Italian Civil Unions Bill adopted by Senate

Italian civil unions bill was signed off on by the Italian Senate on Thursday creating a civil union status for same-sex couples after a bitter debate that dominated Italian politics for months.  The victim of this Bill was second parent adoption protections for LGBT Italian families.

 

The vote was 173 in favor and 71 against, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported.The bill must now must be approved by the Parliament’s lower house, but it is expected to encounter much less resistance there than it did in the Senate.

But if the legislation is adopted in its current form, it will not be an end to the fight over same-sex couples’ rights. The government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi traded away provisions important to LGBT activists in order to clear the path for Thursday’s vote, including a person’s right to adopt the child of a same-sex partner. LGBT groups are vowing a new fight against Renzi’s ruling coalition and litigation challenging provisions that they see as discriminatory.

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“Pontius Pilate could not have done better,” a broad coalition of LGBT groups said in a statement denouncing the compromise issued shortly before the Senate vote, calling for a protest on March 5. If this bill is adopted, the groups said, would make Italy “unlike almost any other country in [the European Union] and unique among its founding countries, [ignoring] completely the existence and needs of the sons and daughters of gay couples.”

“Now our battle — concluding the associations — will continue in the streets and in the courts,” they vowed.

The open wounds left by this fight will not only keep the battle alive in Italy, but could become a problem for major European institutions.

Daniele Viotti, a member of the Parliament of the European Union from Italy’s ruling Democratic Party, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that he was calling on the E.U.’s executive body — called the European Commission — to enact regulations that would require member states to recognize adoptions and other “public documents related to civil status” from one another. The E.U. technically has no jurisdiction over family law in member states, but these issues affect freedom of movement for LGBT people throughout the continent which does fall under the E.U.’s domain.

“I think Europe will ask Italy for more and I hope Italy will be ready for more,” said Viotti, who is also co-president of the Parliament’s LGBT rights caucus. “Dropping stepchild adoption is dreadful because it leaves children without protection. The fight is not over.”

But Viotti said, the European Commission has “become a lot more timid” in pushing LGBT rights. The Commission is also now facing a grassroots effort by conservatives, called “Mum, Dad, and Kids.” The group is using a relatively new mechanism, installed to make the E.U. more democratic, to mount a petition drive to pressure the E.U. to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

by J. Lester Fedder – Buzzfeed.com, February 25, 2016

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Lesbians get paid more than straight women, the Surprising reason Why

Why do lesbians get paid more than straight women?

 

Melinda Gates, the philanthropist and mother of three, gathered from listening to her kids and their friends that the next generation of American spouses expects to evenly split the household chores.

“I’m sorry to say this, but if you think that, you’re wrong,” she wrote to high schoolers Monday in her annual open letter, co-penned with her husband Bill Gates. “Unless things change, girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility.”

She backed her case with global data. Women worldwide devote an average of 4.5 hours each day to unpaid work — cooking, cleaning, changing the baby’s diaper. Men contribute less than half that much time, according to the OECD.

gay money

The domestic division of labor remains staggeringly unbalanced in the United States, where female breadwinners now support 40 percent of homes. Women here typically spend two hours and 12 minutes daily on housework, while men spend one hour and 21 minutes.

2015 survey by Working Mom, furthermore, found that female breadwinners who lived with male partners still reported handling the bulk of grocery shopping, meal preparation, bill-paying and cleaning.

“This isn’t a global plot by men to oppress women,” Melinda wrote. “It’s more subtle than that. The division of work depends on cultural norms, and we call them norms because they seem normal — so normal that many of us don’t notice the assumptions we’re making. But your generation can notice them — and keep pointing them out until the world pays attention.”

February 25, 2016 – The Washington Post 

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Lesbian confirmed as next Puerto Rico chief justice

The Puerto Rico Senate on Monday confirmed a lesbian woman to become the next chief justice of the U.S. commonwealth’s highest court. Senators approved lesbian Maite Oronoz Rodríguez’s nomination by a 14-12 vote margin.

