The Iowa Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a married lesbian couple who sued the state Department of Public Health after officials refused to list both women as the biological parents on their daughter's birth certificate in 2009.
Heather and Melissa Gartner, of Des Moines, married after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in 2009, but when their daughter was born later that year, DPH officials listed only Heather on the infant's birth certificate, according to the Associated Press. The "father" line was left blank, and officials told the couple they would need to go through a second-parent adoption in order for both women to be listed on their daughter's birth certificate.
The lawsuit filed by the Gartners and Lambda Legal argued that DHS deprived the child of the protections and benefits of having two legal parents present from birth, reports AP.
The court issued its ruling Friday, in a decision backed by all six justices who considered the case. Justice David Wiggins said the state was unable to come up with a "constitutionally adequate justification" for treating lesbian parents differently that heterosexual parents.
"It is important for our laws to recognize that married lesbian couples who have children enjoy the same benefits and burdens as married opposite-sex couples who have children," wrote Wiggins.
Interestingly, the court's ruling seems limited to lesbian couples who conceive through a sperm donor, reports the AP. It appears to have no legal implications for same-sex couples who use surrogates or adoptions to grow their families.
"The Department of Public Health appreciates the definitive direction from the Supreme Court," spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm told AP. "And it will fully implement the directive of the Court to name both married lesbian women as a child's parents on the birth certificate."
According to AP, this case marks the first time the Iowa Supreme Court has considered an LGBT issue since voters removed three of the justices who joined the unanimous 2009 decision in favor of marriage equality.