John M. Becker

Romney Refused to Offer Accurate Birth Certificates to Children of Same-Sex Couples

Filed By John M. Becker | October 25, 2012 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: birth certificates, gay adoption, gay parents, Mitt Romney

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized marriage equality, finding that the state had no compelling reason to "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry." romney_bully2.pngMinor adjustments were presumably needed in the many agencies of state government that deal with marriage and family in order to bring Massachusetts into compliance with the court's ruling. One such agency, the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, said that it needed to modify the parental designations on birth certificates in order to be inclusive of same-sex parents.

However, the Boston Globe has uncovered extensive documentation showing that then-Governor Mitt Romney, an outspoken opponent of marriage equality who also opposed child-rearing by gay and lesbian couples, refused to accept the Registry of Vital Records plan, opting instead to convey his disdain for same-sex parents by making the process of obtaining accurate birth certificates for their children as difficult and cumbersome as possible.

He rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney's lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word "father'' on individual birth certificates, and then write in "second parent,'' in ink.

Divisions between the governor's office and state bureaucrats over the language on the forms and details about the extraordinary effort by the Republican governor to prevent routine recording of births to gay parents are contained in state records obtained by the Globe this month. [emphases added]

According to the Globe's report, the practice of refusing to issue accurate birth certificates for the children of same-sex couples without what the paper calls a "high-level legal review" continued for the duration of Romney's gubernatorial term. A lawyer for the Massachusetts Department of Health, which oversees the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, warned the Romney administration that such onerous requirements violated state law and could actually harm children of same-sex couples later in life, but the warning was ignored.

According to the Globe's report, the practice of refusing to issue accurate birth certificates for the children of same-sex couples without what the paper calls a "high-level legal review" continued for the duration of Romney's gubernatorial term. A lawyer for the Massachusetts Department of Health, which oversees the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, warned the Romney administration that such onerous requirements violated state law and could actually harm children of same-sex couples later in life, but the warning was ignored.

Crossouts and handwritten alterations constituted "violations of existing statutes'' and harmed "the integrity of the vital record-keeping system,'' the deputy general counsel of the department, Peggy Wiesenberg, warned in a confidential Dec. 13, 2004, memo to Mark Nielsen, Romney's general counsel.

The changes also would impair law enforcement and security efforts in a post-9/11 world, she said, and children with altered certificates would be likely to "encounter [difficulties] later in life . . . as they try to register for school, or apply for a passport or a driver's license, or enlist in the military, or register to vote." [emphasis added]

Most of the birth-certificate reviews appeared superficial, but records obtained by the Globe make it clear that Romney's office was looking for any excuse to deny these requests:

In one instance, in which a couple asked that the handwritten alteration for the second parent say "wife" instead of second parent, the request was denied. In another, [Romney lawyer] Leske refused to allow a birth certificate to be issued listing a same-sex couple as the parents because they were not married.

That's right: Governor Romney opposed the right of same-sex couples to marry in the first place, and then his lawyers refused a same-sex couple's request that both partners be listed on their newborn's birth certificate - because they weren't married.

Mitt Romney's humiliating birth-certificate review requirement apparently only applied to married lesbian couples in which one of the two spouses gave birth. Gay male couples had it even worse -- the Romney administration required them to obtain a court order before they would authorize changes to a child's birth certificate and acknowledge the parenthood of both fathers.

In 2005, the Massachusetts' Town Clerks Association publicly complained about the Romney administration's refusal to allow updated birth certificate forms, calling the handwritten alterations mandated by the governor's policy "inappropriate." Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom -- now a trusted adviser and top aide on Romney's presidential campaign -- claimed that changes to official forms could only be made through an act of the state Legislature; however, Department of Public Health attorney Wiesenberg told the administration one year earlier that the DPH had the authority to make the changes, but a Romney staff lawyer rebuffed her via email, saying that "there appear to be many complicated issues that should be discussed with many different communities before the changes are made.''

Excuse me?!? The Romney administration believed that acknowledging the children of same-sex couples was a "complicated issue" that needed to be "discussed with many different communities?" Please explain, Mitt: exactly how many "different communities" do you think gay and lesbian couples should have to obtain permission from before you'll allow both spouses to be legally recognized as parents to their own children?

According to the Globe, the Romney campaign has declined to comment on this story.

LGBT-inclusive parental designations did not appear on birth certificate forms in the State of Massachusetts until Mitt Romney left office to pursue the presidency and Democratic Governor Deval Patrick succeeded him.

I am absolutely stunned and incredibly disturbed by the Globe's findings. The fact that Mitt Romney would go so far out of his way to humiliate and degrade same-sex couples, even as they celebrated one of life's most profoundly joyous experiences -- the birth of a child -- displays a level of contempt for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people and our families that can only be described as shocking. Romney's record, both as Governor of Massachusetts and as a presidential candidate, demonstrates that he's not satisfied with "merely" opposing the rights of LGBT people to be protected from bullying, to marry the person they love, and to start families. No, his enmity towards us is so deeply pervasive and so viciously fervent that he has no problem actively harming our children.

Such a cruel and heartless man doesn't deserve to govern anyone, much less serve as President of the United States.


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