Appellate Court Hears Argument in Louisiana Birth Certificate Case

A while back I commented on a Louisiana case in which two adoptive gay parents sought a new birth certificate for their son.   I’ll do a brief summary of the case, but I just wanted to note that the case was argued today. (I just updated to add a later version of the story.)  I cannot find much detail about the argument, but it does remind me that it is out there.   It’s worth paying attention to because it might tell us something about the portability of parenthood or perhaps legal significance of birth certificates.    

So here’s the summary:  Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith both adopted the child, I think in New York, which permits gay couples to jointly adopt.    The child was born in Louisiana, which does not permit two unmarried people to adopt.    Since the child was born in Louisiana, the child has a Louisiana birth certificate.   Adar and Smith sought to have a new birth certificate issues–one that reflected their status as parents.  

(I know to many people this may seem remarkable, but in fact, new birth certificates re routinely issued after adoptions, by Louisiana as well as every other state.  You might wish to read this discussion of birth certificates or browse other entries under this tag.) 

Louisiana, which does generally issue new birth certificates after adoption, refused to do so here, because the state would not have permitted Adar and Smith to adopt in the first place.   Adar and Smith brought suit, won in the trial court, and are now defending that victory on appeal to the Fifth Circuit.   

The case spurred the Louisiana legislature to enact legislation mandating the state to refuse birth certificates in cases like this.  I don’t think that actually adds much to the state’s legal position.  It will be interesting to hear what the Fifth Circuit has to say about the significance of a sister-state adoption and the meaning of birth certificates.

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2 responses to “Appellate Court Hears Argument in Louisiana Birth Certificate Case

  1. The idea of issuing amended birth certificates seems incredible to me. A birth certificate should show genetic parents. Surely the court could just issue a certificate of adoption.

    • I know many people are surprised that birth certificates are amended, but it is relatively routine in most cases. And if you read around the blog, you’ll see that there is a substantial bureaucratic superstructure build around the process. Want to get a child a passport–you need the birth certificate and notarized statements from the parents listed on that certificate. The state department will not accept an adoption order.

      Of course, this could be changed. But you cannot just change one piece of it without taking care of all the subsidiary pieces or at least appreciating the chaos you will be creating.

      Beyond that, I don’t think birth certificates are typically understood to list the people who are genetically related to a child. In the ordinary case, they list the woman who gave birth.

      She may not be genetically related to the child (as would be the case in the recent wrong embryo case or if she had purchased an egg for her own use) but typically her name will be on the certificate absent a court order directing otherwise.

      If you think about this part at least, it makes sense. The paper is usually called a “certificate of live birth” and most people believe it documents who gave birth, at least.

      Now beyond that, there is typically a second blank on it. If the woman is married, typcially her husband’s name goes there–not because any genetic testing has been done, but because the law presumes him to be the legal father.

      There is some further discussion of birth certificates on the blog. If you are interested, have a look around. I won’t repeat it all here.

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