Lesbian Moms Win Birth Certificate Case
After 15 months of litigation, two Vermont women have finally obtained a piece of paper that would normally be sent by return mail: their son's birth certificate.
The boy was born in Jackson, Miss., in 1997. When he was 8 days old, Cheri Goldstein and Holly Perdue brought him home to Worcester, Vt., where the adoption was finalized in April 2000. One month later, the women applied for a revised birth certificate, a standard document issued to adoptive parents by Mississippi and every other state.
In this case, however, although the state statute orders the Bureau of Vital Statistics to fulfill such a request, Mississippi bureaucrats determined that the Legislature could not have intended to sanction a lesbian adoption. In October of 2001, the women sued, with the help of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and their local attorney, J. Cliff Johnson.
In an opinion dated March 5 and filed Tuesday, Chancellor William Hale Singletary granted summary judgment to the two mothers, and ordered the state to deliver the document within 10 days of filing.
"The Legislature has cast the bureau's duty in mandatory terms," Singletary wrote, "and the bureau has no discretion to deviate from the statute's terms." The law orders the bureau to "prepare a revised birth certificate which shall contain the names of the adopting parents and the new name of the child."
As for the question of parentage, Singletary cited another section of the code, instructing the State Registrar to "honor orders of courts of other states having appropriate jurisdiction over Mississippi-born persons in matters of adoption." If that weren't enough, he added, Mississippi is also "compelled" by the federal Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause to honor Vermont adoptions.
Lambda's Greg Nevins called the ruling "a significant victory" and "an important milestone" in the trend towards recognizing same-sex parents on birth certificates. Just a week ago, he noted, a New Jersey court agreed that two women should both be listed on the certificate of the baby they are expecting in May. In that case, one mother's egg was inseminated and implanted in the other mother's uterus.