After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2003, the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics needed to revise its birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The Registry had planned to change the box for “father” to “father or second parent,” but then-Governor Mitt Romney objected to the symbolic restructuring of the “traditional family,” and imposed a series of hoops for gay parents to jump through.
The Boston Globe recently acquired state records regarding the Governor’s handling of the new birth certificates. Every birth to a same-sex couple was reviewed by Romney’s top legal staff, who then decided if hospital officials and town clerks across the state could cross out “father’’ by hand on each individual birth certificate, and write in “second parent,’’ in ink.
Romney’s stipulations mainly resulted in delays for women married to same-sex partners who gave birth, whereas gay men were required to obtain a court order. In at least one case, a birth certificate was denied to a same-sex couple because they were not married.
By law, birth certificates must be issued within 10 days of birth, and and thanks to Romney’s bureaucratic red tape, some failed to meet that deadline. The Governor was also warned by a Department of Public Health lawyer that his system placed the children of same-sex parents at an unfair disadvantage:
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.”
The Romney administration also ran afoul of the Department of Public Health after it claimed that the decision to change the birth certificate form required an act of the state Legislature, though Wisenberg asserted that that decision lay with the DPH. In truth, Romney was and still is simply opposed to gay marriage and gay adoption, as he made abundantly clear on many occasions (and not so clear on a number of others).
Addressing a contingency of socially conservative voters in 2005, Romney said, “Some gays are actually having children born to them. It’s not right on paper. It’s not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and father.’’
Activist Zach Wahls has a different point of view. “The race, religion, or sexual orientation of parents should not matter,’’ the 19-year-old said. “The single most important factor is whether the parents are willing to put in the time, the blood, the sweat, and toil to do what it takes to raise children.’’