Iowa court orders both same-sex parents listed on child's death certificate

[JURIST] The Polk County court in Iowa ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that both same-sex parents' names should be listed on their child's death certificate. Jennifer and Jessica Buntemeyer, a legally married couple, sued the state of Iowa to include both women's names on the death certificate after Jessica gave birth to a still-born son. In his ruling, District Judge Robert Hutchinson wrote that same-sex parents should be treated the same way as their opposite-sex counterparts:

[The Iowa Department of Public Health] registers a mother's husband on a Certificate because he is a male parent. ... Both partners in a same-sex relationship can also qualify as parents, at least in the ordinary and common sense. ... Therefore, a mother's wife is a female parent. ... The precise legal consequences accompanying her parentage are undefined at this time. However, as explained above, a Certificate uses ordinary and common terms to define the non-gestational parent instead of any specialized legal definitions. For now, it is sufficient to state a mother's wife and a mother's husband are both parents in the ordinary and common sense. ... As parents, a mother's wife is identical to a mother's husband in every common and ordinary sense except for biology.
Lambda Legal [advocacy website], which represented the women, welcomed the decision [press release].

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has been recognized in Iowa since 2009 when the state's supreme court struck down [JURIST report] a statutory same-sex marriage ban. However, the rights of same-sex parents remain a controversial issue. In January, an Iowa District Court ordered the Department of Public Health [official website] to include the names of both married same-sex parents on children's birth certificates [JURIST report]. JURIST Guest Columnist Mary Ziegler [academic profile] of Saint Louis University School of Law warned [JURIST op-ed] that while that court decision may be a victory for the rights of same-sex parents, the arguments made in the public debate surrounding the case demonstrate a break from the goals of the early gay rights movement and could be used to justify discrimination against other forms of non-traditional families.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.