Rich Vaughn Blog: Texas Allows Same-Sex Parents on Birth Certificates

Texas Birth Certificates to List 2 Moms, 2 Dads

The Texas Department of State Health Services made headlines last month when it revealed in a court filing that it would begin allowing same-sex parents’ names on children’s birth certificates—although it may be months before official birth certificate forms using gender-neutral designations for parents are available statewide.

The court filing was in response to a federal court order to comply with the landmark June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Even in the wake of this policy change, the path for same-sex parents in Texas and other states to receive full official parental recognition remains far from straightforward—as is the case for heterosexual couples who become parents via some types of assisted reproductive technology as well.

This bureaucratic obstacle course stems in part from an official resistance in some states to granting parental rights to non-biological parents without an adoption order. In many states, intended parents, gay or straight, who have children via egg or sperm donation and surrogacy may need to be  legally married and/or must enter an order of adoption in order for the non-biologically related parent to be placed on the child’s birth certificate. In these states’ view, becoming a parent via ART, in a scenario in which the child is not genetically related to one or both parents, is akin to adoption.

This view, conflating adoption with ART, is wrong—in the case of adoption an existing child is being removed from one family and placed with a new family; in the case of parentage via egg or sperm donation or surrogacy, there is no child in existence until the intended parent or parents takes the necessary steps to create the child.

But adoption is familiar and well adjudicated, and it is an easy model for more conservative jurisdictions to adopt. So in those parts of the country, even married heterosexual parents who are not genetically related to their child born via surrogacy may need to undergo a step-parent or second-parent adoption in order to be listed on the child’s birth certificate.

Institutional resistance to same-sex marriage or same-sex parentage adds another set of obstacles. Now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, the federal courts have ruled that states must accommodate same-sex parents on official birth certificates. However, those states can still require that non-genetically related parents first legally adopt the child.

That is what happened in the case of two gay dads represented by one of my colleagues in Texas. The dads had a child via surrogacy in Texas, and only one dad’s name appeared on the Texas birth certificate. However, the two got married, obtained an order of adoption in New Jersey, and applied to the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics for an amended birth certificate bearing both fathers’ names. At this juncture it appears the amendment is in progress.

There’s more at stake in having both moms or both dads listed on a child’s birth certificate than merely making a political statement. In cases where the parental rights of one parent are not legally acknowledged, the child’s security and wellbeing could be at risk. In the event the biological parent died or became incapacitated, a non-biological parent could conceivably find his or her parental rights in question.

What this recent change in Texas means is that married same-sex couples can be listed as parents on Texas birth certificates, if they obtain an adoption order—and that is a big deal. The case for unmarried same-sex parents remains unclear but will no doubt be litigated in the weeks and months ahead. Meantime we’ll celebrate this change as a small but significant step toward equal legal protection for all parents and families, regardless of their sexual orientation or how they were created.

 

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

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
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
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 SOSA
Paralegal

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
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

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
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
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

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
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

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 TAMAYO
Paralegal

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 CHIEN
Paralegal

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
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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.