The US Circuit's 7th Court of Appeals issued its decision Friday, 32 months after hearing the case for the first time. The appeals court upheld the first instance court’s decision that, by refusing to list both spouses of the same sex as parents on birth certificates, Indiana was denying them one of the “constellations of benefits that states have linked to marriage” under the Supreme Court. marriage decision.
"Our clients are delighted," said Karen Celestino-Horseman, one of the lawyers for same-sex couples. "It takes a lot of weight off their shoulders. They are living as families and wondering if it would separate them."
Under Indiana law, spouses of the opposite sex who used artificial insemination could still register a woman's husband as the father of a child. However, same-sex couples were prohibited from doing the same. This meant that the non-biological mother would have to adopt what, according to Indiana, was the son outside of his wife's marriage.
When contacted by CNN, the Indiana attorney general's office said it was not available for comment.
A lower court had previously ruled in favor of same-sex couples in the case.
However, parents were still in limbo as to whether the appeals court would uphold that decision or whether a wife would have to go through what a lawyer described as the lengthy and expensive process of adopting her non-biological children.
Parents in death, but not in life
The decision brought relief and a sense of closure to the plaintiffs Crystal and Noell Allen.
After 16 years of partnership and two years of marriage, Crystal became pregnant with twins in 2015 using a sperm donor. Together with their 5-year-old daughter, the Allens were excited to welcome their new twins.
But after complications in the womb, Crystal gave birth to Ashton and Alivea at 19 weeks. They died shortly after birth.
While mourning the loss of their children, the hospital said it could not list Noell as a father on the birth certificate. However, she could be listed as a mother on her babies' death certificates.
"When we found out, it was like salt in a new wound," said Crystal. "It's okay to be associated with their deaths, but not with their birth. It resonated with me in a strange way about how our government officials felt about us and our families."
The twins' birth certificate now lists both parents.
The Allens found it painful to relive their children's deaths in court. They found it difficult to explain their death to their daughter Elon, who was 5 at the time. Now 10, Crystal says that Elon thought his brothers were rejoicing after the decision.
"I was explaining to her yesterday about what was the case and what it meant, and she said she bet that the twins are doing their happy dance," said Crystal.
The US Circuit's 7th Court of Appeals ruled the case for more than two and a half years – one of the longest rulings for that court, according to Celestino-Horseman.
While the case was pending before the judges, federal courts across the country ruled in favor of same-sex couples in similar cases of birth certificates.
Although Friday's decision provided some stability to the matter, the Indiana attorney general can still appeal the case to the Supreme Court. The court's decision expressly left open the thorny issue of a child's legal paternity when it came to same-sex couples. Since all the plaintiffs were women, the decision focused on female couples who used sperm donors.
When the Supreme Court decided in 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States, it opened a series of legal disputes. Now, states must decide on retirement and social security benefits for couples who have only recently been allowed to marry, among other issues.
"It is my hope and prayer that we can move forward with this," said Crystal Allen. "It is my hope that it will end."