Birth Certificate Debate Heads to Iowa Supreme Court

Dec 11, 2012

Melissa and Heather Gartner with their daughter.
Credit / Courtesy of Des Moines Register

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit over whether a same-sex Des Moines married couple should BOTH stay on their daughter’s birth certificate. The Polk county district court already ruled in favor of the couple.

Representing the Iowa Department of Health was Deputy Attorney General Julie Pottorff. She argued opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples remain different in one immutable way. Only opposite sex couples can conceive a child.

“This doesn’t mean that Heather and Melissa Gartner love their child any less and it certainly doesn’t mean that Heather and Melissa Gartner provide a less than a desirable home and it does not diminish the importance of family relationships,” Pottorff said. 

Porttorff said nothing in the 2009 Iowa Supreme court ruling that paved the way for same sex marriage actually mandates both parents be listed on the birth certificate and that should be reserved for biological parents. But speaking outside the courthouse after the arguments, one of the mothers Melissa Gartner, says not being on her daughter’s birth certificate poses a lot of challenges.

“What if something did happen to Heather?," Melissa Gartner told reporters outside the courthouse. "I don’t want to think that way, but then I have to file guardianship papers on my own child.”

National gay rights advocate Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit. They said because the couple’s legally married, they’re both legal parents.