Two days after the Iowa Department of Public Health announced plans to appeal a court ruling on same-sex parents’ right to be listed on birth certificates, a new lawsuit challenged the department’s refusal to list a non-birthing spouse on a stillborn baby’s death certificate.
From the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa’s blog:
On February 8, 2012 Lambda Legal filed suit against the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) on behalf of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer, a married Iowa couple seeking an accurate death certificate for their stillborn baby, Brayden. After the loss of their son, Jenny and Jessica filled out the spaces on the death certificate form for both parents, and indicated that they were married.
IDPH sent the couple a death certificate with Jenny’s name erased.
Rekha Basu covered the couple’s story in her Des Moines Register column on February 7:
The certificate of fetal death, which arrived late last month from the Iowa Department of Public Health, listed only Jessica as the parent, whiting out Jennifer’s name from the form the couple filled out and the funeral director signed. Jennifer left messages over four days for the one person at the IDPH she was told could explain the decision, but never even got a call back.
“It was like they were trying to erase all the commitment and love and work we had both put into planning a family,” Jennifer said. “They disrespected our marriage and poured salt on the wound of something that was already so horrible.” […]
“Here they are doing it again, in the case of death,” said Camilla Taylor with Lambda Legal, which represents the legal rights of gays and lesbians. Taylor, who represented the Gartners, plans to file a lawsuit today on behalf of the Buntemeyers. She said each of the 16 other states (including the District of Columbia) that recognizes civil unions or same-sex marriage “respects the spousal assumption” in birth and death certificates of offspring. That spousal assumption is spelled out in Iowa law and is honored when a child is born into a heterosexual marriage, Taylor said. […]
Birth and death certificates are not meant to reflect biology but legal parenthood, Taylor said. A birth certificate allows a parent to enroll a child in school, for example. This death certificate is “the sole record of the existence of Brayden Bruce Buntemeyer,” she said. “There’s no remedy for this family. They can’t adopt.”
Why is this a problem in Iowa when it’s not a problem in other marriage equality states? I do not understand the department’s logic here. An Iowa man married to a woman would never have to prove genetic parentage of a stillborn baby in order to be listed on a death certificate.
I predict the judge who hears this case will reach a conclusion similar to the district court judge’s ruling on the birth certificate lawsuit.