is really important information there that the child should have access to. If so, it’s worth thinking about how to give the child access–whether by unsealing the birth records or whatever.

      I think it is more important to focus on this than on what we call these people, frankly. I’m not sure it helps to call them (if there are more than one) “birth parents.”

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