Arkansas judge threatens to halt birth certificate issuance
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge has threatened to block the state from issuing new birth certificates if attorneys don’t quickly fix a birth certificate law that the U.S. Supreme Court says illegally favors heterosexual parents.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Monday gave attorneys for the state and three same-sex couples until Jan. 5 to find language that should be stricken from the state’s birth certificate law after the U.S. high court said it discriminated against married same-sex couples.
Fox wrote that if the attorneys in the case can’t come up with a solution by then “this court will have no alternative but to enjoin the issuance of any birth certificates by the (state) until such time as the General Assembly can convene, in either special or regular session, to remove the equal protection violation.” The state Legislature is scheduled to meet in February for a session focused primarily on the budget.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office declined to comment on Fox’s order, and an attorney for the couples did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June sided with Fox’s 2015 ruling striking down part of a law defining parents by gender. That overturned a decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court ordered Fox last month to come up with a way for the state to comply with the U.S. court’s decision.
The practice had been that the law generally required the name of the husband to appear on the birth certificate when a married woman gave birth in Arkansas regardless of whether he was the biological father. But married lesbian couples had to get a court order to have both spouses listed. The three couples who had sued the state were allowed to amend their children’s birth certificates in 2015 under a ruling issued by Fox.
Fox said in his Monday order that Rutledge must personally attend mediation with attorneys for the couples unless the parties submit proposed changes to the law beforehand. Rutledge, a Republican, had asked to be excused from attending mediation in person and had argued her assistants could handle those proceedings.
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