San Diego

San Diego Couple Fight to Both Be Named on Their Baby's Birth Certificate

NBC 7 Investigates found parental rights are not guaranteed in the state of California for same-sex couples that aren’t married.

This story has been updated.

As a parent, having your name on your child's birth certificate is very important. Without it, you can't enroll your child in school or make medical decisions on their behalf. 

But Chrissy LaBrecque, a North Park resident, said she is being denied that right, even though she's the biological mother of her infant son. 

NBC 7 Investigates found out about her situation because Chrissy works at NBC 7 in San Diego. 

Her baby, named Camden, was born through in-vitro fertilization, a difficult and expensive process. 

LaBrecque’s longtime partner, Andrea Roehl, carried and delivered him. 

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Andrea Roehl and her partner Chrissy LaBrecque.

“The best thing about being a mom is just seeing the baby grow,” LaBrecque said. 

LaBrecque loves her new role as Camden's mom but she said the state of California will not accept her as his parent.

Andrea Roehl and Chrissy LaBrecque leaving the hospital with their newborn son Camden.

Camden was born at the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center. When Chrissy and Andrea filled out Camden's birth certificate at Kaiser, the couple said there was no place on the certificate where they could both be listed as his parent. 

“We just thought she's the mother and I'm the mother. It should be fine,” Roehl said. 

As the woman who carried and delivered Camden, Andrea Roehl was the only parent listed on the birth certificate.

A Supreme Court ruling last year allows same-sex couples to both be listed as parents, but only if they are married. 

LaBrecque and Roehl are not. 

“We chose not to be married first and spend our money towards making a baby,” Roehl said. 

The couple would find out that was a big problem. Since LaBrecque isn’t listed on Camden's birth certificate, she cannot collect Paid Family Leave or money that all new working parents are entitled to in California. 

“I finally got somebody on the phone and they said well we need a birth certificate. You know your name has to be on it in order to get paid from the state,” LaBrecque said. 

The couple went back to Kaiser, for help but they said hospital staff told them there was nothing they could do because the paperwork had already been sent to the state Department of Public Health, which certifies birth certificates. 

A spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente would not agree to an on-camera interview, nor would they answer specific questions from NBC 7. 

Jennifer Dailard, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente, sent NBC 7 this statement, "At Kaiser Permanente, the safety and care of our patients is paramount at all times. While we cannot comment on a specific case due to privacy laws, regarding matters related to the completion of birth certificates for individuals who are not married or in a legally registered domestic partnership, we must follow the law and specific direction of the courts in all instances." 

NBC 7 Investigates found the staff at Kaiser were following the law, but it’s those laws that some feel are the problem. 

“There is one area of law that has not evolved as quickly as the others and that's with respect to unmarried unregistered same-gender couples,” said Leigh Kretzschmar, a Family Law attorney. 

Kretzschmar said that policy isn't fair because unmarried, heterosexual parents can establish paternity by simply signing what’s called a “Declaration of Paternity”. That can be done in the hospital after the child is born or soon thereafter. But unmarried, same-sex couples don't have that option. 

“Same gender couples are forced to go get a court order. They're forced to go through an expensive process,” Kretzschmar said. “It can easily be a $3,000 to $5,000 extra step that they have to undergo whereas opposite gender couples don't have to do that.” 

Family Law Attorney Leigh Kretzschmar said when it comes to parental rights of same-sex couples, this is, "one area of law that has not evolved as quickly as the others."

Another option is that LaBrecque could "adopt' her own biological child, which also takes times and costs money. 

“I would have to adopt my own biological son,” LaBrecque said. “I mean it sounds absolutely insane.” 

LaBrecque and Roehl believe it's discrimination and they want same-sex parents, transgender parents, and their children to be treated equally. 

“I mean this is California in 2018 almost 2019,” LaBrecque said. “There should be some sort of paperwork that matches up to what heterosexual couples are signing in the hospital, the declaration of paternity that they get to sign. It is a huge emotional burden on both Andrea and me.” 

A recently passed state law, AB-2684, will fix this problem for unmarried gay and lesbian couples. The law allows couples to be listed on their child’s birth certificate, without going to court.

That law will take effect in 2020. 

But, that’s not going to help couples like LaBrecque and Roehl. LaBrecque said she and her partner will most likely have to receive a court order from a judge, in order to be listed on Camden’s birth certificate as his parent.

UPDATE: A previous version of this story had said AB-2684 hadn’t been voted on when in fact it was approved in September 2018.

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