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Iowa Mothers Win Birth Certificate Battle

Iowa Mothers Win Birth Certificate Battle




A judge ordered the Iowa Department of Public Health to issue a birth certificate listing two married women as the mothers of a 2-year-old girl.

The two married mothers won a victory Wednesday in the Fifth District Court of Iowa, where Polk County district judge Eliza Ovrom ordered the Department of Public Health to issue a birth certificate listing both women as the legal parents of their young daughter.

The Des Moines Register reports on the lawsuit brought by Melissa Gartner, 41, and Heather Gartner, 40, the parents of 2-year-old Mackenzie. Although the women were married under Iowa law before the child was born in November 2009, the state agency had refused to list both their names on the birth certificate, arguing that Melissa is not Mackenzie's genetic parent.

Judge Ovrom stopped short in her ruling of declaring a constitutional right for same-sex couples to be automatically named as parents on birth certificates, but she said that state administrators are bound to interpret law in light of the 2009 marriage equality decision from the high court.

"Pursuant to Varnum v. Brien, where a married woman gives birth to a baby conceived through use of an anonymous sperm donor, the Department of Public Health should place her same-sex spouse's name on the child's birth certificate without requiring the spouse to go through an adoption proceeding," wrote Judge Ovrom, according to the Register.

The plaintiffs filed suit with the help of Lambda Legal in the case, Gartner v. Iowa Department of Public Health. A public health department spokesperson said agency officials would decide soon whether to appeal.

Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal, said in a statement, "The court affirmed what should have been clear to the Iowa Department of Public Health from reading Varnum v. Brien -- Lambda Legal's case that established that same-sex couples in Iowa have an equal right to marry -- that a child born to a married couple has two parents, regardless of whether the spouses are same-sex or different-sex. Birth certificates document legal parentage, not biology. Children are entitled to accurate birth certificates so that their legal parents can enroll them in school, make medical decisions for them in an emergency, and ensure that they can benefit from an employer's health insurance plan, among many other reasons."

Heather Gartner said, "We are thrilled that our daughter will now receive same respect and treatment that every other child born to married parents receives. Every child faces challenges in life, but being unfairly burdened by the state and deprived of the ability to show who her legal parents are should not be one of them."

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