Pro-LGBT Birth Certificate Bill Finds GOP Support

Andy Miller (left), shown with his partner Brian Stephens and their adopted son, Clark, was among those who testified in favor of the bill Wednesday.
Andy Miller (left), shown with his partner Brian Stephens and their adopted son, Clark, was among those who testified in favor of the bill Wednesday.

A Republican committee chairman smacked down an anti-LGBT witness Wednesday during a hearing on a proposal to allow same-sex parents to have both their names on the birth certificates of adopted children.

Julie Drenner, of Texas Values, claimed the bill would lead to threesomes adopting, affect all birth certificates and require the state to revise more than 20 forms.

But Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), chairman of the House Committee on State Affairs, told Drenner he was “struggling” with those arguments, and suggested that same-sex couples have been more willing to adopt special-needs children than “the traditional community.”

“That’s a terrible indictment on one group, to be honest with you,” Cook told Drenner. “In regards to your issue that you have to change the forms, so what? I really don’t understand that argument at all. Right now in Texas, we are struggling. We do not have enough parents who are willing to adopt. Thank goodness for people that will adopt children and give them loving homes.”

In 1997, the Legislature amended the Texas Health & Safety Code to require supplemental birth certificates issued to adoptive parents to contain the name of one female, the mother, and one male, the father. Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), the author of House Bill 537, said as a result, roughly 9,000 Texas children who are being raised by adoptive same-sex parents don’t have accurate birth certificates. That leads to problems enrolling children in school, adding them to insurance policies, admitting them for medical care and obtaining passports.

“Regardless of what you think about the parents, this state should be about promoting policies that protect children and foster adoption, and that’s what this bill does,” Anchia said.

Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana)
Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana)

Kirsten Edwards choked back tears as she told the committee that in addition to being a legal assistant to an adoption attorney, she’s the same-sex parent of a 2-year-old boy. Edwards, whose name is on her son’s birth certificate, said while the family hasn’t encountered any bureaucratic problems yet, she dreads the day her son asks why the document doesn’t include both mothers.

“I’ve thought about it a lot, and I have no idea what I’m going to tell him,” Edwards said.

Zoe Touchet, 14, said if her biological mom, who isn’t on her birth certificate, were to pass away, she’d be forced to go to court and unseal her adoption records to obtain Social Security benefits.

“I feel like as a child of same-gender parents, I’m not getting the same rights,” Zoe said. “I feel like I’m getting punished for something people shouldn’t be punished for.”

Anchia noted that two years ago, when Texas Values alleged the bill would lead to “mother” and “father” being removed from all birth certificates, PolitiFact said the claim was “mostly false.” Likewise, the bill states that “both” parents could be listed on birth certificates, thereby precluding threesomes.

“They’ve been fact-checked, and their contentions have not held up,” Anchia said of Texas Values. “I would not submit, members, to the politics of fear.”

Cook, who has an adopted child, left the bill pending but indicated he plans to call it back up.

“We owe it to young people like Zoe to give them some peace of mind on this issue and some clarity,” Cook said.

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 8:58 pm CST
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