Only a month ago, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, granting gay and lesbian married couples more than 1,100 federal benefits and protections previously denied to them. Some people thought we were done. The struggle was over. Our families, at least in Iowa, had equal standing under the law.
Except that there is still so much work to be done. Imagine, for example, how surprised and heartbroken Joanne Abbas and Lindsey Clark were when they received their baby Thea’s birth certificate. It listed only one of the mothers as a parent. When Thea was born, these women correctly filled out the necessary paperwork and, with help from the hospital staff, both women listed their names as parents on the birth worksheet. And still, when they received the birth certificate, Lindsey’s name was missing from this important document.
Despite a previous ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court in the case Gartner v. Newton, the Iowa Department of Public Health is still refusing to immediately issue accurate birth certificates for all children born to married lesbian parents like Joanne and Lindsey. The Gartner case was decided unanimously in May of this year by the Iowa Supreme Court as part of a Lambda Legal lawsuit challenging the Iowa Department of Public Health’s refusal to issue an accurate birth certificate to MacKenzie, daughter of married same-sex couple Heather and Melissa Gartner. Iowa’s highest court ruled in favor of the Gartners, stating that the department would have to change its practice of refusing to issue accurate birth certificates listing both mothers.
Instead, same-sex married couples are being told by the Iowa Department of Public Health that they must follow an affidavit process and obtain certified copies of their marriage license before accurate birth certificates can be issued. Yet these requirements do not apply to non-gay Iowa families.
It is unacceptable that the Iowa Department of Public Health is still dragging its heels on this very important issue of granting accurate birth certificates to children born to married lesbian mothers. The Attorney General’s office knew at the time of theGartner decision that a process needed to be in place, and they have failed.
These couples are forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops and spend time and money to attain what is rightfully and legally theirs. The Iowa Department of Public Health is playing procedural games with the lives of the children of these married couples and that is simply outrageous and unfair.
The Attorney General’s Office and the Iowa Department of Public Health owe Joanne and Lindsey and their family an apology. They owe every same-sex couple treated in this manner an apology.
It is time, once and for all, for the Iowa Department of Public Health to end its shameful practice of denying children their legal bond to both parents.
Equality in Iowa should mean something.
PLEASE NOTE: Iowa couples who encounter problems obtaining an accurate birth certificate are encouraged to call Lambda Legal’s help desk in Chicago at 312.663.4413.