Politics & Government

Same-sex couple persuades NC to change birth certificate policy

A same-sex couple who sued the state Department of Health and Human Services have settled the case after state officials agreed to have their sons’ birth certificates amended to include both women’s names.

The settlement also means that other same-sex couples with children born after they got married can get similarly accurate birth certificates listing both parents.

The policy change came about after Chapel Hill residents Melissa and Meredith Weiss filed a lawsuit in federal court in December 2015 when the state refused to amend birth certificates for their two sons.

North Carolina changed its birth certificate policies after the federal courts struck down bans on gay marriage to allow birth certificates for the children of those couples to include the names of both parents. But the state did not immediately change its policies to allow for birth certificates that didn’t include both names to be amended.

“This is a tremendous victory for the Weiss family – and for all North Carolina children born to same-sex couples before the state’s discriminatory marriage ban was struck down, who will now enjoy the same protections as everyone else,” Beth Littrell, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “This should have happened a long time ago. Every state should ensure that all families have access to the same rights and protections. Making sure all children born to married same-sex couples have accurate birth certificates is a critical place to start.”

The Weisses married in Canada in 2003. Melissa gave birth to both of their children. They were conceived through in vitro fertilization, using donor sperm and eggs from Meredith for the older son. Melissa’s eggs were used for their younger son.

Before their older son was born, the couple obtained a court order recognizing both women as parents. The Chatham County clerk sent the order to the state on June 1, 2006. The baby was born several days later.

State officials informed the women several months later that North Carolina law allowed only the name of a mother and father to be listed on the birth certificate. The result was Meredith’s name was listed as the mother of one of their children while Melissa was listed as the mother of their other son.

Then, the state would require the parent not listed on the birth certificate to go to court to adopt the child for parental rights.

But the women said they encountered obstacles by not having both names on the birth certificates, which are needed for schools; by state agencies that enroll children in insurance and other benefits; and at government offices that issue Social Security cards, passports and other documents.

“We are both thrilled and relieved,” Meredith and Melissa Weiss said in a statement announcing the settlement. “We just want our children to have the same respect, protections and treatment that every other child born to married parents receives. Today, our family and other families like ours can move forward.”

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1