In the past there have been long and heated discussions of birth certificates here. It’s with some trepidation that I return to the subject, but there is an interesting (and possibly important) new case that throws light on the topic. Meantime, you can use the tag to see some of what has gone before.
Let me begin by saying briefly that birth certificates (and here I mean the short certificates issued by some sort of state vital records office that parent are asked to produce for school registration and the like) are curious documents. Given their name, you might think that they certify something about birth. Perhaps the most obvious idea would be they certify who gave birth to a child.
But generally speaking, this isn’t what they do (in the US, at least). Birth certificates generally reflect legal parentage. This means do not necessarily reflect genetic parentage and they don’t need to list the person who gives birth. (Of course, it is perfectly possible that a genetic parent gave birth to you and is a legal parent, too, so then her name will be there. But not because she gave birth and not because she’s the genetic parent.) Continue reading
I approach the topic of birth certificates with some trepidation, because it seems to be a particularly controversial topic. I approach Australian law with great trepidation, as I have no real understanding of Australian law. I rely on what others say, and that is always risky. So you can just imagine the degree of trepidation with which I approach the topic of Australian birth certificates. But nonetheless, here I am.
Some background first: One problem with talking about birth certificates is reaching an agreement about what they are/what they do. I’ve written about this a number of times. (See above trepidation.)
A number of things make the topic more complicated than it might at first seem. For one thing, I assume every country (and many states) have their own ways of doing things. Continue reading
Somehow the last post (the one about Jason Patric) has generated some extended discussion of birth certificates. These come up here from time to time. (You’d find they warrant there own tag.) I always approach the topic with some hesitation because they seem to inspire extremely strong feelings. But still, they are fascinating documents and they raise critical issues, so here we are again.
For starters, I’d suggest you read the most recent birth certificate post I wrote. It just saves time not to repeat myself and I’ve read it over and don’t have anything different to say about the basics. The bottom line is that in the US, for whatever reasons, birth certificates are very curious documents.
Parts of them record historical facts: Where and when a child was born, say. What I mean is that if it says a child was born at 3:23 PM on May 19th, 2014 than that is a record of an historical event that happened at a particular time–the birth of this child. There’s no basis to go back and change a historical record unless it was initially recorded wrongly.
They also record (and I guess I haven’t really talked much about this) the sex of the child. Continue reading
I have some hesitation about returning to the general topic of birth certificates as I know many people get quite wrought about it. But there’s a bunch of different stories out there on the topic so I’ll have a go on it. However, I want to try to set the stage first.
Birth certificates—at least in the US–are rather peculiar documents. Some of what is on them at least looks like a historical record. So for example, birth certificates routinely list the time of birth. That would seem to be in the nature of a historical record–a formal noting of a particular thing happening at a specific time and place. (Place is also in that category.)
But then there are some other things on birth certificates that, though they look like the stuff of historical records, aren’t. One–and the one that has been discussed the most extensively here–is “parents”–or as it sometimes appears “mother” and “father.” US birth certificates do not necessarily list the name of the woman who gave birth–which it seems to me would be the most obvious historical fact they might reflect. Continue reading
For several years (time does fly) I’ve been following an Iowa case challenging the state’s refusal to issue a birth certificate listing the names of both married women when one woman gives birth. As you’ll see if you read through the posts I just linked to, the case is something of a follow-on to the Iowa litigation that resulted in access to marriage for same-sex couples in Iowa.
The Iowa Supreme Court has now issued its decision. It determined that the state must issue the birth certificate listing both women’s names. Of course this brings up the whole birth certificate debate and the reasoning of the court is interesting in that larger context, too. (If you look under the tag you’ll find a lot of posts about birth certificates and what they should or do say and mean.)
For those who don’t want to read through the opinion and/or the earlier string of posts, it’s worth noting a couple of key features here that are really woven into the facts of the case. Continue reading
Also in the news (along with the surrogacy story I just posted), is this from Texas. Andy Miller and Brian Stephens have a son Clark, who they adopted just days after he was born in 2007.
Generally speaking, Texas issues “supplemental birth certificate forms” for adoptive parents. And if Andy and Brian were male and female, they’d have a nice new certificate listing them both as parents. But Andy and Brian are not male and female–they are both men. And Texas won’t issue a new birth certificate for them. Continue reading
There are a couple of brief news stories I’m going to post just to keep things up to date. They may warrant further discussion but I’m not able to offer any terrific insights just at the moment. So this is mostly just reportage.
The Irish Times has coverage of a hearing that is apparently on-going before the Irish High Court. A couple used their own genetic material to create and embryo. The embryo was transferred to the uterus of the sister of the woman in the couple. The sister gave birth to the child. All of this was done with the clear and shared intention that the child would be raised by the couple–described in the article (and I think in court) as the commissioning couple.
Apparently everything has gone fine as far as the people involved. (I mean, everyone is in agreement–no disputes there.) Continue reading
I am digressing from my current topic for a moment because these two stories, both from The Telegraph (UK) happened across my desk (screen?) this morning. One is a story of sperm donation some time ago, the other is quite contemporary.
Then: Bertold Weisner and his wife, Mary Barton, ran a fertility clinic in London starting in the 1940s. Two men conceived at the clinic (Barry Stevens and David Gollancz) made a movie about the clinic. They discovered that Weisner used his own sperm at the clinic with alarming frequency. Indeed, they estimate that Weisner had between 300 and 600 offspring. Continue reading
Birth certificates have been a frequent (and surprisingly controversial) topic of conversation here. You can poke around a read older posts. The key thing to understand is that, for better or worse, in this country birth certificates are generally used to establish legal parentage. I emphasize legal here, because it’s a critical term. A birth certificate is not a historical record of who gave birth. It’s a document that satisfies a school district, for example, that you have the right to register a child for school.
I am happy to agree at the outset that it doesn’t have to be this way. You could have a different system where other documents were demanded by school districts, soccer teams and the like. Continue reading
This is still in the nature of catching up on various topics. About a month ago I wrote about an Iowa case where a court ordered the state to provide a birth certificate with two married mothers’ names on it. You can read the earlier story and follow some of the links there to get a sense of context. It’s part of a larger discussion of birth certificates as well as a larger story about same-sex couples and marriage.
Anyway, now comes this story saying that the state will appeal that ruling. This isn’t terribly surprising–losing parties often appeal. The reasons given for the appeal, however, seems a little unusual. Continue reading