Birth certificate changes rejected
Senate lawmakers rejected revisions to Arkansas birth certificate laws Monday. The changes were first proposed by the Republican attorney general’s office as a solution to a claim of equal rights violations raised by same-sex couples.
Senate Bill 580 would swap references to husband or wife with the word “spouse” in the section of the Arkansas code dealing with birth certificates for children born by artificial insemination. The Senate Judiciary Committee quashed the bill with a voice vote Monday.
While the bill is sponsored by two Little Rock Democrats, Sens. Joyce Elliott and Will Bond, the change was first proposed by Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky, who successfully defended the statutes cited in the lawsuit.
However, most Republicans on the Senate committee voted Monday against the proposed change. The committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, said the change would be against “the natural order for birth.”
The lawsuit, brought by same-sex couples who had each conceived children by artificial insemination, said the Arkansas Department of Health gave them unequal treatment by refusing to issue birth certificates naming both parents as mothers.
The couples argued state law regarding birth certificates required them to go through the process of legal adoption to have both parents listed on an amended birth certificate. A Pulaski County judge ruled in the couples’ favor and struck down the law, but the Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case in December.
During arguments, Rudofsky offered his alternate solution: Instead of striking down the law broadly, the court could change its interpretation of just the artificial insemination statute to include the word “parent.” He proposed under the artificial insemination statute, the husband of a woman who gives birth through artificial insemination, or either parent of a child born of surrogacy, would be listed as a parent on the birth certificate regardless of their biological connection.
The high court declined to make the change because it wasn’t a part of the argument referred to justices. Two justices wrote concurring opinions specifically pointing out the Legislature’s ability to resolve the issue.
Those who spoke in favor of SB580 said they were simply taking the court’s advice.
“As I recall, they basically invited us to pass this bill,” said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, committee chairman. He said statutes invited more litigation against the state because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
Collins-Smith noted Arkansans voted to define marriage as being between one man and one woman though a 2004 amendment to the state constitution. The amendment was trumped by the U.S. Supreme Court decision.