Victory! Justice for Married Iowa Moms Represented by Lambda Legal

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December 17, 2012
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JESSICA AND JENNY BUNTEMEYER

After a shocking and grueling ordeal, Lambda Legal clients Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer will finally get the justice they’ve longed for.

An Iowa court today ordered the state health department to give the married couple an accurate death certificate for their son, Brayden, who was stillborn in October 2011. The department had erased Jenny’s name from the original certificate.

(Here are images of the death certificate before and after.)

In his ruling, District Judge Robert A. Hutchison referred to Lambda Legal's 2009 case affirming the freedom for same-sex couples to marry in Iowa, and wrote:

Both partners in a same-sex relationship can also qualify as parents, at least in the ordinary and common sense. See Varnum, 763 N.W.2d at 899–901. Therefore, a mother's wife is a female parent.

Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project Director, says:

The court affirmed what should have been clear to the Iowa Department of Public Health from reading Varnum v. Brien—Lambda Legal's case that established that same-sex couples in Iowa have an equal right to marry—that a child born to a married couple has two parents, regardless of whether the spouses are same-sex or different-sex. Vital records document legal parentage, not biology. In this case, the state was not only denying that Jenny and Jessica are both mothers, it was trying to erase Jenny from the family. A death certificate for Brayden is their sole legal record of his existence and his significance to their family.

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

Read Judge Hutchison’s decision here.

Learn more about the case here.