Same-Sex Parents Under Fire in Iowa, Despite Marriage

The state of Iowa has made two moves this week that challenge the rights of same-sex parents.

First, Governor Terry Branstad’s (R) administration announced it will appeal a state district court ruling that said a child born to a lesbian couple married in that state has the right to have the names of both her parents on her birth certificate.

According to an Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) spokeswoman quoted by the Des Moines Register, the state filed the appeal “because it specifically addresses a situation in which a child is born to married lesbian mothers who conceive through the use of an anonymous sperm donor, but does not address the birth of children to married gays and lesbians who conceive in alternate ways.” (My own report on the background of the case, before the district court ruling, is at Keen News Service.) Lambda Legal contends that the earlier ruling, plus the fact that same-sex couples can legally marry in the state, is sufficient to cover all situations.

And yesterday, Lambda Legal filed suit against the Iowa Department of Public Health on behalf of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer, a married Iowa couple seeking an accurate death certificate for their stillborn baby, Brayden. The couple completed the death certificate form, putting their names in the spaces for parents, and indicating that they were married. When they received the death certificate, IDPH had erased Jenny’s name.

As Camilla Taylor, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, said:

A different-sex married couple grieving a similar loss would receive a two-parent death certificate with no questions asked.  Death certificates and other vital records like birth certificates document legal parentage, and not biology. To white out a mother’s name from her stillborn baby’s death certificate is cruel to a family that is already devastated.

Winning marriage rights is wonderful. The progress we’ve seen in California and Washington State this week is heartening. But even after marriage rights, we will still have a long way to go before equality.

[Update: Lambda Legal has launched a petition on Change.org for people to urge the Iowa Department of Public Health to issue the Buntemeyers an accurate death certificate for their baby.]