Erin Porterfield and Kristin Williams are fighting to have themselves named as the legal parents of their two children after the state of Nebraska has repeatedly refused.
The couple broke up in 2013 after both gave birth to one child while they were together. Porterfield gave birth to their first son, Kadin, 19 years ago. Three years later, Williams gave birth to their second child, Cameron.
Same-sex couples couldn’t legally marry in Nebraska when the children were born so both of them only had their biological mothers listed on their birth certificates. After repeated attempts to add an additional parent to their certificates, the state has refused unless they get married.
Currently, each parent has been granted temporary in loco parentis (or “in place of parent”) rights over the other’s biological child, but they do not have full parental rights.
Williams and Porterfield filed a lawsuit against the state of Nebraska on Monday claiming that the state’s decision violated their constitutional rights by discriminating against them for being women.
Lesbian moms sue after state refuses to list them on their kids’ birth certificates. https://t.co/W2TWIDzOY9
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Their case seems pretty clear-cut.
“If you had a man and a woman in this exact same scenario, not together anymore, never married, do not want to get married, so we don’t have adoption available to them, all the man needs to do is go and sign an acknowledgment of paternity and he gets put onto the birth certificate and it is a legal order then that he is a parent,” Angela Dunne, a managing partner at the plaintiffs’ legal firm, told WOWT. “Erin and Kristin can’t do that because they’re women.”
“We were never able to marry because by the time the supreme court had awarded that right to gay people, we had split as a couple,” Williams said. “We continued to care for both of our children as any couple would with shared custody.”
The lawsuit also petitions the state to allow anyone, regardless of gender, to be able to provide voluntary acknowledgment of paternity rights.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says that the parents’ request falls outside of the power granted to the state’s executive branch. The DHHS said in a letter that “at this time, the only routes to legal parentage under Nebraska law are through marital presumption, adoption, or biological relationship.”
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.via Gage Skidmore / Flickr
The state’s governor, Republican Pete Ricketts agrees with the DHHS. However, he misstated the facts of the case in a statement to KETV.
“The couple had the opportunity to get married and chose not to,” Rickets incorrectly told KETV. “So, we looked at how Nebraska law reads and we applied Nebraska law.”
No, the couple didn’t have the chance to get married because they broke up two years before it was legal in Nebraska.
It’s ridiculous that the state’s governor is pushing back against the couple’s request because it’s legal for same-sex couples to get married and adopt in Nebraska. It’s also legal for a man to put his name on the birth certificate of a child, regardless of his relationship to the other parent.
All Williams and Porterfield want is the security of knowing their children are cared for in case of an emergency and that they have the rights of inheritance that any children of a straight couple would enjoy.
But unfortunately, they are forced to fight a battle that should have been settled long ago.
“Our sons are our entire world and we want to make sure we’re doing right by them,” Porterfield said in a statement released by the ACLU. “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. It’s about looking out for our sons.”