Rodríguez has been a member of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court since 2014. She will become the first openly lesbian chief justice in the U.S. “The confirmation of Maite Oronoz Rodríguez as the first openly LGBT chief justice in Puerto Rico and the United States makes history, breaks barriers, and marks a momentous step towards achieving a judiciary that reflects full and rich diversity of our country,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan of Lambda Legal told the Washington Blade in a statement. “A diverse judiciary serves not only to improve the quality of justice, it boosts public confidence in the courts.” Gay Law

Washingtonblade.com, February 24, 2016

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Time For Families Celebrates The Wedding Party

IN 1999, a group of friends saw a need and acted – starting The Wedding Party.

The Wedding Party was an all volunteer nonprofit organization that celebrated same-sex partnership and assisted national and international media outlets with presenting images and video footage that draw national attention to and educate the public about the need for securing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

the wedding party

Executive Directors Renee Rotkopf and Anthony M. Brown

Our vision was to empower our community by honoring commitment in relationships, inspiring each other to live a life of dreams fulfilled.  And we did it!

Our goal is to foster understanding and tolerance of same sex unions and to educate the public on the need to secure the freedom for same-sex couples to enter into legally recognized marriages and be granted all the 1,138 federal benefits, legal protections and rights that civil marriage provides. In so educating the public our goal is to secure those freedoms for same-sex couples. We plan to change the climate of our country, ensuring equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Congo to Let 150 Adopted Children Leave Country After Two-Year Wait

KINSHASA — Democratic Republic of Congo will allow some 150 children adopted by foreign parents, mostly Americans, to leave the country after spending more than two years in legal limbo, the interior ministry said on Monday.

In 2013, Congo imposed a moratorium on exit visas to children adopted by foreign parents, citing fears that the children could be abused or trafficked. The government has also voiced concerns about adoptions by gay couples.

Congo became a favored international adoption destination in recent years because it has more than 4 million orphaned children, according to the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, as well as lax regulation.

The central African nation is mineral-rich but deeply impoverished. It has suffered through two civil wars and armed groups continue to plague its eastern region.

Between 2010 and 2013, U.S. adoptions from Congo rose 645 percent, the U.S. Department of State said.   international

Interior ministry spokesman Claude Pero Luwara said an inter-ministerial commission had approved the exit visas. In November, the commission signed off on exit visas for about 70 children adopted by European, Canadian and American families.

Congo’s government has come under intense pressure from those countries’ governments to lift the suspension.

“The dossiers that were released … it was mostly American children,” Luwara said, adding that the commission will consider about 900 more foreign adoption cases and plans to complete its work next month.

Parliament is expected to take up a bill this year to lift the moratorium and regulate foreign adoptions.

New York Times, February 22, 2016 by Reuters

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Greg Berlanti Welcomes First Child

Out television producer Greg Berlanti on Thursday welcomed his first child via surrogate.

Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl) shared the happy news in an Instagram post on Saturday.

“It is with much pride and love that I introduce to the world my son, Caleb Gene Berlanti. … There is nothing I’ve wanted more, or waited for longer, than to be a father.”

Berlanti, 43, posted photos of himself and boyfriend, soccer star Robbie Rogers, holding Caleb.

gay surrogacy

“Achieving this dream would not have been possible without the love and support of my wonderful family and surrogate, incredible boyfriend, amazing friends and co-workers that encouraged me and helped me on this remarkable journey. Check back in approximately 25-30 years for the tell-all about how I screwed it all up, until then apologies for the over posting of baby photos.”

“My heart is full forever,” he added.

via ontopmag.com, February 21, 2016

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2016 Impact Award Honors Anthony M. Brown

Gay City News announced this week that they would be honoring a select group New Yorkers to receive their first ever Impact Award for 2016.  Among those honored is Anthony M. Brown, founder of Time For Families.

 

Anthony, recipient of the 2016 Impact Award, currently is an associate with the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates heading their Family and Estates Law division serving unmarried individuals, couples and families in Manhattan and on Long Island.  Anthony is the Executive Director of The Wedding Party and has been a Board member since its inception in 1999.   The Wedding Party is a non-profit educational organization that educates the public about marriage and its importance to all citizens through outreach programs and strategic media placement.  Anthony is the Board Chairman of Men Having Babies, a non-profit organization created to assist gay men looking to create families through surrogacy with educational and financial assistance. Anthony is also a legal consultant for Family By Design, a co-parenting information and matching website.

