Same-Sex Parents Sue Nebraska for Rejecting to List Both Moms in Birth Certificates

Photo: (Photo : Selim Sudheimer/Getty Images)

A pair of same-sex parents have filed a lawsuit against the state of Nebraska for rejecting their right to be listed as the moms on their children's birth certificates.

Erin Porterfield and Kristin Williams had given birth to their sons, Kadin, in 2002, and Cameron, in 2005. Each of the same-sex parents took turns carrying one child to term in pregnancy -- Porterfield to Kadin and Williams to Cameron -- using the same sperm donor and assisted by reproductive technology.

However, the moms separated in 2013, before the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This meant that their children could only have one biological mother's name on their birth certificates.

Despite their separation, Porterfield and Williams wanted to ensure that their sons would be legally recognized as the children of both parents, so they went to court to make some changes in their birth documents.

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Approval Followed by Rejection

In 2017, same-sex parents were granted the right to have both their names listed as the mother in their sons' birth certificates by a court in Douglas County. The court recognized Porterfield and Williams' parental obligations and also approved their parenting plan as separated parents.

Things became complicated when Porterfield applied to change Kadin's birth certificate details with the Nebraska Department of Health Human Services. She wanted to add Williams as his mother, but the agency rejected her ex-partner as Kadin's legal parent.

In 2021, the same-sex parents submitted additional notarized documents where they both voluntarily stated and affirmed their parentage for the boys. However, the state said that the additional documents could not be legally recognized unless the ex-couple had been married.

"We were never able to marry because by the time the supreme court had awarded that right to gay people, we had split as a couple," Williams said.

Lawyers for Porterfield and Williams argued that parents of the opposite sex would not encounter similar problems if they had a father acknowledged parentage despite not being married to the mother.

In Loco Parentis

Porterfield and Williams are recognized as "in loco parentis," which is a legal but temporary acknowledgment. However, same-sex parents want full parental rights recognition because it will matter to their children's medical and education care, as well as estate planning for their two sons.

Williams explained that if she were to die, the state would tax Kadin heavily for half of her estate because she is not recognized as his mother on his birth certificate. It would be the same case for Cameron if Porterfield were to pass away suddenly. The same-sex parents also said that they want both their children to make decisions for them for their end-of-life care.

Sara Rips of ACLU Nebraska said that this lawsuit is about "equal treatment for families with same-sex parents." The court has recognized that both women chose to be parents and be involved with their kids together, and the state should not discriminate on their choices.

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