Nebraska Judge Rules State’s Birth Certificates Can’t Name 2 Mothers

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – A Nebraska judge has rejected a lawsuit filed by two Omaha women seeking to have their names listed as the parents on their children’s birth certificates, saying the request conflicts with the state law.

Lancaster County District Judge Ryan Post said in his ruling last month dismissing the lawsuit that state law requires birth certificates to acknowledge paternity. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services policy also requires that parents listed on birth certificates be the child’s biological parents, she said.

The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state last year on behalf of Erin Porterfield and Kristin Williams. They said the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly denied their request to amend a child’s birth certificate in their effort to gain full legal recognition as the parents of their children: a born to every woman conceived through a sperm donor.

Porterfield and Williams were romantically involved from 2000 to 2013, two years before same-sex marriage was legalized in Nebraska. Porterfield gave birth to their first child in 2002, and Williams gave birth to their second child in 2005 before their romantic relationship ended in 2013. But both women continue to share parenting duties.

In their lawsuit, the women said state officials treat unmarried same-sex couples differently than unmarried opposite-sex couples, violating their due process and equal protection rights.

The women argued in their lawsuit that listing them both is critical because it could affect their children’s eligibility for government benefits if something happens to one of them. They also accused the state of sex discrimination because it allows men to voluntarily acknowledge their fatherhood in order to obtain a birth certificate, but does not allow women to do so.

“Our kids are our whole world and we want to make sure we’re doing right by them,” Porterfield said when the lawsuit was filed. “Our boys have the right to the security of having both parents on their birth certificates, a mandatory document in so many life changes and decisions. That’s why this matters to us”.

But Judge Post said the women did not identify “a single court that has adopted their constitutional arguments.”

“The court certainly understands why plaintiffs are seeking a policy change,” Post wrote. “But that policy decision is the Legislature’s, not this court’s.”

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