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.Listen to the whole thing at CNN Radio:
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.
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.