Iowa court: Married same-sex parents must be on birth certificate

May 04, 2013|By Michael Mello
  • Families celebrate the 2009 state Supreme Court ruling in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa. The court ruled May 3, 2013, that Iowa parents in same-sex marriages must be allowed to have both their names listed on their newborns birth certificat.
Families celebrate the 2009 state Supreme Court ruling in favor of legalizing… (Christopher Gannon / Associated…)

Iowa parents in same-sex marriages must be allowed to have both their names listed on their newborn’s birth certificate, the state’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled.

Officials with the state’s Department of Public Health have insisted on listing a biological parent on the birth certificate, a practice the high court said last week was unconstitutional.

The high court legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa in 2009.

Until the ruling last week, Iowa had been the only state in the nation that allowed marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples but refused to list both spouses on birth certificates of their children, according to Camilla Taylor, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group involved in the case.

In the written opinion, reported by the Associated Press, Justice David Wiggins noted that discrepancy:

“It is important for our laws to recognize that married lesbian couples who have children enjoy the same benefits and burdens as married opposite-sex couples who have children.”

Heather and Melissa Gartner of Des Moines filed the lawsuit that prompted the Supreme Court decision after the department listed only Heather as a parent of their daughter in 2009.

Taylor said hundreds of same-sex couples in Iowa have been denied accurate birth certificates since 2009.

A spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, which works on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said the court’s decision brings the state closer to true marriage equality.

“One of the rights of those in a marriage is to be presumed to be the parents of the children,” said Sarah Warbelow, the HRC’s state legislative director.

Before, some same-sex couples had to work through an adoption process to get both names on a certificate.

The previous policy was “really treating same-sex couples unequally under the law,” Warbelow said.

Officials with the health department announced they would abide by the court’s decision.

“The Department of Public Health appreciates the definitive direction from the Supreme Court and it will fully implement the directive of the court to name both married lesbian women as a child’s parents on the birth certificate,” department  spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.

“The court found that the department’s construction of the presumption of paternity law – which directs the department to name a woman’s husband as the father of her child on the birth certificate – was correct, but the court went on to hold that the statute itself violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Determining whether a statute is constitutional is a decision for the court, not the department.”


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