When homophobia is bureaucratic

I wrote a few weeks ago about the serendipitous decision of the Iowa Supreme Court on May 3, two days after Nico was born and while we were all still in the hospital and had not yet filled out her birth certificate form, that all married lesbian couples are entitled to the same parental rights as their hetero breeder counterparts. In other words, any legally married person, regardless of gender, is allowed to put his or her name on the birth certificate of a baby born to that person’s spouse.

And so, one day before Marta and I were to be discharged from the hospital with Nico, I was able to put my name under the “father” section of the birth certificate form. On our lawyer’s advice, I crossed out the title “father” and put “mother” and then we turned in the form with our $35 check, pleased that we’d be able to avoid a visit to the court and more lawyer fees (we’ve already paid about $1,300 to draw up the original papers for the second-parent adoption).

So it was with no small amount of excitement that I opened the package that arrived a week or so ago from the Iowa Department of Public Health. I first pulled out the form listing what we were to do if any changes were needed to the enclosed official birth certificate. And then…I pulled out the certificate itself. I scanned it. There was Nico’s name, and Marta’s name and information and the date and time of birth.

And nothing else.

The section labelled “father” was blank. My name was nowhere in sight.

Over the next couple days, in phone calls to the hospital, the state and our lawyer, we were able to piece together what had happened. Apparently after we turned in that birth certificate form, it went to a University of Iowa Hospitals’ clerk who normally types up the official application for birth certificates, which are then sent to the state, which issues the official document. In our case, the clerk saw my name and note we’d made about the Iowa Supreme Court decision and she called the state offices to ask what she should do. They told her to ignore my name. In other words, to proceed as usual.

Despite the legally binding decision of the Supreme Court.

Our lawyer then called the state. They’d told her they were “waiting on direction from the Supreme Court” before making any changes. The directions, she pointed out to them, were pretty clear in the decision. But no matter. They’re waiting nonetheless. And in the meantime they’re denying the rights of people: new parents with a baby we both consider ours.

Marta also called the state with questions about the birth certificate. The person she talked to her told her that the Dept. of Public Health still needed to figure out how to handle the change. And it could take months before they do so. Or longer. She explained that we are moving in two months and needed to have something figured out before we leave–to live in Texas, a state much much less supportive of our basic rights. The Iowa state agency official was not sympathetic to our cause.

So in the end, we’ve decided to go ahead with the second parent adoption. Some friends of ours recently contact LAMBDA Legal, which was handling the case that lead to the Supreme Court decision, and they were told that the state was waiting on a court order before it began issuing birth certificates with the names of both same-sex couples on them.

That court order came in last week and, apparently, if we file again the state would process our request and put my name on the birth certificate. But that processing could also take a month or more. And we want this resolved as quickly as possible. I want to be Nico’s legal mother as soon as possible. Definitely before we move to Texas in a little over a month and a half.

So, we’ve decided to go to court and petition for the second-parent adoption anyways. Just to be safe. Just to have this resolved.

Tomorrow at 3 p.m. we’ll be there as a family, asking that I be allowed to officially make Nico my daughter.

We’ve invited some friends. We’ll dress up nice. Marta has promised to be charming. I’ll do my best to look motherly. Our lawyer will make our case, I assume, convincingly. And, if all goes as it should, by 4 p.m. I’ll be a legal mother of this little peanut, not just in Iowa but everywhere.

Now, let’s just hope Nico doesn’t vomit on the judge’s robe.

6 thoughts on “When homophobia is bureaucratic

  1. We all know it is important to Sarah to be a legit Mother (ie, father) but you can’t forget us grandparents we have something at stake here to! I believe it will work out on Monday



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