Both Married Moms Are Moms in Iowa

     (CN) – Iowa must list the non-birthing spouse in a lesbian marriage as a parent on their child’s birth certificate when a child is born during the marriage, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled.
     The state’s high court found that not including the spouse’s name violates the equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.
     The decision affirms a district court ruling and lifts the lower court’s stay on enforcement pending appeal.
     Heather and Melissa Gartner had two babies born by Heather through artificial insemination. Since they weren’t legally married at the time of the first baby, the couple went through the adoption process in 2007 to make sure Melissa’s name was on the birth certificate, a process which Heather characterized “as expensive, intrusive, and laborious.”
     In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act, allowing the Gartners to marry. Heather Gartner was about six weeks pregnant with their second child when she and Melissa were married on June 13, 2009.
     After Heather gave birth in September, the couple filled out the paperwork for the birth certificate indicating that they were both the parents. But when the state issued the birth certificate two months later, only Heather Gartner’s name was on it.
     The Gartners sent a letter requesting that they both be listed as parents on the birth certificate. The Iowa Department of Public Health denied the request stating: “‘The system for registration of births in Iowa currently recognizes the biological and “gendered” roles of “mother” and “father,” grounded in the biological fact that a child has one biological mother and one biological father.'”
     The issue went to Federal Court for judicial review. “The district court found under the presumption of parentage, the Department erred in not naming Melissa on Mackenzie’s birth certificate. However, the district court did not reach the constitutional issues, focusing instead on the Department’s interpretation of section 144.13(2),” the state’s high court found.
     Rather than focus on the state’s interpretation of the law, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed on constitutional grounds. It found that the Iowa Department of Public Health’s refusal violated the constitution’s equal protection clause.
     “Thus, with respect to the subject and purposes of Iowa’s marriage laws, we find the Gartners similarly situated to married opposite-sex couples,” Justice David S. Wiggins wrote. “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. Therefore, with respect to the government’s purpose of identifying a child as part of their family and providing a basis for verifying the birth of a child, married lesbian couples are similarly situated to spouses and parents in an opposite-sex marriage.”
     All justices concurred, except Justice Bruce Zager, who took no part in the ruling.

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