Omaha, Nebraska moms Erin Porterfield and Kristin Williams have spent the last year fighting for something many take for granted—the right to be listed on their children’s birth certificates.
Porterfield and Williams, represented by the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sued the state last year after the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly denied the former couple’s request to amend their son’s birth certificate to include both of their names. The proud co-parents of two boys, Porterfield and Williams each conceived a son through a sperm donor and are currently listed on the birth certificates accordingly.
“Our sons are our entire world and we want to make sure we’re doing right by them,” Porterfield said when the lawsuit was filed. “Our boys have a right to the security of having both parents on their birth certificates, a required document in so many life changes and decisions. That’s why this matters to us.” Without both of their names listed on the birth certificate, the mothers argued that their children’s eligibility for government benefits could be affected if something happened to one of them.
“While we spend our parenting time the same as most good parents — showing up for show choir and band competitions, making sure homework is done, teaching values and manners, and gently guiding our boys to be their truest selves regardless of cultural expectations — we haven’t had the luxury of peace of mind that should something happen to one of us our boys would seamlessly be afforded the government benefits other families take for granted,” Williams added.
Despite their assertions that allowing both parents to be listed would protect their children and that the denial of listing both was discriminatory toward unmarried, same-sex couples, a Nebraska judge has ruled that both women cannot be listed according to state law.
Lancaster County District Judge Ryan Post cited Nebraska state law which requires parents listed on birth certificates be the biological parents of the child and that paternity must be acknowledged. “The court certainly understands why plaintiffs seek a policy change,” Post wrote. “But that policy decision is for the Legislature, not this court.”
If you are interested in advocating for this change but don’t live in Nebraska, you can reach out to the Nebraska ACLU for more information on how you can help. Nebraskans can contact their state representatives in support of introducing a new bill that might allow unmarried, same-sex couples to both be listed on birth certificates.