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Gartner v. Iowa Dep't of Pub. Health - 830 N.W.2d 335 (Iowa 2013)


For purposes of preparing a birth certificate, the Iowa Code includes a presumption of parentage. The legislature articulated the following procedure for preparing a child's birth certificate, based upon the presumption of parentage: If the mother was married at the time of conception, birth, or at any time during the period between conception and birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child unless paternity has been determined otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction, in which case the name of the father as determined by the court shall be entered by the Iowa Department of Public Health.


The first spouse and the second spouse, both women, were legally married. Thereafter, the first spouse gave birth to their child. The birth certificate the Department issued only listed the first spouse as the child's parent. The space for the second parent's name was blank. The Department declined their request that a birth certificate be issued recognizing both the first spouse and second spouse as the child's parents. The couple filed a mandamus action in the district court. The Department moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court found that pursuant to the presumption of parentage statute, Iowa Code § 144.13(2) (2011), the Department had to issue a birth certificate listing both the first spouse and second spouse as parents and stayed its ruling as to other married *** couples until an appeal of that ruling occurred. However, the district court did not reach the constitutional issues, focusing instead on the Department's interpretation of section 144.13(2).


Did the trial court err in deciding that the Department had to issue a birth certificate listing both spouses of the lesbian couple as parents of the child conceived by one of the women?




The state supreme court affirmed the trial court's judgment ordering the Department to issue a birth certificate naming both members of the married lesbian couple as parents based on equal protection analysis under the Iowa Constitution, and not the trial court's interpretation of the parentage statute. The court found that treating a married lesbian couple differently than a married opposite-sex couple would be treated under that statute, without a rational ground for doing so, was a violation of the equal protection provisions of Iowa  Const. art. I, §§ 1 and 6, and required the remedy of naming the non-birthing spouse as the child's parent on the birth certificate.

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