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Case Summary & History

Family & Relationships

Case: Chin v. Armstrong

STATUS: Pending. Florida

Florida law requires the Office of Vital Statistics to list a birth mother’s husband on the child’s birth certificate. After Florida gained marriage equality on January 6, 2015, the state was obligated to start providing same-sex spouses with all the same rights given to different-sex spouses, including the right to an accurate birth certificate listing both spouses as parents. Despite repeated requests, the Florida Office of Vital Statistics has refused to recognize same-sex spouses on birth certificates, even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that all states must fully recognize all marriages between same-sex spouses.

On August 13, 2015, married same-sex couples Debbie and Kari Chin and Yadira Arenas and Alma Vazquez filed a federal lawsuit challenging Florida’s refusal to issue them accurate birth certificates listing both spouses as parents of their children. Equality Florida, the largest organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Floridians, is also a plaintiff in the case.

Debbie and Kari Chin have been together for 15 years and were married in Boston in 2013. Kari is a social worker with a local school district, while Debbie, a former elementary school teacher, is a stay-at-home mother to their two children. When Kari gave birth to their second child, a son, in February 2015, they were told that Debbie could not be listed on his birth certificate.

Yadira Arenas and Alma Vazquez have been together for three years and were married in New York in 2013. Alma is a medical assistant in a pediatric office and Yadira is a pharmacy technician. When Alma gave birth to their first child, a daughter, in March 2015, they were not allowed to put Yadira on the birth certificate as a parent, and Alma was told that she had to be listed as an unmarried mother on the form.

On October 16, 2015, the couples asked the court for immediate protection for their families. The request for a preliminary injunction says: “Defendants’ discriminatory denial of equal birth certificates to Plaintiffs and their children … violates plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry and to have their marriages treated equally and denies these families the privacy, dignity, legitimacy, security, support, and protections available to similarly-situated married different-sex parents and their children. There is no justification, let alone a constitutionally adequate one, for imposing these irreparable harms on the Plaintiffs’ families.”

On December 9, 2015, the couples asked the federal court to decide the case without a trial. The filing explains that the state’s refusal to put same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates as it does for different-sex spouses violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex and different sex spouses must be treated equally in all respects. There are no additional facts needed to show that Florida is violating the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and other Florida families.

The parents are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Florida Attorneys Mary Meeks and Elizabeth Schwartz.

Read the December 9, 2015 request.

Read the complaint.

Read the Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

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