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U.S. Supreme Court case could impact Indiana birth certificate case

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A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could have an impact on an Indiana case currently under review in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a summary decision, the high court overturned the opinion of the Arkansas Supreme Court in Pavan v. Smith regarding the issuances of two-parent birth certificates to same-sex couples. Two same sex couples that used anonymous donor sperm to conceive sued the state of Arkansas when the state refused to issue birth certificates for their children listing both spouses as the parents. The Arkansas Supreme Court ultimately decided to adhere to state law, thereby denying same-sex couples the right to have both parents on the birth certificate, however the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that position.

The case is very similar to Henderson v. Adams here in Indiana. The case here involves eight same-sex couples in Indiana who challenged the state law dictating that only the mother and presumed father can be listed in the birth certificate. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled the law as unconstitutional last year. But Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill decided to proceed with an appeal after taking office in January.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the case last month and attorneys are currently waiting for the panel’s opinion. Karen Celestino-Horseman — attorney for the same-sex couples — plans to bring the Pavan v. Smith decision to the attention of the appellate court.

“This very much could impact our case,” says Celestino-Horseman. “We are preparing to file a supplemental notice of authority to inform the seventh circuit that this case is very much on point with our case.”

She notes that in the Arkansas case, the U.S. Supreme Court points directly their own decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, stating that same-sex couples are to be given all of the same rights, terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples — the exact same point that Celestino-Horseman argued to the appellate court.

Indiana’s attorneys argued that the issuance of a certificate of birth wasn’t about the rights of the parents but rather the biological record of the child.  Like the Arkansas case, Hoosier same-sex couples countered that argument by saying that the law is unfair because paternity is assumed with opposite-sex couples and they aren’t required to reveal if donor sperm is used.

Celestino-Horseman admits that the Pavan v. Smith decision isn’t a guarantee that the appeals court will rule in favor of her clients, but says the case should carry some weight in their opinion.

“It will either be a short opinion or a long one,” she says.

The justices were not unanimous in the Pavan v. Smith decision. Justices Gorsuch, Thomas and Alito dissented with Gorsuch writing the dissent opinion.


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