Why Is Arkansas Keeping Same-Sex Parents Off Their Kids’ Birth Certificates?

This is seriously setting back marriage equality in the state.

Just when you thought the fight against the Supreme Court's landmark marriage equality decision was ramping down, the Arkansas Supreme Court waded back into the fray on Thursday when it moved to temporarily block a lower court's order allowing same-sex parents to be listed on their children's birth certificates.

According to a Reuters report, the issues began after three lesbian couples challenged the Arkansas Health Department Vital Statistics Bureau's refusal to "identify the three couples as the adoptive or biological parents" of their children.

The couples had gotten the right to be listed -- as long as they were married prior to the child's birth -- when Little Rock Circuit Judge Tim Fox approved it on Dec. 1 and then extended that recognition across the state, arguing that restricting the rights of parents to be identified to only heterosexual couples was unconstitutional. At that point, the state appealed, saying Fox's ruling conflicted with Arkansas statutes, leaving birth registrars wondering what they were supposed to legally do.

The families who filed suit said they need the non-birthing spouse to be listed on the birth certificate to quality for health insurance and other benefits.

"The issues presented are complex, with portions of a statute being struck and substantial additions being made to a provision of the Arkansas Code by the circuit court," the state Supreme Court wrote in Thursday's majority opinion. "Substantial confusion could result if the circuit court's order were to remain in effect and subsequently be altered by a decision of this court on appeal."

The Court agreed with the state that, "the best course of action is to preserve the status quo with regard to the statutory provisions while we consider the circuit court's ruling." In other words, no automatic same-sex couple names listed on birth certificates until the courts figure it all out.

This isn't the first state where birth certificate laws have been challenged since marriage equality passed, with previous fights in Nebraska, Florida and Texas.

While the three Arkansas couples who filed the suit can get the birth certificates they were after, according to the Advocate, the state health department said all other married same-sex parents would need to get a court order to be listed as parents while the lower court ruling is on hold. At press time it was not clear when the state supreme court might issue its ruling.