The ACLU of Virginia today asked the Virginia Supreme Court to order the state’s Department of Vital Records to issue revised birth certificates for four adopted children of same sex couples. Virginia’s high court agreed to hear the case in September after a Richmond Circuit Court ruled earlier this year that the Department of Vital Records did not have to issue the new birth certificates
It is common practice for the Department of Vital Records to issue revised birth certificates for adopted children in which the adoptive parents’ names are substituted for those of the birth parents. Ordinarily, such requests are handled through a simple administrative procedure. But when same sex couples sought to have their names placed on their adopted children’s birth certificates, the Department of Vital Records personnel refused.
Because Virginia does not allow same sex couples to adopt, the issue of entering names of gay or lesbian couples on new birth certificates does not typically arise. In this instance, however, the children where born in Virginia, but adopted by same sex couples under the laws of Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. Only the Virginia Department of Vital Records has the authority to issue the new birth certificates.
Also filed today were two friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the ACLU’s position. Nationally recognized adoption law professor Joan Heifetz Hollinger filed an amicus brief focusing on the importance of interstate recognition of adoptions and the reasons why adoptive families should have birth certificates with the names of parents and children appearing on them. Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund also filed an amicus brief today.
“We’re still puzzled by Virginia’s refusal to issue new birth certificates,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “These are legally adopted children whose parents happen to be gay or lesbian. They have a right to have birth certificates with their adoptive parents’ names on them, just like any other adopted children.”
The ACLU initially challenged the state’s policy in Richmond Circuit Court in May 2002. The ACLU argued then, as now, that the state’s policy violates the state’s birth certificate statute, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires states to honor each others’ judicial decrees.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case are Rebecca K. Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia; Michael Ward, David Lubitz, and Steven Tave with Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman, LLP, Washington, D.C.; and Michelle Zavos, Washington, D.C. The case is Katherine Anne Fisher Davenport et. al v. Deborah Little-Bowser et al.

ACLU of Virginia Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director 804-644-8022