Judge orders Iowa to issue accurate death certificate to lesbian moms

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The Buntemeyers. - PHOTO: Lambda Legal

An Iowa court on Dec. 17 ordered the state health department to issue lesbian moms Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer an accurate death certificate for their son, who was stillborn in October 2011.

The case was brought to the court by Lambda Legal, a national LGBT civil liberties group.

Lambda, in a post on its website, said the Buntemeyers will finally get the justice they sought after the health department erased Jenny Buntemeyer’s name from the original certificate because it did not recognize both female parents.

Same-sex couples in Iowa can legally marry, and the district judge in the case, Robert A. Hutchison, referred to civil marriage rights in his decision. He wrote, “Both partners in a same-sex relationship can also qualify as parents, at least in the ordinary and common sense. See Varnum, 763 N.W.2d at 899–901. Therefore, a mother's wife is a female parent.”

Responding, Lambda Legal marriage project director Camilla Taylor said, “The court affirmed what should have been clear to the Iowa Department of Public Health … 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.”