Sunday, November 8, 2015

Genealogy & Same Sex Marriage

With a definitive victory for basic human rights, my question is a simple one: how will same sex marriage affect genealogy?

Unfortunately, battles over issuing marriage licenses continue, even though they should not. I do hope soon, however, this will be a thing of the past and civil records for births, marriages, and deaths will move forward without the parties to the record being an issue.

It's only logical to wonder how this will affect birth certificates, however. I think there needs to be a way to accommodate the changing family dynamic. Vital records are an important part of genealogical research as we put together a picture of our family tree and heritage. Does this mean that a same-sex couple should be denied when they want to both be listed as a child's parents?

No, and I think there should be a way to do this without compromising the accuracy genealogists hold dear. I hope towns, cities, and states will consider adding fields to their forms that allow the inclusion of both the biological parents and adoptive parents or spouses/partners who may not be a child's natural mother or father.

That would allow the inclusion of not just the biological parents (if all names are known), but also of those who will actually be a child's family and rearing that child. There is no reason to exclude a same-sex partner for fear of sacrificing accuracy and biological facts.

How often if a name on a birth certificate left blank, because the name of the father is not known or the mother is not 100% certain, or simply does not want the father to have rights to the child? How often is a name wrong because there was, perhaps, an adulterous situation or the husband is listed simply because that's for the best (as may be the case with some of my great-grandmother's children)?

There are plenty of instances of single parents where a biological parent is listed on the birth certificate, yet has no familial bond to a child. While it is nice to have that information for a child so someday they can learn more about a mother or father who has not been present in their life, a same-sex spouse should also be included because they are part of the family.

The same goes for genealogical software. It should offer the capability to connect two people of the same sex in marriage. In my family, there are a few same sex marriages, and I should be able to add a cousin's spouse to my database without having to resort to simply typing a note in my cousin's entry that her wife is so-and-so. I want to be able to include complete information on these marriages and treat them as any other marriage, without the software limiting me to only connecting men and women.

Is it time for town clerks to change more than their approach to marriage licenses? Is it time for genealogy software to open up the possibilities for marriages involving two people of the same sex? I say yes, definitely.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

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