By Monica Luhar, KCET, August 22, 2014
California birth certificates could be getting a makeover after a bill pushing for the accurate identification and self-designation of same-sex couples on birth certificates was sent to the Governor this week.
AB 1951 would eliminate the need for same-sex parents to inaccurately place a partner’s name in the wrong “Father” or “Mother” field, according to the bill’s language. Instead, same-sex couples would be able to fill out the following options on a child’s birth certificate: Mother, Father, and a gender-neutral parent option.
In 2007, the Vital Statistics Advisory Board made changes to birth certificates by adding a section that would read “Mother/Parent,” and “Father/Parent,” to recognize domestic partners. Currently, the process follows so that same-sex parents must place a partner’s name in the “father” or “mother” categories.
Jim Faulkner, spokesperson for Equality California, explained that the bill goes one step further by accurately reflecting the gender of a child’s parent/parents by allowing each individual parent to be identified as a mother, father, or parent. “The hope is that now the law will reflect the diversity of California families as LGBT shouldn’t have to navigate the confusion created by having designations on their child’s birth certificate that do not match who they are,” he told KCET.
The bill falls in the midst of the recent June 2013 ruling which restored the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. It also falls within recent legislation that aims to honor the correct gender identity of transgender people on death certificates.
Census data shows that there are more than 590,000 same-sex couple households in the U.S with 90,000 couples, 15,000 of which with children, residing in California, according to Equality California. “There has been a decline of domestic partnerships because more same-sex couples are choosing to be married instead of registering as domestic partners,” the organization noted.
If the bill becomes law, California would become the first state that would allow same-sex couples to list themselves with an appropriate designation as “Mother/Mother,” “Father/Father,” or simply just a parent.
“I believe that parents do see themselves as mother or father and that they want to express that on their birth certificates. We shouldn’t paint over our differences by having the term ‘Parent 1’ or ‘Parent 2.’ We should give people the flexibility to reflect their relationship with their child,” Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, the bill’s author, told KCET. “In other states, same-sex couples are forced to say Parent 1 and Parent 2. That’s why I’m emphasizing that it’s okay to have two mothers or fathers on a birth certificate.”
The bill is currently on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for approval, and, if signed, would go into effect in 2016.
An amendment to the current version of the bill would also allow current same-sex couples with children the opportunity to update their child’s birth certificate to the new birth certificate format starting in 2016, according to Gomez.
“In the long term, it will change the way people view the family structure and view each other,” Gomez noted. “In the future, it won’t be a debate; it will be something that is commonly accepted.”