Iowa Lesbian Couple Fights for Names on Birth Certificate

Here at It’s Conceivable, we’ve written extensively on the confusing nature of same sex adoption laws by state. Blogger Alison Armstrong just proudly wrote about finally being listed on her child’s birth certificate, even if it’s as “the father.”

No matter what gender a parent is listed as, there is no question that being on a child’s birth certificate is valuable for both same sex parents. Among other things, it helps ensure legal rights when parents and children travel and for government benefits. Now one legal case out of Iowa is illustrating the snags in state recognition for same sex parents, even in a state where gay marriage is recognized.

Melissa Gartner, 41, and Heather Gartner, 39, sued the state of Iowa when the State Department of Public Health refused in 2009 to list both names on the birth certificate of their daughter, Mackenzie.

The Gartners married in June 2009, and Heather gave birth to Mackenzie three months later.

Iowa District Judge Eliza Ovrom heard arguments in the case Monday and will issue a written ruling at a later date.

Lambda Legal lawyer Camilla Taylor, who is representing the Gartners, argued that the state lists married men on birth certificates, even when it’s impossible for them to be the biological father and cited the Iowa Supreme Court case that struck down a same-sex marriage ban in 2009. In that ruling, the Iowa high court said the marriage ban had denied the right of married couples to be the presumed parents of a child.

State attorney Heather Adams said the health department has extended rights to same-sex married couples since the ruling, according to USA Today. She also said the department has no concerns about two women raising a child, citing “solid scientific evidence” that children of gay couples are as healthy as those raised by a man and a women.

Yet, the state law’s wording in regards to parentage is gender specific. According to USA Today, Adams said that if she had to summarize the department’s case in one sentence, it would be this: “It is a biological impossibility for a woman to ever legally establish paternity of a child.”

However, as the Gartners pointed out after the hearing, the state lists heterosexual couples as parents on a birth certificate even when they conceive via anonymous donor insemination.

Among states that recognize civil unions, only Iowa prohibits two women from being listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate, unless they adopt.

In most U.S. jurisdictions, at the time the adoption is finalized, the child’s name is legally changed, and the court orders the issuance of a new, amended birth certificate for the adopted child.

The couple adopted their first child, Zachary, 4, but assumed they would both be listed on their daughter’s birth certificate because they had married.

Via USA Today

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