More than two years since the United State Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriages, fine-point details are still being worked out, especially when it comes to same-sex parents and birth certificates in Arkansas.
The state's executive branch had to get involved Friday when Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a directive that lifted a short halt on birth certificates for everyone in the state. His directive said that married lesbian couples were to be treated the same as married straight couples.
Now, State Representative Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville) wants the legislative branch to weigh in by invoking "the birds and the bees."
“Biology says if you are a woman and you are a woman or you are a man and you are a man, you are not going to produce a child,” Ballinger said.
Mother is X, Father is Y, and no presumptions. It should be about birth parents, biology, genetics, and that's it. https://t.co/KE5dRtg79A— Bob Ballinger (@Bob_Ballinger) December 8, 2017
Married same-sex couples in Arkansas won a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court last June allowing their names to go on birth certificates. The court ruled that they are the parents of that child and the official document should reflect that.
"As the petitioners point out, other factual scenarios (beyond those present in this case) similarly show that the State's birth certificates are about more than genetic parentage," the court's opinion stated. "For example, when an Arkansas child is adopted, the State places the child's original birth certificate under seal and issues a new birth certificate...listing the child's (nonbiological) adoptive parents."
But actually putting that ruling in place became bogged down after the high court remanded the case back to judges and justices. On December 8, Judge Tim Fox issued a court order that said if same-sex parents aren’t listed, nobody is getting any birth certificates. The governor issued his directive to get the process started again, but now, some lawmakers may want to have their say.
“We need to create in the code section that reflects, not only the Supreme Court decision, but also the reality,” Ballinger said, who wants the certificates to reflect the biological parents.
Ballinger prefers that other legal documents, like adoption papers, handle who will raise the child.
The attorney who has spent the most time fighting these legal battles said Ballinger's idea is a non-starter.
“The United States Supreme Court has already has already stated that birth certificates are not for the purpose of showing biology,” said Cheryl Maples, attorney who won the Pavan v. Smith decision last June. “If I have to fight this again and take this all the way back to the United States Supreme Court, I will do so.”
Maples thinks ideas that Ballinger has floated around are rooted in hate and animus toward the LGBT community. But Ballinger said that's not the case and says he recognizes that courts have ruled on LGBT rights, but he thinks there's room to separate birth certificates from the larger issue and come up with a compromise.