Iowa Same-Sex Couple Fights for Names on Daughter’s Birth Certificate

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Iowa may have joined the handful of states recognizing same-sex marriage, but gay couples are still fighting for recognition. A gay couple sued the state after the Iowa Department of Public Health refused to list both women on their daughter’s birth certificate in 2009. A district court heard arguments Monday, and a written ruling is expected at a later date, USA Today reports.

Iowa law bars two females from listing their names as parents on a child’s birth certificate, unless the child is adopted. Among the states that acknowledge gay marriage, Iowa is the only one with this stipulation.

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Melissa Gartner and her wife, Heather Gartner, are fighting back, arguing the issue concerns the safety of their daughter, Mackenzie. The couple also said they believe it’s unfair heterosexual couples are allowed to list their names on a birth certificate even if the mother was inseminated by an anonymous donor. “I was there when Mackenzie was born. I cut her umbilical cord,” Melissa Gartner said. “And for them to say I’m not a legal parent? It just seems ridiculous.”

The Gartners’ lawyer, Camilla Taylor, contends that the court should uphold the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that lifted a ban on same-sex marriage, giving gay couples constitutional rights to equality and fairness. Included in that ruling would be the right of a married couple to legally parent a child.

But state attorney Heather Adams argues that the law’s wording is conditional; a married woman’s husband is the father, unless a court order mandates 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,” she said.

But Taylor said the case is “about protecting children, both in tangible ways, emotionally and in respect to their financial security.” Taylor is an attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York-based gay-rights organization that spearheaded the campaign to lift the same-sex marriage ban in Iowa in 2009.

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