Wednesday, January 11, 2016
Hannah Willard, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida
Chris Stoll, Senior Staff Attorney for National Center for Lesbian Rights
Married Same-Sex Parents Reach Settlement in Lawsuit Challenging Florida’s Denial of Accurate Birth Certificates
(Tallahassee, FL)—Almost two years to the day after same-sex marriages became legal in Florida, the State has settled its suit against married same-sex couples who were denied accurate birth certificates for their children.
On August 13, 2015, two couples, along with Equality Florida Institute, the largest organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Floridians, filed a lawsuitchallenging Florida’s refusal to issue birth certificates listing both spouses as parents of their children. The plaintiffs are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Florida attorneys Mary Meeks and Elizabeth Schwartz.
Under the terms of the settlement, the Department of Vital Statistics agrees to treat same-sex spouses the same way it treats different-sex spouses for purposes of birth certificates and will issue corrected birth certificates to married same-sex couples at no charge, including couples who were validly married in any other state at the time their children were born in Florida. The State also agreed to pay some attorneys’ fees to the couples’ attorneys.
“The LGBTQ community can now celebrate a long-awaited victory,” said Hannah Willard, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida. “Married same-sex couples deserve to be treated fairly and equally before the law in all ways, including in the recognition of our families. Thanks to years of hard work by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and our local attorneys, the State of Florida has agreed to our terms so that we can put this discrimination behind us."
“Through the course of this lawsuit, Florida took important steps to protect same-sex couples and their families and we are very happy that the State has now fully resolved the case,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan. “Leaving children and families vulnerable in this way benefits no one and we hope other states will follow Florida’s example.”
Not having an accurate birth certificate denies children with same-sex parents the dignity, legitimacy, security, support, and protections available upon birth to children of married different-sex parents. It also prevents parents from taking care of their children’s every day needs like obtaining healthcare, signing up for daycare, and enrolling in government programs and benefits. The resolution of this lawsuit has eliminated these problems and will ensure that these families are treated equally.
"Now more than ever, it's imperative that our families have every protection available under the law,” said Miami family law attorney Elizabeth Schwartz. “As a Florida native, I'm grateful my home state has recognized the validity of our marriages and is willing to honor legal parents on this most essential of documents."
"I am happy that Florida same-sex couples can finally look forward to full and equal recognition as parents of their children and hope other states will follow suit as well," added Orlando civil rights attorney Mary Meeks.
Learn more about the case history.