More than a year after West Virginia officials began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, state birth certificates for adopted children still list “mother” and “father” next to the blanks for the parents’ names.
Unlike other states that are resisting changing the certificates, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has said birth certificates are being revised and will be ready to be distributed early next month, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports (http://bit.ly/1Jbyiok).
Department spokesman Toby Wagoner said this week that the process started several months ago, but software updates had caused the changes to take some time.
American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia attorney Jamie Lynn Crofts said inaccurate birth certificates can lead to greater scrutiny or even rejection of the birth certificates by organizations that require the birth certificate as proof of the parental relationship.
“It’s also just a way to acknowledge that parents are parents, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation,” she said.
Crofts said the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which legalized same-sex marriage, also addressed the affect that stigmatizing same-sex unions has on children.
“Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion.
The incorrect birth certificates could lead some children to feel the same stigma, Crofts said.
West Virginia couple James White and Jamie Happney contacted the ACLU in October after Happney’s name was written next to “Mother” on the birth certificate of their newly adopted 11-year-old son Ethan.
White said he understands that a piece of paper doesn’t define his family. But it’s still irritating every time he looks at it, he said.
“If you’re giving me the OK to adopt a child as a same-sex couple, then we need the proper, legitimate paperwork saying we are the parents,” he said.
DHHR spokeswoman Allison Adler said in October that DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families did not track adoptions by same-sex couples. She did not say at the time if that was because the birth certificates had not been revised.