The state is appealing a Polk County District Court ruling that ordered state health officials to issue a birth certificate that lists two women who are partners in a same-sex marriage as the parents of a two-year-old girl. The women conceived the baby using an anonymous sperm donor.
State Health Department director, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, explains their decision to appeal. “The appeal is because we feel (the ruling) doesn’t address the birth of children to other married couples, or couples who conceive in alternate ways. And then further, there were concerns about the paternity language currently in the code and if that needs to be addressed by the Supreme Court or through the legislative process,” Miller-Meeks says.
The Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2009, and the Polk County ruling said the state should have interpreted that ruling as allowing the two women to be listed as parents on the child’s birth certificate. The Polk County ruling did not say that same-sex parents have a constitutional right to be listed as parents on birth certificates.
Miller-Meeks says the language of the law has not changed, and they want clarification from the Supreme Court on how to handle the paternity in these cases. “Paternity is established as the father or if it’s a married couple, as the male in a couple, that determines paternity,” Miller-Meeks says.
“In other situations where there is a same-sex couple, then paternity is easily overturned, and so the issue then becomes who has responsibility for the child. So addressing those issues which have not been addressed would be beneficial.”
Melissa Gartner and Heather Gartner of Des Moines brought the lawsuit against the state in this case.