Florida's First Married Same-Sex Couple Sues for LGBT Parents' Birth Certificate Recognition

Pareto and Arduello on their wedding day.
Pareto and Arduello on their wedding day.
Photo by Jonathan Kendall

Same-sex marriage became legal in Miami-Dade on January 5 (one day before the rest of the state), and Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello were the first couple in Florida to get married

Since that historic day, Florida has dragged its feet on catching up to reality. LGBT people can still be fired or denied housing based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Florida's marriage licenses still only list options for a bride and a groom. And the state refuses to list the names of both same-sex parents on children's birth certificates. 

Well, Pareto and Arguello, who were also co-plaintiffs in the case that brought gay marriage to the state, recently welcomed the addition of twins to the family, but then found out only one of the women could be listed on the birth certificate. They've now filed another lawsuit against the state's Bureau of Vital Statistic, a division of the Department of Health. Two other couples are also co-plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, which is being handled by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Florida. 

“There isn’t a moment that goes by that I’m not thinking of the harm my children — my newborns — may face because we aren’t being treated like other families,” said Pareto in a statement. “All I want to do is love, protect, and provide the best opportunities for our children. The state’s refusal to recognize that they have two parents and to list both of us on the birth certificates is demeaning and hurtful. My children have two parents, and we should both be listed on their birth certificates.”

The contest is the latest in a wave of similar lawsuits in other states seeking to allow two same-sex parents to be listed on a birth certificate. Parents listed on a birth certificate do not have to be the child's biological parents. For example, in Florida if a child is adopted, the birth certificate can be updated to list the name of the adoptive parents. 

“Attorney General Pam Bondi could have avoided yet another costly lawsuit by directing all state agencies to simply comply with the law. Instead, she turned her back on repeated requests to take action,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida in a statement. “Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a new born baby's family. Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections. Denying our families this is not only spiteful and harmful, it is illegal.”

The Bureau of Vital Statistics does not comment on pending legislation but did address the issue when another set of lesbian mothers asked the Bureau late last month, according to My Fox Tampa Bay

"We do not have an official response at this time regarding married same-sex parents' to be listed on the birth record at the hospital at the time of their child's birth," Bureau of Vital Statistics employee Betty Shannon told that couple in an email. "The department is analyzing the extent of our authority to pursue solutions to this issue." 

Equality Florida says the state needs to come up with a fix quickly.

"Not having an accurate birth certificate denies children with same-sex parents the dignity, legitimacy, security, support, and protections available upon birth to children of married different-sex parents," reads the release from Equality Florida. "It also prevents parents from taking care of their children’s everyday needs like obtaining healthcare, making medical decisions, signing up for daycare, and enrolling in government programs and benefits."

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