Same-sex couples present case for birth, death certificate changes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Six same-sex couples are asking a federal judge to change the wording on some vital records in Indiana.

The couples will present their case on Friday at 10 a.m.

All six cases involved in the lawsuit concern female same-sex couples who have decided to have a child or children. One of those couples is Nicki and Tonya Bush-Sawyer of Indianapolis, who already have a nearly two-year-old son. Nicki carried and delivered the boy.

Although same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, many documents like birth and death certificates still only allow for a mother and father to be named, rather than two mothers.

That means Nicki’s wife, Tonya, has to adopt their son after his birth in order to be his legal mother. They say the process is expensive and also requires social workers to scrutinize their financial, professional, and personal life. And until that adoption is final, Tonya does not have any legal rights to her son, despite being a stay-at-home-mom with him.

“What if something were to happen and I’m away at work, she’s his caretaker. And yet she is treated, not to her face, but she could be legally be treated as a baby-sitter,” said Nicki Bush-Sawyer in December.

The process is actually called step-parent adoption, which Nicki says is insulting to her wife.

“The point is Tonya and I have been together since before our son was born, through the entire pregnancy, ever doctor’s visit, every sonogram, every kick, first cry, first whatever. She cut the umbilical cord. She was the coach at the birth. If we were a heterosexual couple, there would be no question that she would be on the birth certificate,” Nicki said.

The attorney representing the six couples said there is clear Indiana law in-place that support their case.

“Indiana law states that the husband of the birth mother is presumed to be the father of the child even if that father has no biological connection to the child such as when the child is conceived using a third party sperm donor.  Indiana refuses to grant the presumption of parenthood when the birth mother’s spouse is of the same sex.  To add insult to injury, the State also labels the children born to these same sex couples as children born out of wedlock because there is no father identified on the birth certificate.  The message this sends to same sex couples and their children is that their families are somehow lesser then those of a man and a woman.  We believe the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated otherwise,” attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman said Thursday.

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