Adoption STAR Associate Director Michael Hill writes about what the recent Supreme Court of the United States ruling means to his family.
After my youngest son Seth’s adoption had been finalized in late 2012, I spent much of the early part of 2013 anxiously awaiting a copy of his birth certificate to arrive. Adoption finalization is what triggers the opportunity to secure a copy of an adopted child’s birth certificate with the adoptive parents’ names on it. As we all know, the birth certificate is the paramount document when it comes to personal identification. We needed it to make all the appropriate plans for Seth’s young life (and beyond).
By late spring of 2013, I still had not received a copy of Seth’s birth certificate. I decided to contact the necessary entities in the State of Ohio for some insight, as that’s the state that Seth was born in (and ultimately they were the only ones that could issue a birth certificate). I won’t divulge the entire back story behind what happened once I made my initial contact with the appropriate authorities in Ohio (it’s WAY too long of a story), but here’s the Reader’s Digest version: In spite of the fact that my husband and I are a legally married, New York State-based same sex couple, the State of Ohio would not grant us a birth certificate with both of our names on it strictly as a result of their refusal to recognize our marriage.
Again, our adoption had already been finalized. All the related legal documentation, which had been thoroughly reviewed and approved by New York and Ohio, clearly listed both of us as parents to our son. New York is the place that we live and that our son is being raised in. Yet, as a result of having parents of the same gender, our son’s state of origin was not going to give us a copy of the document we felt we deserved. Although, as I mentioned earlier, that’s not completely true. Ohio was indeed willing to give us a copy of our son’s birth certificate if we agreed to list only one of us on the document itself…all we had to do was decide which one of us that would be.
How were we to go about picking just one of us? What kinds of quandaries would our son (and our family in general) experience as a result of choosing to accept a birth certificate that only had one parent’s name on it? Why is it acceptable for Ohio to put us (and many other LGBT families) in such a predicament? Without much deliberation at all, my husband and I discovered we were very much on the same page with this, as none of it felt “right.” We were totally unwilling to be put in the position to have only one of our names listed on our son’s birth certificate, so we refused to secure one.
As per the advice of an attorney, we sent a formal request to Ohio for a copy of a birth certificate with both of our names on it. In the fall of 2014, Ohio issued us a formal denial of that request. We were disappointed…but not surprised. At least now we had a copy of an official denial from the state. Our denial, along with the denials for many other LGBT legally married adoptive parents, were really beginning to stack up. It was only a matter of time before someone noticed and started to think, “Hmm…this is odd. Isn’t the adopted child being adversely affected strictly as a result of having a same sex couple as parents?”
Fast forward to June 26th, 2015. The Supreme Court of the United States issues a ruling that makes gay marriage the law of the land. On June 29th, I contacted the state of Ohio to request a copy of a birth certificate for our now three-year-old son. I wound up communicating with three different individuals, all of whom informed me that I would now indeed be able to get a birth certificate for my son with both my husband’s and my name on it (and, by the way, the aforementioned three Ohio State employees could not have been kinder or more prompt in answering all of my questions).
After the completion of just two more very short forms, we will finally be able to get a birth certificate for Seth, which means we’ll also be able to get him a social security number, a passport, life insurance, and so much more.
Big, historic, momentous events like this are impactful and “felt” by everyone in our country in some way, shape or form. But for our family, this decision truly means the world to us. I am forever grateful to the five Supreme Court Justices that made up the “majority opinion” on this ruling, as well as the incredible plaintiffs that took this fight to the highest court in the land (especially Adoption STAR’s own clients – Joe Vitale, Rob Talmas, and their adorable son Cooper Talmas-Vitale). On behalf of same sex couples across the country that had legal marriages in their home state but adopted children from states that didn’t recognize gay marriage, THANK YOU. Congratulations on your courage, commitment, and dedication. You now have, and always will have, our family’s deep respect and admiration.