The ACLU of Iowa Monday submitted an amicus brief supporting the rights of parents and children in same-sex marriages to the same legal benefits extended to other Iowa families.
The brief was submitted in the case of Heather Gartner, who gave birth to daughter MacKenzie in 2009. Heather and her wife, Melissa Gartner, wanted both their names listed on the birth certificate. However, the Iowa Department of Public Health refused to allow Melissa to be listed on the certificate, saying she could not be listed because she was not the biological parent. The department's refusal was based on a literal reading of an Iowa statute that was adopted decades ago, before same-sex marriage was recognized in Iowa.
As a result, the Gartner's daughter was not eligible for the same legal protection from both parents that other children have. Moreover, Melissa's parental rights were not being recognized.
The Garters, represented by Lamba Legal, filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court seeking the same treatment under the law of other married couples. In January, a Polk County district judge ordered that the state issue a new birth certificate listing both Heather and Melissa, but the Department of Public Health has appealed that decision.
Iowa law currently states that if a mother is married, her husband must be recorded as the father on the birth certificate--even if it was physically impossible for him to have been the biological father.
"Although the right of same-sex couples to marry was affirmed by the Varnum decision, there are many inequalities remaining in our law," said ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Randall Wilson. "Those inequalities include the state's refusal to recognize the right of children to have two legal parents, regardless of gender issues."
Amicus briefs, also called friend-of-the-court briefs, are filed by organizations or parties with a stake in the case, often on issues of broad public interest. The ACLU files amicus briefs in civil liberties cases to provide additional information to the court and to raise awareness about some aspect of the case. In this case, the ACLU of Iowa joined with the national ACLU, based in New York, to file the brief.