Victory! Grieving Lesbian Mothers Finally Receive Accurate Death Certificate for Stillborn Baby

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February 12, 2013

Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer have received an accurate death certificate for Brayden, their stillborn son, listing both mothers after the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) declined to appeal its defeat last month in Buntemeyer v. Iowa Department of Public Health.

"The Buntemeyers finally can put this unnecessary legal battle behind them," said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. "For too long, the state denied that Jenny and Jessica are both Brayden's mothers, erasing Jenny from Brayden’s death certificate. We are glad the IDPH decided to step back from this legally unjustified and cruel fight against a grieving Iowa family. Now, Iowa will provide a death certificate listing both spouses as parents to all married same-sex couples who suffer a similar loss."

The case was filed in February 2012 after the family's tragic loss was exacerbated when the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) erased Jenny's name from Brayden's death certificate – even though Jenny was married to Jessica when Jessica gave birth to Brayden -- and refused to return the couple's repeated phone calls for an explanation. Under Iowa law, vital records including death certificates reflect legal parentage, and not biology, and both spouses are parents to any child born during a marriage regardless of whether they share a biological relationship to their child. In March 2012, the Iowa Attorney General's office filed court documents saying that the state will continue to refuse an accurate death certificate to Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer, asserting that it was correct in erasing Jenny's name. In December 2012, District Judge Robert A. Hutchison ordered the IDPH to issue an accurate fetal death certificate to the Buntemeyer family and all married Iowa parents, and referred to Varnum v. Brien, Lambda Legal's 2009 case affirming the freedom for same-sex couples to marry in Iowa, when concluding: "[A] mother's wife is a female parent."

"Brayden will always be with us in our hearts, and we are so relieved to be able move forward," said Jessica Buntemeyer.  "Any grieving Iowa family looking to find closure after a tragedy shouldn't have to wait, much less have to fight for it."

For more information on Buntemeyer v. Iowa Department of Public Health, click here.