August 13, 2015 at 11:44 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Married lesbian couples sue Fla. over names on birth certificates

Catherina Pareto, Karla Arguello, Florida, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello are among the three married lesbian couples named in a federal lawsuit filed on their behalf on Aug. 13, 2015, that alleges state officials refuse to allow hospitals to list both same-sex parents’ names on the birth certificates of their children. (Photo courtesy of Erik Olvera/National Center for Lesbian Rights)

Three married lesbian couples in Florida on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit that alleges the state is not allowing hospitals to list the names of both same-sex parents on their children’s birth certificates.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights brought the case on behalf of Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello of Miami, Debbie and Kari Chin of St. Petersburg and Yadira Arenas and Alma Vezquez of Winter Haven. The 17-page lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, also names the Equality Florida Institute, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, as a plaintiff.

Florida Secretary of Health John Armstrong and State Registrar Ken Jones are defendants.

Pareto and Arguello in January became the first same-sex couple to legally exchange vows in Florida after a judge struck down the state’s gay nuptials ban.

The lawsuit notes that Arguello gave birth to twins on Aug. 6. The women claim a hospital staffer told them the following day that it could not list both of them on their children’s birth certificates.

“The state’s refusal to recognize that they have two parents and to list both of us on the birth certificates is demeaning and hurtful,” said Pareto in a press release the National Center for Lesbian Rights issued. “My children have two parents, and we should both be listed on their birth certificates.”

The lawsuit notes the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics is required under state law to issue a birth certificate that lists a married woman’s spouse as her child’s parent.

“The bureau complies with Section 382.013(2)(a) for children born to opposite-sex spouses by entering the husband’s name on the birth certificate as the child’s second parent when a married woman gives birth to a child and there is a court order finding someone other than the husband to be the child’s legal parent,” it reads. “When a child is born to a woman who is married to another woman, however, the bureau refuses to comply with Section 382.013(2)(a) and will not issue accurate birth certificates listing both parents to each of the plaintiff couples.”

“Instead, the bureau will issue only a certificate that falsely indicates that the child has only one parent and that omits the mother’s spouse as the child’s second parent,” adds the lawsuit. “Defendants’ refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as the marriages of opposite-sex couples when issuing birth certificates violates the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the lawsuit less than two months after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in the Obergefell case that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the country.

The lawsuit alleges that state officials repeatedly ignored the plaintiffs’ request to recognize their same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates, even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Obergefell case. Reuters reported the Florida Department of Health on Thursday filed a legal motion that seeks clarification on whether the aforementioned decision “may be read to require issuance of birth certificates to married same-sex parents.”

“Attorney General Pam Bondi could have avoided yet another costly lawsuit by directing all state agencies to simply comply with the law. Instead she turned her back on repeated requests to take action,” said Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith in a statement. “Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a new born baby’s family. Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections. Denying our families this is not only spiteful and harmful, it is illegal.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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