- For Attorneys
The Fourteenth Amendment protects a parent's freedom of choice in
naming one's child, and a state may not interfere with that right arbitrarily.
Since parents have a constitutionally protected right to choose the name of
their child, the state must at least show that any intrusion on that right has
a reasonable relationship to some state purpose. Accordingly, a statute
requiring an unmarried mother to register the child by the mother's
surname, while allowing a married mother to designate the child's surname
violates equal protection. However, it has been held that parents do not
have a constitutionally protected right to give a child a surname at birth with
which that child has no legally recognized parental connection.
Consequently, a statute pursuant to which the surname given to a child at
birth has to have a connection with at least one legally verifiable parent does
not unconstitutionally restrict the rights of parents.
Parents who have taken responsibility for the child have equal decisional
rights respecting that child. Under this view, no preference is accorded to
either the paternal or the maternal surname, and there is no legal
impediment to prevent married parents from giving their child the mother's