According to a recent report in the Tampa edition of Creative Loafing, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision and issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Florida’s Office of Vital Statistics is making the state’s marriage certificates gender neutral. From Creative Loafing:
Friday marked the anniversary of the anniversary of District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.
On the eve of that anniversary, LGBT equality advocates saw another small but symbolic victory, according to Equality Florida.
Come next month, the state will likely begin issuing gender-neutral marriage licenses and death certificates, state Bureau of Vital Statistics spokeswoman Ana Goold told Equality Florida’s Hannah Willard.
Even after Hinkle’s decision took effect on January 6, Florida’s marriage applications and certificates would allow entries only for “Husband” and “Wife.”
But soon, that spot on those forms will simply read “Spouse.”
However, there are no immediate plans to automatically permit both same-sex spouses to be listed as parents on Florida’s birth certificate.
So, for example, if a woman is impregnated via reproductive technologies, and she is married to another woman, only the woman who gave birth will be listed as the child’s parent on the birth certificate. This is in contrast to opposite-sex marriages, where the husband will be automatically listed as a child’s father upon birth, whether or not he is the child’s biological father.
As of today, the Office of Vital Statistics requires a court order to list both same-sex spouses on a birth certificate. Without being listed on the birth certificate – which creates a rebuttable presumption that a person is a legal parent of a child – a parent may be prohibited from visiting the child at school, making medical decisions in the event of an emergency, or having custody rights in the event of a divorce.
Now, the truth is, even once Office of Vital Statistics does begin allowing both same-sex spouses on birth certificates without a court order, the prudent LGBT family would still get a court order recognizing both as parents. This is in case they travel in a jurisdiction that does not recognize the rebuttable presumption created by a birth certificate.
Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT organization, puts it this way:
Even if you receive an accurate birth certificate with both parents listed, it is highly recommended that you complete a second- or step-parent adoption or get a court order recognizing that you are a parent. A birth certificate can be used to prove parentage at your child’s school, a doctor’s office, and other local places, but only an adoption court order will 100% ensure your legal rights as a nonbiological parent in Florida and all 50 states for all purposes.
And so same-sex spouses should consider an action for stepparent adoption or declaration of parentage, regardless of Office of Vital Statistics decisions.
Adam B. Cordover has been in the forefront of Florida LGBT Family Law issues. He was involved in the first same-sex divorce in the state to challenge the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriage.