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Lesbian Couples Take Birth Certificate Request To Federal Judge

Noah Coffey

Eight lesbian couples are going to a federal judge to try changing birth certificates. The couples involved argue that the certificates should list both parents.

Indiana birth certificates list the birth mother and the father.  For a lesbian couple like Nicki and Tonya Bush-Sawyer, that leaves one of them out. 

Nicki is their son’s biological mother.  Speaking outside the courthouse, she says the legal situation is particularly hard for them because she works full-time and Tonya takes care of their son.

“If anything were to happen and she were to take him to the hospital in the middle of the day while I’m working or if I’m traveling for work, she technically is not his parent and would not have any rights to make any medical decisions for him,” she says.

The Bush-Sawyers are going through the adoption process to resolve the issue, but it’s expensive.  The state says any non-biological parent should do the same – even heterosexual couples that use a sperm donor.  But attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman, who represents the same-sex couples, says Indiana law makes it easy for heterosexual couples to find their way around that complicated process.

She can say ‘I want my husband to be listed as the father on the birth certificate.’  She doesn’t have to provide any proof – that’s it,” she says. “He gets to walk out of the hospital with all the legal rights of a parent.”

The state says the issue is one that the legislature, not a court, should decide.  The federal judge did not give a timetable for her ruling.  

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.