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U.S. Supreme Court Reverses, Remands Arkansas Case

Written by Maggie McNeary

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision on Pavan v. Smith and sent the case back to the lower court in a decision Monday.

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

Pavan v. Smith deals with the right of same-sex parents to be included on a child’s birth certificate, according to court documents.

Leigh and Jana Jacobs and Terrah and Marisa Pavan are the petitioners in the case. Both sets of women are same-sex couples who had children through anonymous sperm donation, court documents show.

Leigh Jacobs and Marisa Pavan gave birth to their children in Arkansas in 2015, according to court documents. The couples filled out birth certificate paperwork listing both women as parents, but the Arkansas Department of Health issued certificates bearing only Leigh Jacobs’ and Marisa Pavan’s names.

“When a married woman gives birth in Arkansas, state law generally requires the name of the mother’s male spouse to appear on the child’s birth certificate — regardless of his biological relationship to the child,” according to Pavan v. Smith.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage, requires that same-sex and opposite sex couples be treated the same way in the eyes of the law.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the state didn’t need to “issue birth certificates including the female spouses of women who give birth in the state.” In the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the state court’s decision, the federal court decided that the “differential treatment infringes Obergefell’s commitment to provide same-sex couples the ‘constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage.’”

With that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling. It also sent the case back down “for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”

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Maggie McNeary

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