Arkansas resumes issuing birth certificates after judge halted program

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas has resumed issuing birth certificates after the governor ordered the Health Department to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and list the spouse of the woman who gives birth as a parent, regardless of gender. A state Department of Health spokeswoman says the agency resumed issuing and amending certificates Friday, less than two hours after halting because of an order by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox. 

According to the governor's office, the Health Department must also issue two corrected birth certificates that list both spouses, if they would have been entitled to be named on the first certificate. The department is also required to now issue forms that accurately list female spouses of women who give birth on their child's certificate. 

On Friday, Fox set aside his orders requiring the state and three same-sex couples go into mediation on how to fix the state law to comply with the U.S. high court's order. 

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge earlier this week asked the state Supreme Court to stay or lift Fox's mediation order.

"This case has been pending for over two years and it has been more than six months since the United States Supreme Court ruled the Arkansas statutory scheme unconstitutional," Fox wrote in his order. "There are citizens and residents of the state of Arkansas whose constitutional rights are being violated on a daily basis."

Fox last month had threatened to halt the issuance of birth certificates if both sides couldn't find language by Jan. 5 to be stricken from the law. Rutledge told the court this week that both sides had agreed on an order on how to comply with the high court ruling, but Fox rejected it. A spokeswoman for Rutledge said the AG's office was reviewing Fox's order and did not have an immediate comment. 

In his order, Fox said he was hopeful Gov. Asa Hutchinson would have the authority to fix the birth certificate law through executive action. If the state is unable to fix the law, Fox said, the injunction would be in effect until lawmakers could address the issue. Lawmakers are not scheduled to convene again until February for a session focused on the budget. Hutchinson could call a special session.

The U.S. high court ruled in June that Arkansas' birth certificate law illegally favors heterosexual parents. Fox said Friday that the law still doesn't comply with that ruling and ordered the department to stop issuing certificates. 

Within hours, Gov. Asa Hutchinson directed the department to treat married lesbian couples the same as married heterosexual couples and list both spouses on the birth certificate. 

Arkansas issues, amends and replaces roughly 400 to 500 birth certificates a day.