Iowa Must List Both Mothers On Child’s Death Certificate

An Iowa judge has ruled that the state’s administration cannot lawfully block a married same-sex couple being registered as parents on their child’s death certificate.

Reports the Des Moines Register:

District Judge Robert Hutchison issued a 20-page ruling Friday finding that “as parents, a mother’s wife is identical to a mother’s husband in every common and ordinary sense except for biology” and that the state department’s “policy of refusing to register a mother’s wife on a certificate is not substantially related to any important governmental objective.”

The policy therefore runs afoul of Iowa’s equal-protection laws, Hutchison ruled.

The case was filed last year by Lambda Legal on behalf of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer who, having endured the tragedy of a stillborn birth in October 2011 and subsequently filing their child’s death certificate, were aghast when the Iowa Department of Public Health, despite same-sex marriage being legal in the state, erased Jenny’s name from the original certificate.

When challenged, the department refused to recognize Jenny as the child’s second parent because they said paternity was determined by biology, and because Jenny did not share biology with the child she had no claim. In short, the department said, children require a mother or father in order to be parents and for the sake of accurate records they would not allow her to list herself on the death certificate.

Lambda Legal took on the Buntemeyer’s case, arguing that the department was disregarding Iowa law and the 2009 state supreme court ruling that said, under the Iowa constitution, marriage and all its legal attributes must be offered to same-sex couples in the same way they are offered to heterosexual couples.

Lambda Legal argued that for the purposes of registering a birth and death certificate, biology was not, under established law, a defining factor for what constitutes a parent. Furthermore, they said, the department appeared to be specifically targeting same-sex couples as a way to fight the same-sex marriage ruling of 2009.

Lambda legal won the case in a lower court but the Iowa Department of Health appealed.

Last week, Judge Robert Hutchison agreed with the lower court that “refusing to register a mother’s wife on a Certificate is not substantially related to any important governmental objective,” and that the “DPH has unconstitutionally interfered with a same-sex wife’s ability to receive the benefits of a Certificate.”

As to the department’s claim that they could not recognize same-sex parents as a matter of accuracy, Judge Hutchison said “DPH could achieve a more accurate and complete record by registering both parents on a certificate regardless of gender. Therefore, DPH’s policy of refusing to register a mother’s wife on a certificate is not substantially related to accuracy.”

Hutchison went on to say the department therefore must “modify the Certificate form” and must in the future act “consistently with its statutory duties,” affirming that a “categorical refusal to register a mother’s wife on a Certificate violates equal protection.”

Said Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project Director, in a statement:

The court affirmed what should have been clear to the Iowa Department of Public Health from reading Varnum v. Brien–Lambda Legal’s case that established that same-sex couples in Iowa have an equal right to marry–that a child born to a married couple has two parents, regardless of whether the spouses are same-sex or different-sex. Vital records document legal parentage, not biology. In this case, the state was not only denying that Jenny and Jessica are both mothers, it was trying to erase Jenny from the family. A death certificate for Brayden is their sole legal record of his existence and his significance to their family.

The Buntemeyers will always grieve the loss of their child. But, at least now they do not also have to face denial and discrimination from the government.

A massive thank you to the hundreds of Care2 members who signed a Care2 petition calling on the Iowa Department of Public Health to cease its discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples.


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Image credit: Thinkstock.


Adio Ferdiansyah
Adio Ferdiansyah5 years ago

Most of the time

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara5 years ago

Good news!

Ro H.
Ro H5 years ago

first step

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

Omg, of course both these women are this child's parents! I can't believe they had to fight for the right to be not only seen a such, but on a death certificate?! Heartless.

Jessica Sutton
Past Member 5 years ago


BMutiny TCorporationsEvil
Barbara T5 years ago

People here would be interested in "The Queen James Bible", available at for $34.95 [in paperback]; with a big RAINBOW CROSS on the cover.
This is the ENTIRE King James Version [KJV] that we are familiar with; with the EXCEPTION of JUST EIGHT VERSES, 8 verses in the entire Bible, that are regarded as having "something to do with homosexuality".
The actual word [in English] "homosexual", was NEVER used in the Bible, until the Revised Standard Version [RSV] in - 1946!
The New Testament was translated mainly from Greek [and Aramaic]. Greek had many words for "homosexuals", as homosexuality was common in Greece, and of course very open, at the time the NT was written. NO GREEK WORD FOR HOMOSEXUAL IS FOUND IN THE ORIGINAL NT DOCUMENTS.
There are several WEBSITES you can go to, that go into the idea, the FACT, that the references supposedly to "homosexuality" in the OT and the NT, have been MIS-TRANSLATED. These are CORRECTED in the "Queen James Bible".
King James was called "Queen James" by some of his contemporaries, as besides being very religious, he was WELL-KNOWN FOR HIS GAY LOVERS.
Modern preachers are making a FETISH out of this "anti-Gay" thing...

Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage se5 years ago


Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage se5 years ago


rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

thank you.

Sharon H.
Sharon H5 years ago

@Rob...if that was to happen, the amount of sperm donors would go way down. These men give their medical history to the sperm bank which in turn gives it to the woman who is receiving the sperm. They don't want to be known. Can you imagine the problems if the woman knows who the father is and maybe wants to try for child support? How many men would be willing for that to happen?
When adopting, again all of the medical histories are given to the adoptive parents. Most of the time, the adoptive parents don't want any contact with the child either.
Both of these are a slippery slope.