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In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court threw out the state's gay marriage ban.  But since then, gays have faced another obstacle--the state public health department won't print birth certificates listing both spouses in a same-sex marriage as the legal parents of a newborn child.  The result?  It's called the "Iowa anomaly"--and now a couple in Des Moines is fighting to change it in the state supreme court.

The couple involved in the supreme court case are Heather and Melissa Gartner. Even though they are legally married, Melissa Gartner’s name was erased from their daughter’s birth certificate. Heather Gartner, who was the biological mother, was the only one listed.

Gay rights advocates say the Department of Public Health’s decision has left families in a precarious legal state. A birth certificate is a valuable document that legally ties a parent to a child, they argue, and without it, parents may be unable to perform even simple tasks such as checking their children in and out of school.

Listen to the whole thing at CNN Radio:

Under current Iowa law, the other spouse in a same-sex marriage can't be listed on the birth certificate unless he or she legally adopts the child as a stepparent.  But what if something happens in the time it takes to adopt the child?

The Gartners sued and won in court, but the state is currently appealing.  Their argument is that the state has to keep accurate records of a child's parentage, so if a parent isn't biologically related, he or she can't be listed.  The Gartners' lawyer, Sharon Mulharo, rightly calls BS on that argument--after all, you don't require the parents of a heterosexual couple to take genetic testing.

The public health department also says that since Iowa law refers only to heterosexual couples, those laws have to be rewritten in order to allow it to list same-sex couples on a birth certificate without going through the adoption process.  But Angela Onwuachi-Willig, a law professor at the University of Iowa, isn't buying it.  She points out that no other state where gay marriage is legal has this requirement.

There's no word yet on when the Iowa Supreme Court will issue a ruling.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's terrible. (7+ / 0-)

    And an unnecessary expense.

  •  The Iowa supreme court is very good on these (7+ / 0-)

    issues and won't buy the state's argument.    Moreover, new birth certificates are issued all the time if an adoptive parent petitions for it.

    •  Even with the three justices getting bounced (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luckylizard, irishwitch, Ahianne, Avilyn

      last year?  That's the only thing that makes me nervous about this case.

      The NRA's response to calls for responsible gun law reform: noun, verb, Second Amendment

      by Christian Dem in NC on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 03:32:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If I'm not mistaken, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bythesea, irishwitch, Ahianne, Avilyn

        the ones who got bounced were the replacements for the ones who got bounced after the court found in favor of marriage equality.  IOW, the balance shouldn't have shifted that much - I hope....

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 03:46:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  All the appointments are picked from a list (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        irishwitch, dream weaver, Avilyn

        whose members are selected by a non-partisan judicial commission, thus limiting the governor's ability to skew the court.   The people on that list are never bigoted morons.   From what I hear all the people on the court right now are very highly regarded.

        In the 2012 election all four justices up for retention were kept.   Only one was involved in Varnum v Brien, the other three were the appointments to replace the three who lost the retention vote in 2010 after Varnum v Brien.    Those three replacements seem to be pretty gay friendly given how they've voted so far.

        Iowa has a pretty good system in that regard, much better than what we have in Wisconsin.

  •  This is just weird (5+ / 0-)

    I have some grave doubts as to the accuracy of the public health department's statements on the matter.

    I don't know how the law works in Iowa; it's interesting that such matters have been raised in some of the amicus briefs for the Prop 8 case. In California, if a couple is married or in a domestic partnership there is a legal presumption that a child born to one spouse is the child of both spouses regardless of the genders of the spouses.

    That might or might not be the case in Iowa of course.
    It's possible that the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling which afforded marriage equality in the state is such that it is completely isolated from all of the other statutes governing family law. But I'm skeptical that that's really the case.

  •  The adoption shouldn't be a big deal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bythesea, irishwitch

    in most states a related adoption (one in which the child is already related to one or both of the adoptive parents) is much quicker than an unrelated adoption. But once the interlocutory order has been entered, pretty much everything has fallen into place.

    The question is whether non same-sex couples who produce a child, for example, using a surrogate are subject to the same process.  I highly suspect that they are.

    And the adoption process is important because it may preserve for the child access to medical or other family history through the non-partner bioparent.  The child may want, or need, that information someday.  

    If I guess right, this is about the Iowa vital records laws, and not about the sex of the parents.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 05:01:13 PM PST

    •  I'm betting it's about the sex of the parents. (0+ / 0-)

      There's no other logical reason--or even an illogical one.  The parents are married. The non-bio parent shouldn't have to adopt as a step-parent.

      The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

      by irishwitch on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 06:17:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There may well be a logical reason (0+ / 0-)

        depending how Iowa law defines "parent" "mother" and "father."  I haven't studied Iowa so all I can do is venture a guess.  In Illinois, which is, I believe, still debating its gay marriage law, there is a specific provision dealing with vital records for a child born as a result of assisted reproduction.  But Illinois is in a tiny minority in this area.  It was also one of the very first states to permit adoption by a same sex couple, and has been certificating those kids for probably twenty years.

        If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

        by marykk on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 06:23:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If it had been a stright couple (0+ / 0-)

          the presumption would have been that the man was the father. And in this case, judges decided to allow same sex marriage--I wouldn't be surprised to find a number of conservative Iowans dislike it and are doing whatever they can to make life difficult for same sex couples.  It's not the law I worry about--but the motives for enforcing it.  KInda like the old Catholic biddy who was the clerk of the court in upstate NY who was refusing to issue licenses to gay couples? She finally resigned. I am willing to hope the court will tell them to fix this--if theya re married, BOTH parents should ahve their name on the birth certificate. I am hoping the law hasn't come up to relaity, but I can STILL see some idiots behaving liek the old biddy untils omeone squashes them

          The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

          by irishwitch on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 08:30:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Iowa vital records act (0+ / 0-)


    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 05:08:21 PM PST

  •  Just out of curiosity but what if there is someone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    else involved.  Say this wasn't a situation in which there was a sperm donor or a other words, the biological father?

    Would he have to sign his rights away first or notification sent or some other type of process to remove him from the equation?

    •  Yes. N/t (0+ / 0-)

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 07:29:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I wonder if it depends on state (0+ / 0-)

      My brother met a woman who was pregnant but not involved in a relationship with the guy anymore (I have no idea if she told the guy she was pregnant or not).  She & my brother got engaged, and when she had the baby, she had my brother listed as the father on the birth certificate.  Biologically, the child isn't his, but legally, she is.  There was no talk or discussion about the biological father having to waive his rights or anything like that.  

      The Girl Who Loved Stories
      I’m a feminist because the message is still "don’t get raped" not "don’t rape"

      by Avilyn on Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 09:40:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They're still stuck on denial. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's tme for them to move on from there to anger, bargening, depression, and finally, acceptance.

    I mean, how many times do they really want to lose in court?

    Iowa has turned a corner, and these folks need to recognize that, as Iowa Senate Majority Leader Gronstal's daughter put it, "You've already lost".

  •  one more tactic to keep people from voting (0+ / 0-)

    with the recent voter id laws where you have to produce your birth certificate to get your voter id, this is all making sense

    they don't want everyone to vote :

    Faux News ruined my state

    by sc kitty on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 07:51:13 PM PDT

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