Historically, Massachusetts birth certificate forms have varied among individual cities and towns. Many variations of the birth certificates listed the child’s parents as “Mother” and “Father”, posing a hurdle for gay and lesbian parents and confusion on the part of the hospitals, lawyers, and courts who work with birth certificates regularly. Throughout the past two decades, gay and lesbian parents would find the traditional “mother” and “father” titles crossed out on their child’s birth certificate, being replaced with “co-parent” or “second parent” to more accurately reflect their family situation.
With changes officially going into effect in March of this year, Massachusetts has now standardized birth certificates with two boxes labeled “mother/parent” and “father/parent”. This standardization serves to recognize the existence of gay and lesbian families and demonstrates a greater sensitivity to alternative reproduction and family creation. Additionally, it helps to incorporate gay and lesbian families into the everyday framework of hospitals all around the state who are working more and more with different types of families and with various models of family creation.
As reported by Stephen Smith of the Boston Globe:
Massachusetts law has recognized gay and lesbian parents for nearly two decades, said Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality, a gay rights organization. “And yet they’ve continued to suffer the indignity of having their family formation be invisible on a fundamental form like a birth certificate. It’s about time that comes to an end.’’
Until now, Massachusetts, with its fiercely protected tradition of local rule, has had a patchwork of birth certificate forms. Each city or town could have its own. Some were kept electronically, some on paper. The state estimates that as many as 700 variations on the birth certificate existed in the state’s 351 cities and towns.
The standardization of birth certificates in Massachusetts is a step forward for gay and lesbian parents, and will hopefully end the oftentimes uncomfortable and confusing process of altering the birth certificate unnecessary.
Keep checking VAUGHN-MARTEL LAW’S Legal Blog for the most recent legal news surrounding same-sex families and alternative reproduction advances in the law.