Called the ‘Iowa Anomaly,’ report finds children being denied equal rights to both parents in spite of marriage equality law
A new report released today shows that, although Iowa recognizes the marriages of gay and lesbian couples, the state continues to deny these couples equal rights to their children and harms children in concrete ways by failing to respect the spousal presumption of parentage on vital records including birth and death certificates.
Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families: A State Strategy and Policy Guide shows how in more than 30 states, discriminatory state parenting law means it is likely that children being raised in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families will be legal strangers to at least one of their parents. The report also looks at how our existing state laws, like marriage equality, support and protect children being raised in LGBT and other contemporary families, but also shows how Iowa has lagged behind in what is called the "Iowa Anomaly." The report was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress in partnership with Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the Equality Federation.
In 2009, the Iowa State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that excluding gay and lesbian couples from the freedom to marry was unconstitutional in Varnum v. Brien. In the three years since the ruling more than 4,500 couples have married in the state. In spite of the ruling, same-sex couples continue to face incongruities in parenting rights. The report calls this the “Iowa Anomaly” and cites two cases that are currently facing the Iowa State Supreme Court.
On February 8, 2012 Lambda Legal filed suit against the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) on behalf of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer, a married Iowa couple seeking an accurate death certificate for their stillborn baby, Brayden. After the loss of their son, Jenny and Jessica filled out the spaces on the death certificate form for both parents, and indicated that they were married. IDPH sent the couple a death certificate with Jenny’s name erased. A week earlier, in another Lambda Legal case, Gartner v. Iowa Dept of Public Health, a Polk County trial court ruled that Iowa’s birth certificate statute must be interpreted in a gender-neutral way. The court ordered IDPH to issue a birth certificate to the child in Gartner listing both same-sex spouses as parents. IDPH has decided to appeal this ruling.
“What the Iowa Department of Public Health has done to the Buntemeyer family, the Gartner family, and to other Iowa families is shameful. It is absurd that Iowa, a state with a law that legally recognizes the marriages of gay and lesbian couples, has failed to apply the law equally,” said Donna Red Wing, One Iowa Executive Director. “Parenting laws are complicated, but in this situation, the solution is simple: the Iowa Department of Public Health must apply all of the laws in the state of Iowa equally and end this horrible practice. Children in Iowa deserve to have a legal right to both of their parents—it is in their best interest.”
The report: Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families details these and other concrete harms of archaic and discriminatory family law and practices across the country—harms that affect the two million children raised by LGBT parents, children awaiting adoption and, often, the millions of children being raised by relatives, family friends, or unmarried parents. The report expands on the content from All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families, a report which provides one of the most comprehensive portraits to date of the wide range of obstacles facing LGBT families in America. For more information, visit www.lgbtmap.org/lgbt-families