State Politics

Same-sex couple sues NC officials over birth certificate rules

A same-sex couple sued state Department of Health and Human Service officials Thursday in an attempt to have the birth certificates of their sons amended to include both women’s names.

Melissa and Meredith Weiss, Chapel Hill residents who were married in Canada in 2003, have two sons.

Melissa gave birth to both children. They were conceived through in vitro fertilization, using donor sperm and eggs from Meredith for the older son, who was born nine years ago. Melissa’s eggs were used for their younger son, age 7.

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 N.C. law allowed only the name of a mother and father to be listed on the birth certificate. And the registrar of vital records, housed in the Department of Health and Human Services, listed only Meredith’s name as the mother. After that, the parent not listed on the birth certificate went back to court to adopt the child for parental rights.

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

The couple experienced trouble in a Florida hospital, when one of the boys needed health care, and the medical personnel talked about removing one of the women from his side, asking which was “the real mother.”

“The Weisses encounter such interrogation to determine the identity of the ‘real mother’ with frequency as a result of not having a birth certificate listing both parents,” the lawsuit states.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws barring gay marriage across the country. That month, North Carolina began issuing both names of same-sex couples on birth certificates.

The Weisses have applied to have the birth certificates for their sons amended, but have not heard back from state officials, according to the lawsuit.

They contend that their 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law is being violated.

“Without accurate birth certificates, routine and emergency events that come with caring for your children—from school registrations to authorizing medical care—are made more difficult if not impossible,” said Beth Littrell, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, a gay-rights advocacy group that filed the suit for the Weisses.

“Although North Carolina changed their policies after federal courts struck down discriminatory marriage laws, there are children who were born to married same-sex couples in North Carolina before the unconstitutional marriage ban was struck down—those children should have accurate birth certificate listing both of their parents. This lawsuit aims to ensure that all children born to married parents are treated equally regardless of who they are born to or when they were born. ”

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1