This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take a case in which Indiana was trying to deny the right of married nonbiological mothers in same-sex couples to be recognized as legal parents by being put on their children’s birth certificates. An appeals court had ruled in January that both mothers must be allowed on the birth certificates; because the Supreme Court has refused to take the case, that decision stands.
Indiana had been appealing a January 2020 ruling of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Box v. Henderson that said Indiana must put both same-sex spouses on the birth certificate of a child born to one of them. This right is crucial for giving children with same-sex parents the legal protection of both parents from the moment of birth. In an order (PDF) posted this morning, the Supreme Court “denied certiorari,” meaning they will not hear the case.
I wrote at length about the case in June, when Indiana asked the Supreme Court to take it, and just a few weeks ago, when it filed an additional brief. Please go read those posts if you want to try and understand the convoluted logic by which Indiana was trying to say that only biology, not marital status, matters for birth certificates and that while it does allow a husband’s name to go on a child’s birth certificate even if another man is really the biological father (say, if he and his wife have fertility issues and use a sperm donor), it can treat same-sex couples differently.
Not buying it? Neither, apparently, was the U.S. Supreme Court. The court may also have been reluctant to issue a ruling in opposition to its 2017 decision in Pavan v. Smith, which said that married same-sex couples in Arkansas have the right to both be on their children’s birth certificates. That decision itself rested on the landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which said same- and different-sex couples must be treated equally. This case thus threatened not only the rights of same-sex parents, but also the solidity of Obergefell to protect all same-sex couples. The Supreme Court’s refusal to take it is a very good thing.
Congratulations to all of the eight plaintiff couples and their families, to the attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Ropes & Gray who worked on the case, and all of the families in Indiana and elsewhere who will benefit.