Same-sex couples sue for equal parenting rights

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer cleared the way for marriage equality across the United States, but a lot of anti-gay rubbish still litters legislative statutes and bureaucratic regulations.

Same-sex couples in some locales continue to fight for marriage licenses, despite the high court’s ruling. And in some states, married gay couples continue quests for equal treatment as parents, as well as equal treatment in the workplace, health care, education and accommodations.

Fifteen years ago, Mississippi lawmakers banned same-sex couples from adopting children and taking children into foster care. The law, staunchly supported by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, is the only one of its kind in the United States. In early August, four lesbian couples went to federal court and sued Mississippi to overturn the ban.

“The Mississippi adoption ban is an outdated relic of a time when courts and legislatures believed that it was somehow OK to discriminate against gay people simply because they are gay,” the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, two lesbian couples are suing the state of Florida, which refuses to acknowledge same-sex couples as parents on birth certificates.

“Attorney General Pam Bondi could have avoided yet another costly lawsuit by directing all state agencies to simply comply with the law,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.

Bondi maintained her defense of Florida’s anti-gay ban on same-sex marriage long after it was clear state and federal judges considered the ban unconstitutional, and she continues to sanction state discrimination against married gay couples.

“Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a newborn baby’s family,” Smith said. “Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections.”

Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, said continued vigilance is needed, even after the high court’s ruling. “There is still a lot of educating and a lot of litigating to do,” he said.

In Wisconsin, there apparently haven’t been complaints that the state refuses to recognize same-sex couples on birth certificates. Wisconsin also has recognized that same-sex couples have the same right as different-sex couples to adopt children.

“Since the Wolf decision was affirmed, the state has taken the position that same-sex couples can adopt on the same terms as different-sex couples, and there’s no longer a prohibition on adoption,” Dupuis said, referring to the ACLU of Wisconsin’s federal case that secured marriage equality in the state. “Before Wolf, the second-parent adoption had not been allowed in Wisconsin. So that was a big change.”