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Why Is It ‘Policy’ For Some States To ‘Flag’ Birth Certificates Of Children Adopted By Gay Parents?

by David Badash on April 14, 2013

in Civil Rights,Discrimination,Marriage,News

Post image for Why Is It ‘Policy’ For Some States To ‘Flag’ Birth Certificates Of Children Adopted By Gay Parents?

Why is it “policy” for some states to “flag” — to place a hold on — the birth certificates of children adopted by gay parents, when they don’t do that for adopted children of opposite-sex parents? Why do some states think they have to review the actions of same-sex parents?

Because in the eyes of many state governments, and the federal government, same-sex parents aren’t equal under the law, and that inequality allows, or even requires by law or policy, additional scrutiny.

There are 650,000 same-sex couples across the country today, many of whom are raising 250,000 children.

This week, one Nashville, Tennessee same-sex couple applying for a social security card for their adopted son, Micah, were told his birth certificate would be “flagged” until 2033 by the Georgia State Department Of Vital Records. “It’s the policy,” they were told. But why?

Brian Copeland, in a lengthy Facebook post, says he prides himself “on living a complaint-free, low-drama happy life,” but, as he explains, basic issues aren’t very basic for same-sex couples in most states — especially states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage. Copeland, in a telephone interview yesterday told me he and his husband, Greg Bullard, have a “biblical marriage” — Greg is a pastor — but they are not legally married. “We felt that since we were married in God’s eyes, that we didn’t need to worry about being married by the state.”

Tennessee doesn’t offer marriage to same-sex couples, so marrying to ensure legal protections for their family is not an option for Brian and Greg — nor do they want to travel up to Washington state or New England to marry, especially since their marriage wouldn’t be recognized in their home state anyway.

Brian, a Realtor by trade, was the first parent to adopt Micah, whom they’ve had since birth nineteen months ago. Then they had to go through a “second parent adoption” process to have Greg become Micah’s legal parent also — a far more challenging process that married opposite-sex couples don’t face.


Husbands Brian Copeland and Greg Bullard, and their son Micah

“After receiving Micah’s birth certificate in the mail yesterday, I was the first in line this morning at the social security office to get his social security number,” Brian wrote on Friday. “This was my third visit due to the hoops Greg and I had to jump through since second parent adoptions aren’t the easiest processes to navigate.”

“When I sat at the truly awesome man’s desk to proudly turn over the final documentation, he quickly entered the birth certificate numbers into the system. There was no record matching Micah’s,” Brian wrote:

“I called Georgia’s vital records department and spoke to the equally as wonderful man who handles adoptions. After searching he said, ‘Oh, you have a uh…uh…partner. I had to flag that file. It’s the policy.’ Confused, I repeated that information to the SS man in Nashville. He told me to ask when the flag would be removed. Georgia’s answer, ’2033.’ Yes, 20 years from now. The sweet Nashville man looked perplexed and said, ‘Mr. Copeland, I have to have that verification.’

“I immediately broken [sic] into uncontrollable, mourning-death tears. He handed me Kleenex and hurried off for an answer. As I laid my head on the desk, all I could see was photos of Micah in my head. A sweet, innocent child who can’t have certain college funds until he has a social. A little boy who just needs a simple bureaucratic number. A little boy who was part of a loving family, being treated unfairly as an American citizen.

“When social security employee returned, he was visibly shaken and his heart was broken, too. He went on to tell me, while the normal process would take 2-4 weeks, he wasn’t sure how long Micah’s would take. We would have to go through a manual approval and another set of red tape and paperwork, all because our family doesn’t share the same equality as every other family in America. As I drove off, I called Greg in even worse tears. To hear the pain in his voice broker [sic] my heart even more.”

Brian was very quick to tell me that he does not want to attack anyone — this is no one’s fault, this is a policy issue that only “the Supreme Court and Congress” can fix, because until same-sex couples are equal under state and federal law, this will continue to happen.

His first comment to me was, “we’ll be fine.” Copeland and his husband have become adept at jumping through bureaucratic hoops, and Brian, as you can see from his Facebook post above, holds no anger or animus for the “truly awesome,” “sweet,” and “wonderful” state and federal employees he has dealt with in Tennessee and Georgia.

But Brian’s concern, as he told me, is “about all the other families” — all the other same-sex couples who perhaps aren’t as skilled at hoop-jumping, or as lucky or bureaucratically-adept as he and Greg seem to feel.

“It’s clear from our case this should be a federal issue — someone in Colorado or Oregon, not as well-connected” would have even greater difficulty, Brian says.

Georgia, where Micah was born, is not alone. State regulations and policies on treatment of same-sex couple adoptions vary widely — even depending on who’s governor.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney directed his legal staff to investigate the circumstances surrounding the birth of each and every child born or registered to same-sex parents, before allowing the state to approve issuing them a birth certificate for their newborn children.

Romney, who was governor from 2003 – 2007, “insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word ‘father’ on individual birth certificates, and then write in ‘second parent,’ in ink,” the Boston Globe reported last year.

That Brian and Greg can adopt jointly in Tennessee may in itself be remarkable. In many states across the U.S., joint or second parent adoption — adoption by two people not legally married — is illegal. In some states the statutes are unclear or undefined. And in some states, like Michigan or Nebraska, for example, a single person — gay or straight — can adopt, but an unmarried couple cannot.

