Iowa Judge: Both Same-Sex Parents’ Names Belong On Birth Certificates

An Iowa judge has ruled that if a married same-sex couple bears a child, both parents’ names belong on the birth certificate. When Heather Martin Gartner gave birth to her daughter Mackenzie in 2009, the Iowa Department of Public Health told her wife Melissa Gartner that she would have to go through the invasive and costly process of adopting Mackenzie in order to be recognized as her second legal guardian. Judge Eliza Ovrom found that the Department had erred, and that same-sex spouses were entitled to the same expectation of appearing on the birth certificate as opposite-sex couples in accordance with the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality:

The Supreme Court in Varnum cited legitimacy of children born to married parents under Section 252A.3(4) as one of the benefits that was withheld from same-sex couples who could not legally be married. This is a strong indication that the Supreme Court intended married same-sex couples to have legal recognition that their children are legitimate and entitled to the support of both parents.

The Department’s refusal to place Melissa’s name on the birth certificate frustrates the purpose of the law to recognize the legitimacy of a child born to a marriage, and to establish the parents’ obligation to support the child, as recognized in the Varnum decision.

In some ways, this decision parallels the recent “King Solomon” ruling in Florida in clarifying that both mothers in a same-sex family (even if they separate) are legally responsible for a child’s upbringing. These small legal victories demonstrate that properly recognizing same-sex couples is key to ensuring their children’s well-being.