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Wisconsin Lesbian Couple Fights for Both Names to be on Child’s Birth Certificate

Courtesy of Karina Willes
Karina Willes (left) and Kami Young hold their baby daughter, Olivia.

Karina Willes and Kami Young were married in Minnesota in late 2013. The spring of the next year, Young gave birth to their daughter, Olivia. And Willes attempted to get her name included on the girl’s birth certificate, receiving advice from the ACLU on how to do that.  

“And it was suggested that we cross off the field on the form said ‘husband’ and change it, and we attempted to do so. The hospital representative told us that she couldn’t submit the form that way, that the software that she used to submit the form wouldn’t accept my information in that field,” Willes says.

Willes says it’s important for her to be legally recognized as her daughter’s mother. She says the recognition would not just be symbolic.

“I love my daughter more than anything in this world, and I want to be able to provide her the financial security should something happen to me. You know, my Social Security benefits. My daughter should be entitled to survivorship benefits, and right now she’s not,” Willes says.

While Willes and Young were married out-of-state, before same-sex marriage become legal in Wisconsin, the unions now are legal here.

“So what that means is that same-sex couples should be treated the same as different-sex couples,” says ACLU Executive Director Chris Ahmuty.

“One of the aspects of Wisconsin law is that the male spouse of a woman who has a baby is presumed to be the father and goes on the birth certificate. There’s no testing to see if he really is the father or anything like that. It’s simply because he’s the husband at the time of the birth. So we think it’s only right that Wisconsin law provides the same for same-sex couples,” Ahmuty says.

This week, the ACLU asked the district court that ruled in favor of same-sex marriages to weigh in on whether Willes can have her name on the birth certificate.

“We think it certainly is covered by the court’s ruling, but the state has been slow to actually implement that. So that’s why we’ve gone back into court to get the court to clarify what’s going on here, and to make sure that the state -- even if (it isn’t) happy with losing the case -- abides by the case,” Ahmuty says.

The state Department of Justice says it will file a brief in a few weeks. As of now, the department has no comment.

Action the U.S. Supreme Court takes could affect any outcome here. The court will hear arguments next week on whether states have the power to ban same-sex marriage, in a case involving four states. Some observers believe the ruling will settle the question over same-sex marriage rights nationwide, once and for all.

Ann-Elise Henzl became News Director in September 2017.
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