DES MOINES, Iowa — A same-sex couple filed suit Wednesday against Iowa health officials, seeking a new death certificate for their child after one of their names wasn't included.
Lambda Legal, a gay rights advocacy group, filed the lawsuit in Polk County District Court on behalf of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer of Davenport. The couple said they filled out a death certificate listing both their names, but the state health department issued a certificate that didn't include Jenny Buntemeyer's name. The group Jessica had filled out the box marked "mother" and Jenny filled out the box labeled "father"
"To wipe out a mother's name from her stillborn baby's death certificate is cruel to a family that is already devastated," said Camilla Taylor, of Lambda Legal.
According to the lawsuit, Jessica Buntemeyer gave birth to a stillborn son in October, and the couple received the death certificate in January.
Department of Public Health spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm declined to comment, saying she hadn't seen the lawsuit and the agency still needed to review it.
Lambda Legal spokesman Erik Roldan said the couple had endured the loss of a child only to see their marriage questioned.
"To Erase Jenny's name from the death certificate was like trying to erase all the love, commitment and work we had both put into planning a family," Jessica Buntemeyer said in a statement issued by the gay rights group. "We were in complete shock."
The lawsuit follows a ruling last week from a Polk County judge who said the state's birth certificate laws must be interpreted in a gender-neutral way and list both names of same-sex couples on a birth certificate.
Carver-Kimm says state health officials follow state law in issuing birth certificates.
According to Lambda Legal, Jenny Buntemeyer and Jessica Aiken met in 2008 while serving in Iraq. They were married in Iowa in 2010. Jessica became pregnant through in vitro fertilization using an anonymous donor.