On May 31, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued guidance to hospitals advising them that, for pregnant same-sex female couples who are married at the time of birth, the hospital should list both spouses as their child’s parents on their child’s birth certificate.  

What does this announcement mean?

It means that if you are pregnant and married, the same procedures and policies about birth certificates apply whether your spouse is a man or a woman. So if you are pregnant and married to a woman, when you give birth, you can put both your name and your wife’s name on the child’s birth certificate without any questions asked.

If we’re both on the birth certificate, we don’t need to do an adoption, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. Having your name on your child’s birth certificate is not always enough to fully protect your rights as a parent. Until the law in this area is more settled, all couples (same-sex or different-sex) who conceive using donors should still do an adoption in order to guarantee full legal recognition for both parents—even if you’re married, and even if you’re both on the birth certificate. 

We are using a gestational carrier. Can we go on our child’s birth certificate without a court order?

No. When the woman who gives birth to a child is not one of the child’s intended parents, the intended parents must either obtain a pre-birth court order or complete a post-birth adoption proceeding resulting in a court order in order to be listed on the birth certificate. 

What kind of gender labels are used to identify a child’s parents on the birth certificate?

Currently, Pennsylvania birth certificates identify one parent as “mother/parent” and the other as “father/parent.” Pennsylvania is working on transitioning its vital records systems to non-heteronormative language that will label all parents as “mother/father/parent.” When the switch to a non-heteronormative system is accomplished, parents will be able to obtain birth certificates that will have the new parental labels.

Who should I talk to if I have more questions about birth certificate issues, or if the hospital doesn’t follow these rules?

The Department of Health’s recent guidance about birth certificates for same-sex female couples asks each Pennsylvania hospital to designate a point person for handling questions about this issue. In addition, please contact the ACLU of Pennsylvania if you have any concerns or problems with a hospital recognizing your marriage. If you have questions, you can email us at info@aclupa.org