A lesbian couple in South Jersey won court approval this week to have both of their names listed as parents on their newborn’s birth certificate, and the attorney general’s office said it will no longer oppose such applications.
The decision is one of the first implications of last month’s state Supreme Court ruling that gives same-sex couples access to the same rights as married couples, the New York Times reports.
The court gave the Legislature 180 days either to bring gay couples within the state’s marriage laws or establish a parallel system of civil unions.
Assistant Attorney General Patrick DeAlmeida told the Associated Press that the women are the first he knows of to take advantage of new rights granted by the October 25 ruling.
According to the AP, the Burlington County women, who are registered as domestic partners, did not want their names made public.
“This couple was treated exactly the same way as a married couple under the law of New Jersey,” said Stephen Hyland, the lawyer for the women. “So no matter what New Jersey chooses to do legislatively, the couples have the same rights.”
Under state law, the husband of a woman who gives birth through artificial insemination is listed on the birth certificate as the father. No such provision is made for lesbian couples, who often go through lengthy and costly adoptions to give both women equal rights as parents.
Parental rights are especially important to children because they establish inheritance rights and custody should a parent die. Listing both parents on a birth certificate also allows the child to be covered by the health insurance of either parent.
DeAlmeida told the Times that the state would begin issuing birth certificates without judicial orders for couples registered under the state’s domestic partnership law. For same-sex couples who are not registered, he said, the process is less clear because “we would have to establish how to determine that they’re in a committed relationship.”
The process may not be automatic for a gay male couple, either, Hyland told the AP, since a surrogate mother is involved. The surrogate mother cannot surrender her parental rights until after the child is born, at which point the partner who is not the biological father must adopt the child.
Same-sex couples have won similar rights in some other states, said Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Centre for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco.
Minter said that California courts regularly issued orders for gay male couples as well as lesbian couples to be listed as parents on birth certificates.
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