The Iowa Department of Public Health is continuing to deny accurate birth certificates for the children of married lesbian couples, despite a unanimous decision from the Iowa Supreme Court requiring both mothers to be listed.
Earlier this month, Lindsey Clark and Joanne Abbas received a birth certificate for their second child, Thea, but it did not include Clark’s name. They had filled out the paperwork with guidance from hospital staff, including Clark’s name, but the Department of Public Health ignored it. Instead, they were told they’d need to sign an affidavit and return the birth certificate to Des Moines, with no clear timetable for how long all of these extra steps might take.
A spokesperson for the department claimed that the state recently finalized a new birth worksheet that was just sent to hospitals last week, pointing out that a stay in the case was only lifted July 8. Still, there’s no explanation why changing the form from asking for “mother” and “father” to asking for “parent 1” and “parent 2” took so long to develop. The Iowa Supreme Court decision, Gartner v. Newton, came down at the very beginning of May, concluding that “the only explanation for not listing the nonbirthing lesbian spouse on the birth certificate is stereotype or prejudice.” Iowa LGBT group One Iowa excoriated the state officials for continuing to honor their marriages:
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 the Gartner 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 remains unclear how many lesbian couples have been given inaccurate birth certificates since the May decision. In October of 2011, a lesbian couple was similarly mistreated when their son died in utero and the department refused to include both of their names on his fetal birth certificate.