Quite some time back I wrote about a ruling by the Iowa attorney general regarding birth certificates issued to same-sex couples. Same-sex couples in Iowa are permitted to marry and Heather and Melissa Gartner did just that. They had a child and sought to have a birth certificate issued that would list them both as parents. This is precisely what would have happened had they been a different-sex couple, no questions asked. But the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) refused to issue them a certificate.
Now I understand from long experience here that birth certificates are a touchy subject. Several regular commenters would have a birth certificate list the genetic parents of the child–the man and woman who provided the gametes. But I’m going to ask you to accept–just for this discussion–that while you might like things to be that way, it is not an accurate description of the way things actually are.
A birth certificate is a document that reflect the legal parentage of the child and legal parentage is not always grounded in biology. Thus, when a child is adoptive the adoptive parents get a new birth certificate with their names on it. (You can read tons of posts on birth certificates under the appropriate tag.) Similarly, when a married woman gives birth to a child, the husband’s name goes on the birth certificate even if it is perfectly clear that he is not genetically related to the child.
With all this in mind, the question presented here is actually pretty simple: Is there any justification for treating a same-sex married couple differently than a different-sex married couple? For all that access to marriage for same-sex couples is about equal treatment, does some unequal treatment survive?
The answer, according to the court that ruled this week, is “no.” Iowa must issue birth certificates for same-sex married couples just as it would for different sex married couples, without regard for biology.
Note that this is a district court (that means a trial court) decision and thus could be appealed. We’ll just have to wait and see.