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Indiana AG Curtis Hill argues Supreme Court should reverse same-sex parenting ruling

Curtis Hill.JPG
Posted at 2:10 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-27 14:10:50-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's attorney general submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that it should reverse a federal appeals court's ruling that allowed both members of same-sex couples in Indiana to be listed as parents on the birth certificates of their children.

The petition from Attorney General Curtis Hill follows a January decision by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed a decision by judges in Indiana's federal southern district court who found that Indiana laws limiting who can be called the parent of a child were unconstitutional.

Hill filed also filed a request in June asking the court to review the appellate court's decision.

The original case involved Ashlee and Ruby Henderson, a gay married couple from Lafayette who filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 challenging Indiana's birth records law. They sued the state health commissioner and Tippecanoe County officials because county officials would not list both of them as parents on the birth certificate of their son, who Ruby conceived through artificial insemination.

The case is among the first dealing with same-sex marriage for the Supreme Court since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Journal & Courier and The Indianapolis Star reported.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, the Hendersons' Indianapolis-based attorney, said Wednesday that she expects Hill's brief will be discussed during a Dec. 11 conference the high court has set on the matter.

"We are hopeful the court will follow the precedent in 'Pavan,'" Celestino-Horseman said, referring to the high court's 2017 ruling in the Pavan v. Smith case, which involved Arkansas married couples who conceive through artificial insemination. In that case, the court ruled that the "constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage" extended to having the names of same-sex parents on a birth certificate.

In their federal suit, the Hendersons contended that leaving one mother's name off the birth certificate presented legal issues when it came to health insurance coverage, who could speak for a child at a doctor's appointment and enrolling in school. They argued that it was unfair to force one mother from a same-sex marriage to spend $4,000 to $5,000 to legally adopt the couple's child.

The Hendersons won their initial case in 2016. Seven additional couples joined the suit as plaintiffs after Indiana appealed up to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, which ruled in January that under Indiana law, "a husband is presumed to be a child's biological father, so that both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certificate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock."

"There's no similar presumption with respect to an all-female married couple — or for that matter an all-male married couple," the judges wrote, adding that requiring both women in a same sex marriage to be listed as parents would prevent any discrimination.

In his petition to the court, Hill argues that upholding that decision would violate common sense and throw into jeopardy parental rights based on biology.

"A birth mother's wife will never be the biological father of the child, meaning that, whenever a birth-mother's wife gains presumptive 'parentage' status, a biological father's rights and obligations to the child have necessarily been undermined without proper adjudication," Hill wrote.