CINCINNATI - What's in a name?
Three same sex-couples, including former Warren resident Kelly McCracken and her partner, Kelly Noe, are fighting in court to have their names placed on the birth certificates of their unborn children.
Three of the women in the relationships are expecting to have children in Cincinnati area hospitals over the next several months. Each of the couples was married in states in which same-sex marriages are recognized.
McCracken, 31, was raised in Warren and is the lead singer of the musical group The Kelleys. She and Noe, also 31, were married in 2011 in Provincetown, Mass. They have known each other since 2007.
Noe is six months pregnant. Noe and McCracken began talking about having a child as a couple more than a year ago. Noe became pregnant through artificial insemination.
They are part of a lawsuit with fellow plaintiff couples Brittani Henry and Brittni Rogers, Georgia Nicole Yorksmith and Pamela Yorksmith, and Joseph J. Vitale and Robert Talmas, and Adoptive S.T.A.R., Inc.
The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order against Dr. Theodore E. Wymyslo, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, and Dr. Camille Jones, registrar for the Cincinnati Health Department.
"All of the plaintiffs seek an order requiring Ohio to recognize their same-sex marriages with respect to their requests for birth certificates," the lawsuit says.
McCracken and Noe became involved in the lawsuit just days before it was filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District Of Ohio, by attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein of Gerhardstein & Branch Co.
"We only were looking to begin collecting the paperwork I would need and always carry around with me to identify myself as having legal and medical power of attorney for our child if something were to happen to my wife," McCracken said.
The attorney the couple went to see, Lisa Meeks, asked if they wanted to be a part of this lawsuit and they agreed.
"The birth certificate does not just define paternity, but parental rights," McCracken said. "Without my name on the birth certificate I will have to carry a large stack of papers establishing who I am in connection with my child."
McCracken never imagined being in the forefront of this kind of legal battle.
"But I'm glad it is working out this way," she said. "We are making a simple request. We're not asking for special rights. We are looking to have the same rights of other families. We're getting a lot of support from a lot of our gay and straight friends."
Noe said having McCracken's name on their baby's birth certificate will impact their child's life forever.
"It will help the child when he or she attempts to get a passport and driver's license," Noe said. "It will help establish a sense of self worth because the child will know that both parents loved and wanted him or her from the beginning."
Noe said the hardest part of their journey has been the intimidation the couple felt while attempting to pick a donor to get pregnant.
"There are people who do not believe in how we live and what we are doing," Noe said. "I work at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and there are parents who may not feel comfortable with me with their children. I sometime worry about that."
"We never intended to become the face of this case," Noe said. "But we can't spend time worrying about it. We just have to swallow hard and go for it. We have good support systems with our friends and families. Others have been very supportive of us.''
Although McCracken and Noe said their interest is focused on their child and not a battle for same sex marriage in Ohio, their attorney readily admitted the suit is part of a process to eventually legalize gay marriage in Ohio.
In December, Gerhardstein's law firm won a lawsuit in which the surviving spouse of a same sex couple married in another state sought to have his name placed on the deceased partner's death certificate.
"It is all a step-by-step process," Gerhardstein said. "This is a process to have same sex marriage recognized in Ohio. We are not seeking all the relief at one time. We are establishing precedents for the more complicated issues."
Phil Burress, a leader with Citizens for Community Values, a pro-family organization based in the Cincinnati area, says the lawsuit does not make any sense.
"If these women were impregnated through artificial insemination, then they should put the father as unknown on the birth certificate," Burress said. "The birth certificate lists the father and the mother, not the mother and the mother or the father and the father."
Burress said this lawsuit is a Hail Mary pass by supporters of gay marriage to provide legal precedents when they attempt to get same sex marriage legalized.
Burress was one of the primary supporters of a 2004 amendment that constitutionally defines marriage as being between one man and one woman in Ohio.
"They are trying to force same sex marriages in Ohio, when 62 percent of Ohio voters said it is between a man and a woman," Burress said.