US: Judge rules that fetal death certificates should include same-sex parents

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An Iowa judge has ordered that the Department of Public Health alter the process of issuing fetal death certificates, in order to be inclusive of same-sex parents.

On Friday, District Judge Robert Hutchison, issued a 20-page ruling, which said that the certificates should be changed to treat all parents equally in the commemoration of a stillborn baby’s death, reported the Des Moines Register.

“As parents, a mother’s wife is identical to a mother’s husband in every common and ordinary sense except for biology,” read the ruling.

It went on to say that the State Department’s “policy of refusing to register a mother’s wife on a certificate is not substantially related to any important governmental objective.”

He said in that respect, the currently policy clashes with the state of Iowa’s equal-protection laws.

The ruling comes after a lawsuit which was filed last February, on behalf of married couple, Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer, which said they were denied an accurate death certificate for their stillborn child, Braden.

Papers filed in the Polk County Court said that the couple, from Davenport, filed the form for the death certificate, listing both of their names, however when the certificate they received from the Health Department had Jenny’s name erased from it.

The lawyer acting on behalf of the couple, Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal, issued a statement on Monday which said that the state had attempted “to erase Jenny from the family” by denying the couple “their sole legal record of his existence and his significance to their family.”

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

State lawyers made the argument that efficiency, and biological differences meant that only males should be listed as “father” on fetal death certificates.

Judge Hutchison’s ruling continued: “[The Department of Public Health] does not and cannot explain how omitting one parent on a certificate improves accuracy,” he wrote.

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

The ruling concluded: “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.”