SACRAMENTO — The state Senate approved legislation Thursday that would make California the latest state to modify birth certificates to accommodate same-sex couples who become parents, but not before generating criticism from a Republican lawmaker.
Under the bill, birth certificates in California will have three check boxes for parents starting in January 2016: mother, father and parent. Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen voted against it, saying the change diminishes the traditional definition of parents.
"It removes the dignity of the term husband and wife, mother and father," said Nielsen, who represents a largely agricultural region in Northern California. "No one can argue this bill does not diminish the significance of those terms in American society. I urge a 'no' vote. Stand up for 'mother;' stand up for 'father.'"
In response, Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco said there is nothing offensive in the legislation and that it seeks to treat all couples equally by including all three terms as check-off boxes.
"There is no disrespect in using gender-neutral terms ... so everyone feels included," he said. "I support mothers and fathers; we can do both."
AB1951 by state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, passed on a 26-4 vote. It will return to the Assembly for a final vote on technical amendments before going to the governor.
If the bill is eventually signed into law, California would become the first state to make such an update to birth certificates legislatively. Several states have already done so through administrative action, said Josh Steichmann, a spokesman for Equality California, which sponsored the legislation.
Some California counties already use check-off boxes on birth certificates with the terms mother/parent or father/parent, but some continue to use just mother and father. The bill would ensure that the forms are standardized statewide, Steichmann said.
The old forms would have to be discarded, according to the bill.