Gay couple fights for birth certificate rights
Melissa Gartner will have to wait a bit longer to find out if she’ll be listed on the birth certificate of the child her wife bore.
Melissa Gartner, 41, and Heather Gartner, 39, sued the state when the Iowa Department of Public Health refused in 2009 to list both names on the birth certificate of their daughter, Mackenzie.
Iowa District Judge Eliza Ovrom heard arguments in the case Monday and will issue a written ruling at a later date.
Camilla Taylor, the Gartners’ lawyer, argued that the state lists married men on birth certificates, even when it’s impossible for them to be the biological father.
She also cited the Iowa Supreme Court case that struck down a same-sex marriage ban in 2009. The unanimous ruling cited constitutional rights to basic fairness and equal protection.
Among the benefits the high court said the marriage ban denied same-sex couples: 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. She 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.
However, the state law’s wording in regards to parentage is gender specific, she said. Iowa code states if a woman is married, the husband is the father, absent a court order that says otherwise.
“If I 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,” Adams said.
Taylor is lawyer for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay-rights organization in New York. Lambda Legal led the effort that culminated in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa.
After the hearing, the Gartners said they find it unfair that the state lists heterosexual couples as parents on a birth certificate even when they conceive as they did: via anonymous donor insemination.
The Gartners married in June 2009, and Heather gave birth to Mackenzie three months later.
“I was there when Mackenzie was born. I cut her umbilical cord. And for them to say I’m not a legal parent? It just seems ridiculous,” Melissa Gartner said.
Of states that recognize civil unions, only Iowa prohibits two women from being listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate. The exception: if a child is adopted.