National Center for Lesbian Rights

Cases & Advocacy

Henderson v. Box

When Indiana began allowing same-sex couples to marry in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that same-sex couples have a right to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Indiana Department of Vital Records refused to place same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates as they do for different-sex spouses. Eight female same-sex couples who conceived children through sperm donation sought the right to be recognized on their children’s birth certificates in federal court. In 2016, the federal District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ordered the state to begin placing the spouses of people who give birth on their children’s birth certificate regardless of the gender of the spouse. The state of Indiana appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which in January 2020 upheld the ruling and ordered the state to treat same-sex and different-sex couples equally, noting that Obergefell v. Hodges required this equal treatment and that the U.S. Supreme Court had also specifically required states to place same-sex spouses on birth certificates according to the same procedures available to different-sex spouses in Pavan v. Smith.

The state of Indiana filed a Petition for Certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case in June 2020. The Supreme Court denied their Petition on December 14, 2020, upholding the Seventh Circuit’s opinion that Indiana must list same-sex spouses on their children’s birth certificates in the same manner that it does for different-sex spouses. NCLR, along with Ropes & Gray LLP, represents the couples before the U.S. Supreme Court, along with Indiana counsel Karen Celestino-Horseman, Raymond Faust, Richard Mann, and William Groth.

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