Iowa Court Orders Same-Sex Couple Listed on Death Certificate

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Polk County judge has ordered the state to change the way it handles death certificates of children who have same-sex parents.

District Judge Robert Hutchison issued the ruling on Friday in a lawsuit brought a same-sex couple suing state health officials for omitting the name of one parent on the death certificate of their child, The Des Moines Register reported Tuesday.

The judge found that "a mother's wife is identical to a mother's husband in every common and ordinary sense except for biology."

The Iowa Department of Public Health's policy of refusing to register a mother's wife on a death certificate violates the state's equal-protection laws, Hutchison said.

The gay rights group Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in February on behalf of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer of Davenport. The lawsuit seeks a new death certificate for their stillborn child.

Jessica Buntemeyer gave birth to a stillborn son last October. Jenny Buntemeyer's egg was used to conceive the baby.

The Buntemeyers' lawyer, Camilla Taylor with Lambda Legal, issued a statement saying the state tried "to erase Jenny from the family."

"The Buntemeyers will always grieve the loss of their child," Taylor said. "But at least now they do not also have to face denial and discrimination from the government."

State lawyers had argued that efficiency and biological differences demanded that only males be listed as a "father" on death certificates.

But the Public Health Department failed to explain how omitting one parent on a certificate improves accuracy, Hutchison wrote.

"Instead, DPH could achieve a more accurate and complete record by registering both parents on a certificate regardless of gender," the judge wrote. "Therefore, DPH's policy of refusing to register a mother's wife on a certificate is not substantially related to accuracy."

Read the decision here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/buntemeyer_ia_20121217_polk-cty-dct-ct-ruling

Read the death certificate that originated from the funeral home here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/buntemeyer_ia_20120208_death-certificate-before

Read the death certificate provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/buntemeyer_ia_20120208_death-certificate-after
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