Lambda Legal Asks Wisconsin Court for Swift Action in Case Seeking Accurate Birth Certificates for Same-Sex Couples

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September 11, 2015

Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in its federal lawsuit seeking an accurate birth certificate for the son of Chelsea and Jessamy Torres, a married lesbian couple, and other similarly situated same-sex couples in Wisconsin.

Kyle Palazzolo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal, said:

Every day that Chelsea, Jessamy, and their son are forced to wait for a two-parent birth certificate is another day that this family continues to feel the burden of discrimination and is at risk because they cannot demonstrate Jessamy’s parentage. The Supreme Court settled this issue months ago. Wisconsin is out of step with the rest of the country in refusing to recognize it, putting children and their parents at risk by depriving them of the basic identity documents they need. Birth certificates are the mechanism by which the state documents a child’s legal parent-child relationships, not biological connections, and they provide much needed protections and stability for children and families.

Chelsea and Jessamy live in Madison and were married in New York in September 2012. About a year after getting married, the couple started planning a family. They used assisted reproductive technology and after several attempts and significant cost, Chelsea was able to get pregnant. After an overall healthy pregnancy,

Chelsea was in labor for 72 hours and their son’s heart rate dropped dramatically at one point, requiring an emergency C-section. Their son was in intensive care for several days following his birth. The hospital staff treated the family very well, often referring to Jessamy as “Big Mom” and Chelsea as “Little Mom,” as Jessamy is 6’3” while Chelsea is 5’6”.

After their son’s birth, hospital staff instructed Jessamy to fill out the “father” part of the birth certificate application. A couple of weeks later, Chelsea received a form from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services asking for confirmation of the information that was provided to generate a birth certificate. The form did not contain any reference to Jessamy, effectively erasing her from the family in the eyes of the State. Today’s filing asks the court to rule in favor of Chelsea and Jessamy and all other similarly situated couples.

Lambda Legal has successfully litigated and advocated on behalf of married same-sex couples seeking accurate birth certificates for their children in Iowa, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere. Its Ohio case, Henry v. Hodges, was part of the six marriage cases consolidated in the historic June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that declared unconstitutional all state laws banning marriage for same-sex couples.

For more information about the case, Torres v. Rhoades see the case page.

Read the press release.

Along with Kyle Palazzolo, the Torres family is being represented by Camilla Taylor and Christopher Clark of Lambda Legal, Claire Lepak of Lovell-Lepak Law Office and Tamara Packard of Cullen Weston Pines & Bach in Madison, WI.