New nuclear family in N.J.: Baby and two moms

/ Source: The Associated Press

In some of the first legal fallout from a state Supreme Court ruling that gives same-sex couples in New Jersey access to the same rights as married couples, two women will be listed on the birth certificate of a baby born this week in Burlington County.

In a closed family court proceeding on Monday, the state and the women agreed that both women should be listed as the baby's parents in light of the landmark high court ruling last month. A judge agreed with the state and the women, lawyers said.

The Supreme Court last month ruled that gay and lesbian couples should have the same rights in New Jersey as married couples. But the court left working out the details — including the important one of whether the unions should be called "marriages" — to lawmakers and gave them six months to act.

In the decision, the court specifically mentioned the state's artificial insemination law. Under it, the husband of a woman who gives birth after being artificially inseminated is listed on the birth certificate as the father. But no such provision is made in the law for lesbian couples and, usually, only the birth mother is listed on the baby's birth certificate.

As a result, lesbian couples often go through lengthy and costly adoptions to give both women equal rights as parents.

Parental rights are especially important to children because they establish inheritance rights and custody should a parent die. Listing both parents on a birth certificate also allow the child to be covered by the health insurance of either parent.

The Burlington County women, who are registered as domestic partners in New Jersey, did not want their names made public, said their lawyer, Stephen Hyland.

Hyland said his clients' question is one of many legal issues the state may have to iron out before the Legislature takes action on gay unions.

Other issues, he said, include whether the rights for same-sex couples should be retroactive. For instance, should babies conceived by artificial insemination to lesbian couples before last month's ruling have both women listed on their birth certificates? Also, for children born that way in other states, how should their parentage be recognized in New Jersey?

Assistant Attorney General Patrick DeAlmeida said Hyland's clients are the first he knows of in New Jersey to take advantage of new rights granted by the Oct. 25 Supreme Court ruling.

DeAlmeida said the state has not taken a position on whether the rights granted in the landmark decision should be retroactive.