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Court: Iowa must recognize both lesbian parents

Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 11:30 a.m. CDT

IOWA CITY (AP) — Both spouses in a lesbian marriage must be recognized as legal parents to any child born during the couple’s union, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ordered the state health department to start listing the names of both female spouses, including the one who did not give birth, on the birth certificates of their children.

The ruling is a victory for Heather and Melissa Gartner of Des Moines, who sued after the department listed only Heather as a parent of their daughter in 2009. The couple argued the agency’s decision deprived their daughter of the protections and benefits of having two legal parents present from birth.

Friday’s opinion said a state law that allowed only the “name of the husband” to appear on the birth certificate violated equal protection clauses in the Iowa Constitution. Justice David Wiggins said the only possible explanation for keeping the spouse who did not give birth off the certificate was “stereotype or prejudice” that served no purpose.

“It is important for our laws to recognize that married lesbian couples who have children enjoy the same benefits and burdens as married opposite-sex couples who have children,” he wrote. “By naming the nonbirthing spouse on the birth certificate of a married lesbian couple’s child, the child is ensured support from that parent and the parent establishes fundamental legal rights at the moment of birth.”

The Gartners married after the Iowa Supreme Court made the state the first in the Midwest to legalize gay marriage in 2009.

A Polk County judge in 2011 ordered the state to list both names, saying the high court’s landmark decision demanded equality for gay and lesbian parents. State officials appealed, saying they wanted guidance from the high court about how to handle birth certificates for children of same-sex couples.

All six Iowa Supreme Court justices who participated in the case agreed on the outcome.

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