From today, lesbian couples who have children through fertility treatment can be named on birth certificates.

Previously, only the birth mother could be named as a parent.

The changes to the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 apply to any child born after fertility treatment which began on or after April 6th 2009.

This new right was introduced as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which was approved by the House of Commons last year. It brings the UK’s fertility laws in line with equality legislation.

Home Office minister Lord Brett said: “This positive change means that for the first time female couples who have a child using fertility treatment have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to be shown as parents in the birth registration.

“It is vital that we afford equality wherever we can in society, especially as family circumstances continue to change. This is an important step forward in that process.”

Stonewall’s head of policy and research, Ruth Hunt, said: “As the law improves to provide further equality, knowing your new rights will help people make full use of the services they’re entitled to. And, if discrimination occurs, the same knowledge can help them demand fair treatment.

“Now lesbian couples in the UK who make a considered decision to start a loving family will finally be afforded equal access to services they help fund as taxpayers.

“So life for lesbian families isn’t only fairer – it’s also much easier.”

The move has already drawn criticism from some quarters, with Conservative MP Nadine Dorries telling the BBC: “If we want to build a stable society, a mother and father and children works as the best model. We should be striving towards repairing and reinforcing marriage. I think this move sends out the exact opposite message.”

The law is set to be expanded in April 2010, when male couples will also be able to apply for a Parental Order to be recognised as the parents of children born through surrogacy.