A judge has ordered the Iowa Department of Public Health to issue a death certificate acknowledging Jennifer and Jessica Buntemeyer as the legal parents of their stillborn son.
The couple’s son, Brayden, was stillborn in October 2011.
The couple filed a lawsuit after they said both of their names were on the death certificate form submitted to the state, but Jennifer’s name was removed from the space reserved for the father’s name on the official death certificate.
The state health department confirmed it issued the death certificate but denied allegations that it redacted Jennifer’s name.
Fifth Judicial District Judge Robert Hutchison issued his ruling in the case December 12, 2012. The ruling says the department of health allows non-biological fathers to be registered on certificates, and that the department does not require listing a child’s biological father on the certificate.
The ruling says the department of health argued the policy promoted accuracy on a certificate, but “DPH does not and cannot explain how omitting one parent on a Certificate improves accuracy.”
The DPH argued its policy promotes efficiency, but the ruling says “DPH does not explain how excluding a mother’s wife promotes efficiency beyond reducing its overall workload.”
The DPH also argued listing a mother’s wife muddies the legal determination of paternity. Since the department does not require listing a biological father, and allows non-biological fathers to be listed on certificates, the ruling also said that argument was irrelevant.
“Denying same-sex couples the benefits of marriage violates equal protection unless the state can justify its action under heightened scrutiny,” the ruling states. “As parents, a mother’s wife is identical to a mother’s husband in every common and ordinary sense except for biology.”