Same Sex Couple Wins Iowa Supreme Court Case - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Same Sex Couple Wins Iowa Supreme Court Case

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by Phil Prazan

pprazan@myabc5.com

@PhilPrazan

To any parent it's a very important piece of paper: your child's birth certificate.  But imagine if you couldn't be listed on it, couldn't be known as a legal parent?
 
A Des Moines lesbian couple had to go all the way to the highest court in Iowa, to get this fixed.

Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Public Health must list the names of both spouses in a same-sex relationship on the child's birth certificate.  Otherwise it violates the equal protection clause in the Iowa Constitution.

The ruling is a victory for same-sex couples everywhere, especially the one that spurred it.

Registering her daughter for school, picking her up from daycare and even visiting her in the hospital were all things Melissa Gartner couldn't do because her name was not on her daughter's birth certificate.

Many parents keep boxes full of their children's memories.  The Gartners dig a special one out.

"So far this is McKenzie's box of lawsuits," says Melissa Gartner.

It's a reflection of their struggle over the past three and a half years.  It has newspaper clippings, court documents and a binder of important paperwork and pictures.

This married couple (Melissa and Heather) fought so both their names would be on their second child McKensie's birth certificate.  That's a feat a heterosexual couple with donor sperm would not have had to deal with.
 
"Being there every step of the way and then having this document come in the mail that should tell you that legally you are a parent of this child; and you're not.  In the eyes of the law, I don't exist.  It feels like someone hit you in the gut," says Melissa Gartner.

The Iowa supreme court gave them the same rights as straight parents.
 
"So it's like ok, ok.  You start getting those calls and then we just hugged.  It was just, ok, we just need a moment to ourselves and oh my goodness, we did it, we did it," says Heather Martin-Gartner.

For more than three years their personal struggle for family has been on the front line of the fight over LGBTQ rights.

"She (McKenzie) knows that it's ok for you to stand up for what you believe in.  Two, this is something we did, this is something for you (McKenzie) that helped change it for everyone," says Melissa.

A spotlight they say will sink in later, because now - finally - they just have to worry about parenting; building up ammo for those rebellious teenage years.

"You say we didn't do anything for you.  Here you go. Here's some light reading," says Melissa pointing to McKenzie's "lawsuit box."

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The Iowa Department of Public Health issued a statement in reaction to the decision:

"The Department of Public Health appreciates the definitive direction from the Supreme Court and it will fully implement the directive of the Court to name both married lesbian women as a child's parents on the birth certificate. 

The Court found that the Department's construction of the presumption of paternity law – which directs the Department to name a woman's husband as the father of her child on the birth certificate – was correct, but the Court went on to hold that the statute itself violates the equal protection clause of the constitution. Determining whether a statute is constitutional is a decision for the Court, not the Department."

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