Lauren Gray, NCLR lgray@nclrights.org / (215) 983-3099

Arkansas Governor Directs Arkansas Department of Health to Comply with U.S. Supreme Court Decision and Issue Birth Certificates to the Children of Same-Sex Married Couples
In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Pavan v. Smith that marriage equality requires that same-sex married couples and different-sex married couples be treated the same under the law

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark. December 8, 2017)—Today, after an order from Arkansas Circuit Court Judge requiring Arkansas to comply with the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Pavan v. Smith, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson directed the state via a letter to Arkansas Department of Health Director Nathaniel Smith to begin issuing accurate birth certificates to same-sex married parents. The directive requires the state to issue birth certificates to same-sex married parents, provide free corrected copies to parents who were denied accurate birth certificates, and direct hospital administrators to treat same-sex parents equally.

Pavan v. Smith was filed in Arkansas after the state denied same-sex married couples the right to be named on their children’s birth certificates just as other married parents are. Refusing to list both parents on their children’s birth certificates complicates parents’ ability to consent to emergency medical care, enroll children in school or recreational sports, travel abroad, and generally care for their children. By treating these families differently, the state also subjected them to official stigma and bias, sending a message that they are unworthy of equal recognition by the state. The Arkansas families in Pavan were represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Ropes & Gray LLP, and Arkansas attorney Cheryl Maples.

“We are pleased Governor Hutchinson is taking this step to ensure that married same-sex parents in Arkansas are treated equally. This is settled law,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Catherine Sakimura.

In Pavan v. Smith, married couple Marisa and Terrah Pavan, like many couples, used an anonymous sperm donor to conceive their child. And in 2015, the Pavan family gave birth to their daughter in their home state of Arkansas. At the hospital, the Pavans completed an application for their child’s birth certificate, listing both spouses as parents. But the Arkansas Department of Health unilaterally decided to omit Marisa’s name on the birth certificate, listing Terrah as the only parent. The state treated these parents’ marriage as though it did not exist.

Under Arkansas law, when a married couple has a child, the spouse of the birth mother is automatically listed on the birth certificate as the child’s parent, regardless of how the couple conceived the child or whether the spouse is genetically related to the child. Both the Pavan and Jacobs families were denied this right. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Pavan v. Smith reiterates the Supreme Court’s earlier marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and requires different-sex and same-sex married couples to be treated equally under the law.


 The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org