SALT LAKE CITY — A married lesbian couple who sued after Utah officials refused to put the names of both women on their new baby's birth certificate were expected in court Wednesday, as similar disputes pop up around the country in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage.
Angie and Kami Roe of West Jordan say they want state officials to treat wedded lesbian couples the same as heterosexual couples who use artificial insemination to have children.
On Wednesday, the Roes will ask U.S. District Judge Dee Benson to issue the birth certificate and order the state to include names of both mothers on birth certificates for other lesbian couples.
State law automatically recognizes a husband as a father in assistant reproduction cases, but he Utah attorney general's office contends that doesn't extend to same-sex couples because child bearing is legally different from marriage.
"It is a fact that a non-biologically related female spouse can never be the biological father of a child," state attorneys wrote in court documents. "It is a biological impossibility for a woman who does not give birth to a child to establish paternity of a child through the act of birth."
The state says the decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states doesn't change that, though the Roes argue birth certificates are among the rights of marriage mentioned in the high court ruling.
The state says allowing a wife to claim parentage on a birth certificate could throw off state record-keeping and disrupt the ability of authorities to identify public health trends.
State attorneys say the step-parent adoption process gives same-sex couples a solid legal avenue to become legal parents, and it's a practical necessity so the rights of the sperm donor can be terminated.
The Roes counter that the adoption process takes months and costs hundreds of dollars, and it's unfair to make them go through it, according to their lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
They sued after hospital staff members refused to take their birth certificate paperwork shortly after Kami Roe gave birth in February and Utah officials told them one mother must adopt the baby as a step-parent.
Similar cases have come up in Iowa and Arkansas, said family law expert Douglas NeJamie. He expects to see more, especially in states such as Utah that had sought to keep laws banning same-sex marriage on the books.
Many states have similar laws governing artificial insemination that had previously not applied to same-sex unions because the rules were specific to married couples, said NeJamie, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"This is an easy way to actually try and discriminate against same-sex couples," he said.