Marriage equality does not equal parentage equality

Bill Singer
Bill Singer, Esq.
Singer & Fedun. LLC

With the jubilation over the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, a misapprehension has arisen that just being married confers legal parentage. Don’t be confused. Marriage and parentage are intertwined, but they are not equal and should not be conflated.

Vital Statistics puts the spouse of a woman who gives birth on a birth certificate based on a marital presumption — it is presumed that the mother’s spouse is biologically the second parent of the child. Because it is a presumption, it can be rebutted by proof that the named individual is not biologically related to the child.

When a birth certificate has been challenged, courts have consistently held that the birth certificate is only an administrative record of what was reported. A birth certificate cannot convey or terminate parentage.

Everyone uses birth certificates in daily life. Yet, a birth certificate is merely indicia of parentage — it is not proof of parentage. For example, agencies like Social Security have denied benefits to a child when the non-biological parent only had a birth certificate to prove her parentage.

Parentage comes in many forms. Laws about parentage are nuanced. They change from state to state, as well as internationally.

If a person is not biologically related to a child, she must obtain a judicial adoption or parentage order to confirm parentage.

About Bill Singer
Bill Singer, a partner at Singer & Fedun, LLC, has been in the private practice of law in New Jersey for over 41 years. His practice concentrates on the creation and protection of non-traditional families and as counselor to non-profit organizations. He counsels families about the options to form families, including adoption and assisted reproductive technology. He also advises clients how to best protect themselves and their loved ones through life and estate planning. Bill has served as the General Counsel for the National LGBT Bar Association since its founding in the 1980’s and serves as General Counsel to the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the ACLU-NJ, the New Jersey Sierra Club and the New Jersey Association for Justice. Bill is the founder and Director of the LGBT Family Law Institute, an organization for attorneys who specialize in LGBT family law. He is the legal advisor to Family By Design, the community of parenting partnerships. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys and a member of the National Family Law Advisory Council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In 2013, the National LGBT Bar Association named Bill as the inaugural winner of the “Leading Practitioner Award.” The year before, Bill was awarded the Bill of Rights Award from the American Civil Liberties Union – New Jersey, the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association and the Presidential Award from the New Jersey Association for Justice, Inc.


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