Regular readers know well the plight of Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, a lesbian couple from suburban Detroit who were forced to file a suit in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of Michigan’s 2004 law banning same-sex marriages — after trying to merely adopt jointly their three children that Michigan refused to believe they were capable of raising as a same-sex couple. The two women, both nurses, literally saved the lives of the three children they, one by one, adopted.

The federal judge in that case — which originally was filed only for the purpose of establishing the right to adopt, not the right to marry — advised the pair to refile to challenge the marriage law. That case is pending decision until the Supreme Court has ruled on DOMA and Prop 8.

Regardless, Brian and Greg love Tennessee. “We believe in Tennessee,” Brian says, and “we will be a voice here.” They have no plans to leave the state.

skitched-20130413-212001And, perhaps because of their persistence and optimism, there is good news.

Many people they know who were against same-sex marriage told Brian they thought that civil unions were sufficient for same-sex couples, but this story has changed their minds.

Brian tells me that because of their story, conservatives, Republicans, and Tea Party supporters he knows in the South and across the nation have changed their tune — although some say they can’t publicly state that position yet. Even a conservative radio talk show host has told him, after hearing of all their challenges, that he was wrong, and now understands why same-sex marriage is necessary.

And more good news.

Brian got a call from the Social Security Administration.

“Ok. The power of communication,” Brian posted to Facebook hours after his ordeal. “I just received a voicemail from an 800 number and someone at social security saying this would be expedited, giving me their name and extension. Two weeks max. Praise God! HEAR ME CLEARLY, this isn’t just about MY family. This is about the hundreds of thousands of families who will continue to experience this. Many will not have the connections or loving people I have and will deal with the inequality. It still must end. This should not have happened. I love you all. Still make your calls…for the other families!”


Images via Brian Copeland, and used by permission.

This article has been updated for clarity.

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JeanBurlamaqui April 14, 2013 at 11:02 am

Same-sex marriage is an injustice, an insult to the noble faculty of reason, and an absolute mockery of: the Laws of Nature, civil society, and the preservation and perfection of mankind.

The broken families which same-sex marriages purposely create are necessarily vicious toward those naturally occurring consanguineous obligations between family members from which nations, sociability, and benevolence have naturally emanated.

Children are not pets one purchases from rescue shelters (adoption clinics) and puppy mills (insemination and surrogacy). Children are human beings endowed with a natural desire to be procreated from an act of love between a husband and a wife. Same-sex marriage is adulterous by nature and thereby destructive to civilization.

In fine, same-sex marriage is an unnatural extravagance which the supporters most ignorantly claim to be a “right”.

“No one has a right to do that which, if everybody did it, would destroy society.” —Immanuel Kant

quinceyquick April 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

If everybody practiced celibacy, it would destroy society.

If everybody had parents who loved one another and who loved them, it would not destroy society.

Plus, Kant's ethical theory is flawed in so many ways. Maybe get your ethical code from someone who lived in this century.

Scott_Rose April 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

According to Kant then, the American military never had a right to test nuclear weapons.

Serenifly April 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

This idiot also trolled Towleroad

Scott_Rose April 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I fail to understand how your hateful heterosupremacist rant applies to the case of Edith Windsor and Thea Speyer.

Siddigfan April 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm

I sincerely believe that your hatred and bigotry are an 'insult to the noble faculty of reason' and an insult to the teachings of Christ.

Scott_Rose April 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Please sign this petition to tell U.T. President Powers to acknowledge that U.T.’s Mark Regnerus is lying about having had autonomy from his funders. Regnerus and his anti-gay-rights funders are now promoting their hoax “study” to the Supreme Court. Read the petition text for more details. Share the link to this petition far and wide. Consider, also, reposting it, along with your own message about it, to President Powers’ Facebook page (see link to President Powers’ page in the first comment box below).

Siddigfan April 14, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Thank you, Scott! Has been reposted to Facebook and Tumblr and I've signed the petition and commented on Powers' Facebook page. I'm the proud mother of a gay trans son and I thank you for the heads up on this dirty study of which I've read so much about. It stinks to Heaven, this bigotry and hatred that so called "Christians" are full of. I'm a Christian and I don't see how these false Christians can be so full of hate and evil and claim that they are friends of Jesus!

pandemicsoul April 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm

It's unfortunate that these two parents who have been the victim of a malicious, homophobic bureaucratic process are so willing to let off the hook the legislators who helped make it happen. It IS someone's fault! These parents are in this situation because of the people who put laws into place (or refuse to endow the law with the appropriate protections) that created this inequality.

Calling it "no one's fault," and clinging to some ridiculous notion that anyone has a "low-drama" life — as if the rest of us are just drama queens for being upset about inequality — gives away all the power to actually do anything about this, and gives a pass to the people who helped make it happen.

Stop being apologists to the system. Stop assuming that the Supreme Court is going to fix everything. You can make a difference by talking to your legislators, demanding that they take action, and fighting against the atmosphere that allows this type of legislative homophobia to exist. Being passive never helped anyone make a situation better. Being visible, passionate, and informed is how to win the day.

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