Stories: With or without the state’s consent, I am our son’s ‘father’

by Cynthia Woodhouse (April 2011)

WoodhouseI can’t say that I’ve always wanted to be married and have children. For the longest time, I enjoyed being alone. I was independent, capable, solidly employed and enjoyed being able to make my own decisions.

Then I met Amy. As our relationship developed into something beautiful and emotionally magnificent, I discovered I no longer wanted to be alone.

When we got married in May 2008, our families were there to support us in the planning, execution and party surrounding the most important day of our lives.

Though some adjustment was necessary for family members, they really came through and helped us build a life we are incredibly proud of. Our parents love us (sometimes, I’m sure my parents love Amy more than me) and really enjoy spending time with each other as well.

The Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum decision in 2009 was more than Amy and I could have hoped for. We knew things were moving in that direction, and that we would be legally married in our lifetime, but we never expected to sign the legal papers on our one-year anniversary.

I can’t say that a sheet of paper transformed our relationship into something more amazing, but it did give us a new confidence and an additional anniversary. We now celebrate both our “illegal” and “legal” anniversaries. They each have different meanings to us, but both are equally and exceptionally important.

But one step forward, one step back: While we now enjoy legal married status, we are still fighting (like the rest of the LGBTQ community) for full recognition.

Amy is seven months pregnant, and our son will be born sometime at the beginning of July. We’ve enjoyed every moment of this truly amazing process and counted our blessings EVERY DAY. We have a stable home and adoring parents who are excited to have a grandbaby. We have incredible support and love pouring in over our family-to-be. We have the legal recognition afforded a married couple.

With one important exception: The State of Iowa will not permit my name on the birth certificate as a parent without a humiliating and costly process of what they call “Second Parent Adoption.”

In heterosexual relationships, there’s something called “Spousal Presumption,” which assumes the male spouse is the biological father of any children. He doesn’t have to have been there when the baby was conceived; he doesn’t even have to be able to have children. Spousal presumption, however, does not apply if the spouses are of the same sex.

So here we are. We’re elated that we’re legally married and have the certificate framed and displayed in our house, but we’re still heartbroken. We’re emotionally exhausted and frustrated at having to run hurdle after hurdle.

While I understand the original function of the birth certificate may have been to establish and maintain legal record of paternity, I think we can all agree it no longer serves that purpose. This is evident in the birth certificates issued without “father” filled in or when the “father” is, in fact, not a biological contributor.

As I understand it, the only requirement for spousal presumption is that the parents be married prior to the birth of the child and the birth parent gives her consent. I’ve asked. Amy promises to give her consent.

Lamdba Legal is currently arguing a case to address the exclusion of same-sex spouses on birth certificates like Cynthia is facing with the birth of her son. Read more at LambdaLegal.org.


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