Same Sex Parents on a Birth Certificate: How to Register

Last updated May 27th, 2021

Since 2017, married same-sex parents in the United States have had the right to enter both their names on a child’s birth certificate when registering a birth. This was permitted following a US Supreme Court ruling that clarified that same-sex spouses should receive the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

This of course marked a milestone moment for gay couples who are the legal parents of a child. Naturally, it has also had a significant effect on how same-sex spouses and their offspring may access vital records and vital statistics.

This article considers some of the implications of this crucial ruling. It answers questions such as: where can two same-sex parents be on the birth certificate? It also considers how gay couples planning for parenthood will be able to register their details on vital records of their child and how this information will appear on documents.

Is It Possible to Name Two Same-Sex Parents in All States?

Yes, since the 2017 overturning of the Arkansas State Supreme Court ruling on Pavan vs. Smith by the national Supreme Court birth certificates for same-sex couples who are married have been a possibility. At present this remains the prevailing law across all 50 states.

What Are the Rules for Same-Sex Couples Registering a Birth?

Parents who are married must be treated equally whether they are heterosexual or homosexual when registering a birth and getting a birth certificate. This allows both same-sex parents to appear on the birth certificate of the child anywhere in the USA as long as one of them is the birth parent and married to the other.

However, not all same-sex couples may enjoy these privileges. This is because the Supreme Court ruling applies only to married couples. Therefore if the child is born to same-sex partners who aren’t married, only the birth parents can be noted on documentation in many states.

In some cases, same-sex parents are able to register the names of both parents on the birth records of a child even if they are not married. This is possible by changes to state health forms which have replaced the traditional “mother” and “father” entry positions with gender-neutral alternatives. This is possible in the following states:

It should also be noted that being named on the birth certificate does not always confer the legal parental rights of a child. Therefore same-sex parents are advised to consider a second parent adoption even if the couple is married.

Furthermore, same-sex couples using a surrogate or gestational carrier cannot be listed as parents on the birth certificate without an appropriate court order to show they are to be the intended parents. Alternatively, they may need to complete a post-birth adoption process.

How Do Same-Sex Parents Appear on a Birth Certificate

State services across the country have been updating their systems to allow same-sex partners to be recorded on official documents and vital records. In many cases this permits gay couples to choose from the following titles when completing birth registration and getting a birth certificate:

  • Mother
  • Father
  • Parent

This means a child can either have two mothers, two fathers, two parents, or a mix of both noted on their birth certificate.

The right to be named as a parent on a birth certificate is a major step forward for same-sex couples across the US. Whilst some laws still need to be updated to ensure that the homosexual family units enjoy the same rights and freedoms as heterosexual families, the rules are gradually being adapted to allow change to happen.

Can the Supreme Court Overturn these Same Sex Parental Rights?

Currently, the legal precedent of Pavan vs. Smith is used across all states, yet some states are currently appealing the decision with SCOTUS. These states wish to control how parents are listed on birth certificates within their jurisdiction. This, however, has yet to be ruled on by the Supreme Court.

For the moment the laws regarding same-sex parents on a birth certificate remain intact but could change if any states are successful in these appeals. Depending on the state that you live in, listing only biological parents on a birth certificate may become a requirement once again if SCOTUS decides to strike down the original ruling on Pavan vs. Smith in favor of a new precedent.