Iowa denies couples parental rights

Maya Amjadi/News Editor

Recent events in the on-going struggle for homosexual couples in Iowa illustrate that even though gay marriage was made legal in 2009, attributing circumstances handled by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) are not dealt with equally to those of heterosexual couples. The IDPH, which Gov. Branstad oversees, issues birth and death certificates.

Recently, married couple Jessica and Jennifer Buntemeyer of Davenport used in vitro fertilization to produce a child, but the baby was delivered stillborn at 30 weeks. The devastated mothers filled out a death certificate for their son, Brayden. However, when they received it back from the IDPH, Jennifer’s name had been whited out. “The law on the surface seems to make common sense that all married couples have the same rights, but it turns out it [the 2009 Supreme Court ruling] did not specifically address the parental issues like this. It was never brought up before the legislators to address potential confusion as some of these recent cases demonstrate,” Iowa House Representative Kajtazovich from District 21 said. On Feb. 8, Lambda Legal (a law firm based in New York) announced it was filing a suit against the IDPH.

In a recent Polk County trial, a lawyer from Lambda Legal debated Des Moines’ couple’s (Melissa and Heather Gartner) rights to a birth certificate for their daughter with both of their names listed. “We knew a lawyer through a family member, and Lambda Legal works on these kind of cases for equality,” Heather said.

The court ruled that legitimacy in spousal presumption pertains equally to married same-sex couples as it does heterosexual couples. “The judge had a 60-day window to make a decision and put it in writing. We found out about her decision from our lawyers,” Heather said.

Judge Eliza Ovrom of the District Court also ruled that Iowa’s birth certificate must be gender neutral and ordered that the IDPH grant the birth certificate listing both Melissa and Heather as parents. “We were so happy with the ruling from the judge,” Heather said.

However, the IDPH is appealing the rule. “But we were both very upset with the appeal, very upset. There are a lot of other issues that need to be dealt with in the state besides this, and it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. We are just two women who want to be responsible for our child,” Heather said.

| Kajtazovich said that it is too early to know what will happen. “The governor’s appeal highlights that the fight for equality for same-sex couples and marriages is not over. One thing we can conclude as of now is that if the appeal prevails, the legislature might need to address this issue,” Kajtazovich said.

MacKenzie, the Gartners’ daughter who was born through donor insemination, is now two years old. “It has been two years already, and with the appeal it could be another year. Our daughter would be three by the time the appeal could be over,” Heather said. “It shouldn’t have even been something we needed to fight. In the state of Iowa, when married, the spouse is presumed the parent.”

If this appeal is recognized, there is a possibility of it appearing at the Capitol in Des Moines. “The Republican Party is overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage, and they have made it clear that they will do all they can to overturn the 2009 Supreme Court ruling,” Kajtazovich said. “I have witnessed some hostility toward homosexuals from the Republican Party members. I think due to the current political make up, we are not having much discussion on marriage equality and now specifically on parental rights for the same-sex couples.”

The seventh annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth to be held on March 8 has become a debated topic because some people cannot understand why the governor is advocating something so “left wing.” “I think the youth conference controversy highlights how contentious this issue remains and the influence the extreme groups will have going into the 2012 elections. This conference is to raise awareness on protecting gay students from bullying. The very religious groups continue to deny any conversation on the issues affecting the gay and lesbian students,” Kajtazovich said.

Nationally, there have been different portrayals of homosexual rights. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, California’s Proposition 8 (which passed in November of 2008 and reads that marriage is between a man and a woman) was ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Panel. Then on Feb. 8, Washington became the seventh state to allow same-sex marriage by a 2-1 majority.

Class of 2014

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