The words "mother" and "father" will be removed from U.S. passport applications and replaced with gender neutral terminology, according to the State Dept.
"The words in the old form were 'mother' and 'father'," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services Brenda Sprague. "They are now 'parent one' and 'parent two.'"
A statement on the State Department website noted: "These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child's parents and in recognition of different types of families."
Sprauge said the decision to remove the traditional parenting names was not an act of political correctness.
"We find that with changes in medical science and reproductive technology that we are confronting situations now that we would not have anticipated 10 or 15 years ago," she said.
Gay rights groups are hailing the decision.
"Changing the term mother and father to the more global term of parent allows many different types of families to be able to go and apply for a passport for their child without feeling like the government doesn't recognize their family," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Equality Council.
Her organization lobbied the government for several years to remove the words from passport applications.
"Our government needs to recognize that the family structure is changing," Chrisler said. "The best thing that we can do is support people who are raising kids in loving, stable families."
But some conservative Christians are outraged over the decision.
"Only in the topsy-turvy world of left-wing political correctness could it be considered an 'improvement' for a birth-related document to provide less information about the circumstances of that birth," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins wrote in a statement to Fox News Radio. "This is clearly designed to advance the causes of same-sex 'marriage' and homosexual parenting without statutory authority, and violates the spirit if not the letter of the Defense of Marriage Act."
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, agreed.
"It's part of an overall attempt at political correctness to diminish the distinction between men and women and to somehow suggest you don't need both a father and a mother to raise a child successfully," said Jeffress. "(This decision) was made to make homosexual couples feel more comfortable in rearing children."
Chrisler recounted the day she tried to get her twin sons passports.
"Even though my partner was their legal mother, had adopted them after I gave birth to them, she still had to put her name in the father field and that is both discriminatory and makes us feel like second class citizens," she said.
Sprague said she would not use the word discriminatory to describe the old passport form.
"I would prefer to use the word imprecise," she said. "It just didn't capture the reality of their situation. Clearly, we want to be sensitive to the feelings of other people, but we are also very conscious of our need to introduce the greatest degree of precision to the process."
Perkins accused the State Dept. of disrespecting the law and called on Congress to "take their oversight rule very seriously and intervene in both these circumstances."
"The State Department's abolition of motherhood and fatherhood would be almost comical, if it did not fly in the face of mounting social science evidence that children are most likely to thrive when born into a family led by their own married biological mother and father," Perkins said.
The new gender-neutral passport will be rolled out in February.