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Iowa high court rules both same-sex parents must be listed on birth certificates

The Iowa Supreme Court [official website] unanimously ruled [text, PDF] on Friday that the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) [official website] must list both spouses of a same-sex couple on their children's birth certificates. Melissa and Heather Gartner sued the IDPH after officials refused to include the name of their child's non-biological parent on the child's birth certificate unless the non-biological parent adopted the child. The Gartners are legally married in Iowa, a state that legalized gay marriage [JURIST report] in 2009. The Iowa Supreme Court found that the agency did not have the authority to interpret Iowa's Parentage Statute [Iowa Code 144.13, PDF]. After a detailed analysis, the court held that "with respect to the government's purpose of identifying a child as part of their family and providing a basis for verifying the birth of a child, married lesbian couples are similarly situated to spouses and parents in an opposite-sex marriage." This case reached the state's Supreme Court after the IDPH appealed from a District Court [official website] decision [JURIST report] ordering the agency to include both names of married same-sex parents on children's birth certificates. Upon this decision, 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.

The rights of same-sex couples [JURIST news archive] remain a controversial issue in the US. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 10 states, as well as the District of Columbia. In March the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two same-sex marriage cases. The first case, Hollingsworth v. Perry [JURIST report], examines the validity of Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], a California referendum that revoked same-sex marriage rights. In the second case, United States v. Windsor [JURIST report], the court will examine the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the two cases in December.

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