Right to Birth Certificate for Adopted Children of Same-Sex Parents, Fisher-Davenport v. Bowser

Virginia law requires the Department of Vital Records to issue a birth certificate to children born in Virginia. If a child is adopted, the Department is required to issue a new birth certificate upon of a valid adoption decree. Our clients are three same-sex couples who live in New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, but have adopted children born in Virginia. Each couple completed valid joint adoptions under the laws of their own states. Each then submitted proof of adoption to the Virginia Department of Vital Records and requested a new birth certificate. The Department refused, claiming that it could not issue a birth certificate with two mothers or two fathers. We filed a complaint in the Circuit Court in Richmond, on the grounds that the Department’s actions violate the Virginia birth certificate statute, and the Full Faith and Credit Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was denied on September 18, 2002. Cross motions for summary judgment were filed and were argued on February 4, 2004. The court ruled against us, finding that the Department was not required to issue the certificates. We filed a petition for appeal, and the Virginia Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The court heard oral arguments on March 1, 2005. On April 22, 2005, the court ruled in our favor, holding that Virginia’s birth certificate statute requires the department to issue accurate birth certificates for our clients.

Court Documents (click links to view .pdf)

Decision, April 22, 2005- Virginia Supreme Court
Opening Brief of Appellants- Virginia Supreme Court
Petition for Appeal- Virginia Supreme Court
Bill of Complaint and Petition for Writ of Mandamus Circuit Court, City of Richmond


Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Michelle Zavos, Swidler Berlin Shrreff, Friedman, LLP, D.C., Washington, D.C.

Date filed

May 28, 2002


Richmond Circuit Court