Child born in NJ will have 2 moms’ names listed on birth certificate

There will be a baby born this week whose birth certificate will list 2 women as the parents. That’s one of the effects of the ruling in NJ regarding gay marriage last month. While I am of “mixed emotions” on the matter of gay marriage (see my previous posts on it) I’ve got no internal conflict on this one: it’s a bad idea.

The fact of the matter is that this child has 1 female parent and 1 male parent. Upcoming genetic engineering efforts notwithstanding, that’s the way it works with our species. While I’m sure that listing the 2 women as parents (will the certificate actually say “Mother and Mother” or will one of them have to settle for the “father” slot?) will make matters easier for the couple in getting their newborn on their insurance and handling the issues of inheritance down the road, it will also break informational links. As a genealogist, it frankly stuns me to think of the yawning chasm this action will create for this child should he or she decide to trace their family tree in the years to come. Birth certificates are part of a set of documents called “vital records” and that’s no misnomer. Such a certificate provides a wealth of data, including the names of both parents. To purposely misidentify or omit a parent from that document will literally chop off an entire half of the child’s family tree.

And lest anyone jump up and say that the biological father’s family isn’t really family in this case or that knowledge of who he is is immaterial, allow me to remind that someone that medical history is a tricky thing to compute when you don’t have half the data. The father’s family might have a history of stroke or heart disease, specific cancers, or some kind of birth defect. Even if this child doesn’t suffer some defect personally, the risk will be carried by him or her into their own married life. The line of children to come (we assume) will deserve to be able to judge the risks based on the full picture. That’s a picture that’s being purposely cut in half on the altar of political correctness and expediency.

There are children all over the country whose loving parents aren’t the couple that produced them. They have a name on their birth certificate of someone who’s not relevant in their lives in any manner except genetically and they’re just fine. This action on the part of these 2 women isn’t being done with the child’s future in mind. There are ways to accommodate their legal needs without the vanity of seeing their own names on this child’s birth certificate. And vanity is all this is.

Vanity does not serve the child’s best interests. It is a shame the NJ judiciary doesn’t see that.



  1. The birth certificate is a legal document. As you’re aware, its purpose is primarily for legal, not genealogical ends. While as a historian, I can agree with you on some of the particulars of your objection, I am forced to look at the broader picture, one that extends past the issue of gay marriage and the NJ ruling.

    What do you have to say about children put up for adoption? In many cases, the details of the actual biological parents are expunged from the birth certificate, at the request of the parents themselves. Should they be required to be listed, on the chance that the child might someday pursue an interest in the family tree? As for medical history, the vast majority of Americans cannot produce a 4-generation family medical history. Most couldn’t do three with any accuracy.

    Given the current climate of medical insurance, legal issues surrounding familial rights, and so forth, I think the birth certificate listing the legal parents of this child is right. Until it is easy to handle the legal ramifications of parent-child relationships, this is the best way.

Comments are closed.