Buntemeyer v. Iowa Dept. of Public Health

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Status: Closed
Issues: Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

Lambda Legal case in which a legally married same-sex couple in Iowa gave birth to a stillborn baby and was issued a death certificate by the Iowa Department of Public Health with one of the mothers' names removed with correction fluid.

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Jenny Buntemeyer and Jessica Aiken of Davenport met in 2008 and fell in love while serving in Iraq. They married in Iowa on October 8, 2010, and remain in the Army Reserves. After planning a family together, Jessica became pregnant via in vitro fertilization and an anonymous donor. On October 21, 2011, Jessica gave birth in Iowa to Brayden Bruce Buntemeyer, at 30 weeks’ gestation. He died in utero prior to labor after his umbilical cord became wound around his neck. On the fetal death certificate form, Jessica filled out the boxes for “mother” and Jenny filled out the boxes marked “father,” the only option on the form for a second parent. On January 12, 2012, Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued them a death certificate on which someone erased Jenny’s name and identifying information. This cruel display of insensitivity disregards Iowa law, which states that the spousal presumption of parentage applies to children born to same-sex spouses in the same manner it applies to children of different-sex spouses. A different-sex married couple grieving a similar loss would receive a two-parent death certificate with no questions asked. Death certificates and other vital records like birth certificates document legal parentage, and not biology.


  • October 2010 Jenny Buntemeyer and Jessica Aiken marry in Iowa.
  • October 2011 Jessica gave birth in Iowa to Brayden Bruce Buntemeyer, at 30 weeks’ gestation after he died in utero.
  • January 2012 The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued a death certificate with Jenny’s name and identifying information erased.
  • February 2012 Lambda Legal files suit against the IDPH.
  • March 2012 Iowa Attorney General’s office files 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.
  • October 2012 The Polk County District Court hears oral arguments in the case.
  • December 2012 The Court orders the IDPH to issue an accurate death certificate to the Buntemeyers.
  • February 2013 Victory! The Buntemeyers receive an accurate death certificate for Brayden after IDPH declines to appeal its defeat.