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Marriage Inequality: Iowa Refuses To Enter Married Lesbian Parents As Mothers On Child’s Birth Certificate

Professor Julie Shapiro has more:

So now that same sex couples can marry in Iowa, they’d like the same treatment extended to them. In particular, Heather and Melissa Gartner, who are married, sought a birth certificate with both of their names on it after the birth of their daughter. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) declined to issue such a certificate.

The refusal of IDPH is unusual. While there are certainly states that won’t issue birth certificates that list two women or two men, all of the other states that permit same sex couples to marry have extended to marital presumption (and issued birth certificates) to women married to women as well as women married to me. Indeed, a number of states that do not permit same sex couples to marry but do have strong domestic partnership statutes (the everything-but-the-name sort of statutes) extend the presumption as well.

Although I’m reading between the lines here, it strikes me that IDPH’s refusal to issue the certificate is essentially a rear-guard action motivated by resistance to the marriage decision. Tom Newton, who is the director of the office, asserted that the refusal was proper since it was biologically impossible for both women to be parents to the child. This, of course, assumes a purely biological definition of parenthood. And it’s clear that this is not the definition of parenthood used in Iowa. If it were, the husband whose wife was inseminated with third-party gametes would not be the father, either.

In fact, what IDPH is doing looks to me like fairly blatant sex discrimination. Suppose A, a married woman gives birth following assisted insemination with sperm provided by a person not her spouse. Is B, the spouse of A, a parent to the child? The answer is “yes” if B is male and “no” if B is female. What justification for this differential treatment can be offered?


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