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Lawsuit: Parent’s name removed from baby’s death certificate

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A married same-sex couple from Davenport, Iowa claims one of their names was erased from the death certificate for their stillborn child.

Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer were thrilled to find out that Jessica was pregnant with their first child. They planned to name the baby Brayden and felt relieved the pregnancy was going smoothly. Around her 30 week appointment, Jessica said she started to feel like something was wrong. After a few visits to her doctor, she learned their baby had died in the womb. She delivered their stillborn baby boy in October 2011. 

The women say they filed out the death certificate form showing Jessica as the mother and Jenny completed the area on the form for the father, which was the only option on the form for a second parent.

When the couple later received the official death certificate from the Iowa Department of Public Health, Jenny’s name and identifying information were not part of the certificate.

The attorneys cited another recent case in which a Polk County court ordered the IDPH to issue a birth certificate listing both same-sex spouses as the child’s parents.  IDPH appealed the ruling.

In a statement from Lambda Legal, which represents the Buntemeyers, Jessica said, “After the loss of our son, Jenny and I were just trying to process our grief and get through it together.  To erase Jenny's name from the death certificate was like trying to erase all the love, commitment and work we had both put into planning a family. We were in complete shock.”

Officials with the Iowa Department of Public Health wouldn't comment on the lawsuit. They said they had not been formally served with the paperwork and had not reviewed the allegations.