Judge orders DHEC to amend birth certificate for same-sex couple

Published: Sep. 10, 2015 at 6:44 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2015 at 6:44 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A family court judge has ordered DHEC to issue an amended birth certificate to a married same-sex Lexington County couple, an attorney for the couple said Thursday.

The order, issued on Aug. 26, came after a three-year legal battle with parents Katie and Tracie Bradacs had with DHEC trying to get the agency to list them both as parents.

"This is huge for us, we are beyond ecstatic and relieved we finally got it done," Tracie Bradacs said. "We also felt that other people in the same situation should know how DHEC now treats birth certificates."

Tracie is the birth mother of the 3-year-old twins, and her spouse, Katie Bradacs, supplied the eggs. They used a Lexington fertility clinic.

When the twins Baylie and Colbie were born in July 2012 at Lexington Medical Center, the Bradacs asked the hospital to put both their names on the birth certificate but the hospital refused to list Katie's name on it.

On the DHEC-approved certificate, there is a place for mother and for father. Tracie Bradacs' name went under "mother," and the space under "father" was left blank.

The couple met as police officers in bordering Lexington County towns and were married in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 2012. At the time, South Carolina was one of a many states that did not recognize same-sex marriage.

In judge Seigler's order, he noted that the Bradacs' had, in 2013, filed and won what became a landmark lawsuit in federal court. In November 2014, U.S. Judge Michelle Childs ruled that South Carolina must recognize same-sex marriages of couples wed outside its borders.

But after Childs ruled, DHEC still wouldn't put Katie's name on the birth certificate, Attorney John Nichols said.

On June 30, the Bradacs filed a suit in the 11th Circuit Family Court in Lexington County.

Nichols, the Columbia lawyer who, with John McDougall, represented the Bradacs in the birth certificate action, said getting Katie Bradacs' name on the birth certificate has significant practical implications.

If one of the children became hospitalized and Tracie Bradacs was unavailable, Katie Bradacs "would be viewed as a stranger, and not a parent," Nichols said. "She would also not have access to information regarding education. This makes life much, much easier as a parent."

DHEC complied after the family court ruling and issued the amended birth certificate on Aug. 31.

The new birth certificate now has the names of both spouses listed as parents. However, right now, Katie Bradacs is listed as the "father" of their twin children.

"I would hope that DHEC would go ahead and simply put 'parent' on the form," Nichols said. "The Bradacs' don't want the publicity, they just want to be parents to their kids. They are wonderful people who are just like everyone else."

On Thursday DHEC released the following statement:

"South Carolina's statutes and regulations on registration of births focus primarily on collecting and recording the actual facts of birth, not the legal status. That is why the birth mother and biological father are listed on the original birth record. This allows our department to keep accurate vital statistics for our state. 

In order for a birth certificate to be legally changed to include two same-sex individuals as the parents of a child, assuming one of the two individuals is the biological parent, DHEC requires one of two legal certifications:

A certificate of adoption by which the non-biological parent completes a second-parent adoption of the child; or

An order of a South Carolina Family Court finding that the two individuals are the legal parents of the child and directing DHEC to list the individuals as the parents on the birth record."

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