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.