Rich Vaughn Blog: Texas Settlement Affirms Birth Certificates Essential Protection of Children's Rights

Texas Settlement Affirms Birth Certificates Are Essential

A recent settlement in a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas may benefit LGBT intended parents by establishing the importance of an accurate, valid birth certificate in protecting children’s rights.

The U.S. Constitution states that children born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens at birth, even if their parents are not citizens. Until recently that enshrined principle has rarely been questioned.

But in 2013, The New York Times reports, Texas lawmakers began looking for ways to halt an influx of Central American families fleeing violence in their home countries by entering the state illegally. In 2014, Texas and 25 other states filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The states effectively won that case on a tie vote of the Supreme Court justices.

During this period of litigation, Texas registrars changed the rules for how undocumented parents must obtain birth certificates for their babies born in the United States, rejecting documents they had previously accepted to affirm the parents’ identities and requiring documents many parents were unable to obtain. According to a New York Times report:

Texas county offices began to require that foreign passports presented by parents include a valid United States visa. Officials also stopped accepting photo identity cards, known as matrículas, that Mexicans obtain from their consulates in the United States. In 2013, the lawsuit said, Texas stepped up enforcement of the new rules….

“The bottom line is, there was a category of people who were being locked out of obtaining a birth certificate to which they are entitled constitutionally as citizens born in the United States just because of the immigration status of the parents,” said Efrén Olivares, the legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project’s South Texas office and a lead lawyer in the lawsuit.

The state’s new rules left the children of undocumented parents with no birth certificates. Parents couldn’t have their children baptized, register them for school or get them required vaccinations; parents also lived in fear that without valid birth certificates, their children could be removed from them or separated from them in the event they were deported. Attorneys for the state argued that families did not need birth certificates in order to enroll their children for state programs—a claim that the U.S. District Judge didn’t buy.

The state backed down and agreed to accept several additional forms of documentation allowing undocumented parents to obtain birth certificates for their children, including Mexican voter identification cards and certificates from the El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras consulates. State officials also have established a review process for families who have been denied birth certificates for their children and implemented training for county officials.

The settlement represented a happy ending for hundreds of families who had been left unable to validate their children’s parentage. Even more importantly, it established the principle that birth certificates are an important document essential to the human rights of individuals born in the United States. That legal precedent may be important in the future for LGBT intended parents and others who have children via surrogacy, such as the two dads in a recently resolved Wisconsin case who were forced into a year-long legal battle to establish parentage of their son born via surrogacy and embryo donation.

In that case, even though the two men had been together 25 years, had been legally married since 2008, and had two daughters previously via surrogacy, a Wisconsin judge denied their parentage of their son, leaving him effectively an orphan, and costing them more than $400,000 in legal fees. That case was only resolved when the judge abruptly stepped down, and a new judge overturned the earlier decision.

That case developed due to a gap in Wisconsin law that fails to clearly address parentage in surrogacy cases. What the Texas settlement did was to reaffirm that all children have a right to the legal certification of their nation of birth and the identification of their parents that only a birth certificate provides. Based on that precedent, in future cases, it is hoped, no judge will consider denying an accurate, valid birth certificate to any child, regardless of the circumstances of his or her birth.


Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.