DES MOINES | A Polk County judge ordered the Iowa Department of Public Health to issue a death certificate to Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer that lists both of them as parents of their stillborn child, Brayden.
In a 20-page decision released last week, Judge Robert Hutchison shot down the three main arguments the Department of Public Health’s attorney used to defend the department’s position that Jessica and Jennifer could not be considered “mother” and “father,” respectively, on Brayden’s death certificate.
The Davenport couple had checked those boxes, but the department returned the certificate with Jennifer’s name erased.
“(The department) has unconstitutionally interfered with a same-sex wife’s ability to receive the benefits of a certificate,” Hutchison wrote. “A categorical refusal to register a mother’s wife on a Certificate violates equal protection. DPH is required to modify its Certificate so as to identify both petitioners here as parents.”
Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for Attorney General Tom Miller, said the office is “reviewing the judge’s ruling. We’ll talk with the Iowa Department of Public Health about the state’s legal options.”
Miller’s office represented the department in the case.
The ruling came a day after the Attorney General’s office represented the health department at a related hearing in front of the Iowa Supreme Court.
In that case, Des Moines couple Heather Martin Gartner and Melissa Gartner are suing the state to force them to include both their names on the birth certificate of their daughter, Mackenzie.
Camille Taylor, an attorney for the gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal, represents both the Buntemeyers and the Gartners. A message left with the organization was not returned Monday.
“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,” Taylor said in a news release. “A death certificate for Brayden is their sole legal record of his existence and his significance to their family.”