Cases & Advocacy

Chin v. Armstrong

Status: Closed

Outcome: Victory

Location: 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 refused to recognize same-sex spouses on birth certificates, even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 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, was 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.

In the spring of 2016, after the lawsuit was filed, the Office of Vital Statistics began issuing birth certificates listing both same-sex spouses as parents. In December 2016, the parties reached a settlement. The settlement requires the state to continue treating married same-sex couples the same as other married couples with respect to birth certificates, as well as to issue amended birth certificates free of charge to any married same-sex couple previously denied a birth certificate listing both spouses as parents.

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