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Same-sex couple claims to be the first to appear on a child's birth certificate

19 April 2010
Appeared in BioNews 554

A lesbian couple has claimed to be the UK's first to be both named on their child's birth certificate. Natalie Woods and Betty Knowles signed the certificate after the birth of Lily-May Betty Woods, who was conceived using donor sperm.

 The couple claimed to be the first to take advantage of the new provisions on legal parenthood under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act 2008. The Act allows female same-sex couples to be jointly named the as legal parents of a child. Women in a civil partnership, but who did not give birth to the child, will automatically be named on the birth certificate along with the birth mother - unless they make a written objection or can show that they did not consent to their partner's treatment. Women who give birth following treatment that is licensed under the HFE Act 2008, but who are not in a civil partnership, can still nominate a second woman to be named as the child's 'parent' - provided that woman gives consent.

Miss Woods - who gave birth to Lily-May - is automatically recognised as the legal mother. If donated sperm is obtained via a Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)-licensed clinic a sperm donor is not recognised as the legal father. Prior to the change in the law made by the HFE Act 2008, however, Miss Knowles would have had to go to court to gain parental responsibility.

Miss Woods told the Telegraph: 'Compared to having to go through the courts, this is really straightforward and the way it should be.'

'It's also good that we don't have any of the worries and concerns of me being the only legal parent. It is quite a milestone, as the fact that same sex parents can both be on the birth certificate shows that our kind of family is becoming more acceptable'.

Some campaigning groups have criticised the decision to allow non-biological parents to be named on birth certificates. Josephine Quintavalle from Comment on Reproductive Ethics told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: 'Birth certificates should reflect how a baby is generated'.

'As much as you try to play around with the terminology, the biology reflects what has happened and one day the child will ask about their father'.

Currently, if a male same-sex couple had a child with the assistance of a surrogate, the surrogate would automatically be the legal mother. It would be possible for one of the men to be named on the birth certificate from birth, but not both. To gain legal parenthood a Parental Order would have to be granted by a judge.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Lesbian couple becomes first same sex couple to sign joint birth certificate
Daily Telegraph |  19 April 2010
Lesbian mothers become first gay couple to sign up as parents
Daily Mail |  19 April 2010
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