Iowa Supreme Court rules same sex parents must both be listed on birth certificates

By Kay Steiger
Friday, May 3, 2013 13:18 EDT
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Lesbian parents via Shutterstock
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The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Friday that the state must list both same sex parents on a child’s birth certificate, saying that not doing so violated the state’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law, according to the Associated Press.

The court took on the case of Melissa Gartner and her wife, Heather Martin Gartner, who have been together since 2003. The couple held a commitment ceremony in 2006, and had their first child shortly thereafter, going through the arduous adoption process so they could both be listed as parents. But when the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in 2009, the Gartners legally married that June. Six months later, they saw the birth of their second child, Mackenzie Jean Gartner.

When the Gartners submitted the paperwork for the birth certificate, listing both Melissa and Heather as parents along with proof that they were legally married, the birth certificate was returned to them, it only listed Heather as the parent and left the second parent’s name blank. The Gartners sued the state to have both of them listed as parents without going through the adoption process.

During 2011 arguments in the case, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Heather Adams argued that, thanks to gender-specific labels on vital statistics forms like birth certificates, it legally impossible to replace a “husband” with a same-sex “spouse,” the DeMoines Register reported.

The Supreme Court didn’t buy this argument and wrote in its 6-0 opinion, “The Gartners are in a legally recognized marriage, just like opposite-sex couples. The official recognition of their child as part of their family provides a basis for identifying and verifying the birth of their child, just as it does for opposite-sex couples. Additionally, married lesbian couples require accurate records of their child’s birth, as do their opposite-sex counterparts. The distinction for this purpose between married opposite-sex couples and married lesbian couples does not exist and cannot defeat an equal protection analysis.”

By using the word “husband” and applying it differently to same sex couples, the court’s ruling continued, “the statute treats married lesbian couples who conceive through artificial insemination using an anonymous sperm donor differently than married opposite-sex couples who conceive a child in the same manner.”

Read the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in its entirety.

Gartner v. Iowa Department of Public Health

[Lesbian parents via Shutterstock]

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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