anthony brown

Anthony & Family

Anthony worked as a legal intern for Lambda Legal in the summer of 2002. While there he helped to prepare briefing for the landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas and his research was quoted specifically in Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurring opinion. Anthony also worked as a law guardian at The Children’s Law Center, representing the legal needs of children in Brooklyn Family Court.   Anthony graduated from Brooklyn Law School, where he served as research assistant to Nan Hunter, the founder of The Gay and Lesbian Project at the ACLU. Anthony is a member of The Family Law Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the New York County Lawyers Association and the committee for assisted reproduction of the American Bar Association.  Anthony and his husband were the subjects of CNN’s, “In America, Gary and Tony Have a Baby,” a 2010 documentary about their journey of having a child through surrogacy.

“I am grateful to be honored with this award, especially considering the other honorees.  Thanks to Gay City news and The Point Foundation for the hard work they do for our community everyday,” said Anthony.

 

 

Jason and David: Gay Dads Before They were 30

 

Gay dads David and Jason Bragg-Sutton are a different kind of gay dads. Living north of Tulsa, Okla., in America’s heartland, they have become the parents of three children adopted through the foster care system.

But that’s not what’s different about them. What is? The fact that both did so while under the age of 30.

 

For David Bragg-Sutton, it was a no-brainer. He and his husband became a couple some six years ago, when they were 21 and 26, respectively. Soon afterward, they decided they wanted to start a family, and soon.

Adopted in infancy by a pair of older parents, David says he knew that he wanted to be an active participant in his kids’ lives, when they’re young children and as well as adults. In short, he wants to experience the world with them.

Gay dads

“I want to hang out with them,” he said. “I don’t want to say no to going on a vacation [because of physical limitations]. That was important to me. I want to grow with my children,” David says. “I want to live my life with my children.”

But when David and Jason embarked upon their journey to create a family, they had to change plans and adjust expectations in a big way. They knew they wanted multiple children, for example, but they planned to add them gradually. They also wanted to raise an infant.

After plans for surrogacy with a mutual friend didn’t pan out, they found themselves looking at Oklahoma’s foster care system, and facing some hard truths.

“When we got into the foster care system, our worker told us, ‘You are going to face barriers, as gay parents and as gay parents seeking an infant,’” David says.

Their initial experiences seemed to bear this out. After filling out reams of paperwork, David and Jason opened their home for potential children. And then they waited for 13 months.

Most gay dads have experienced that wait, in one way or another. Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter if the wait is three months or three years. It’s still a period of reflection and anxiety. For the Bragg-Suttons, it was a time of adjusting their expectations, of rethinking what they were willing to do.

At the beginning, they were only interested in seeing children who were young and available to adopt on their own.

But then their social worker began to prod them to change their approach. Eventually they said they were willing to consider sibling groups and somewhat older kids.

They began spending hours at the offices of the Department of Human Services, looking through packets of children who were legally free for adoption.

“We wanted to be very researched,” Jason says. “We really dug into what we signed up for.”

Finally, they were connected with a sibling group of three children, Taylor, 10; Madelynn, 6; and William, 5. On Oct. 5, 2013, they heard they were matched. On Oct. 17, they met the kids at a pizza parlor in Tulsa.

via GaysWithKids.com – February 19, 2016

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How to teach … LGBT history month

February is LGBT history month – the annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – LGBT Families and people and the impact they have on the world. It’s a topic that staff and students can find difficult to discuss; a recent report found that more than half of England’s teachers feel there is “a reluctance to confront the issue of same-sex relationships and a clear heterosexist assumption”

This makes LGBT history month all the more important. The theme for this year is religion, belief and philosophy, and how all three intertwine in the experience of LGBT families and people. This activity pack from the Proud Trust offers a series of lesson plans and resources on the topic, which can be adapted for students of all ages. Here are some other ways to explore the subject with your classes.
LGBT Families

Primary

Addressing feelings of “otherness” is key in discussions of LGBT rights. This poster from Stonewall gives your class a visual representation of the many different kinds of family set-up. The simple animated images show a variety of families, along with the slogan “Different Families, Same Love”.

The charity has also put together a film called FREE, which follows the lives of four children as they experience family and friendship, and work out what it means to be yourself (including the quote: “when you’re strong enough to be yourself, you free everyone”). The accompanying activity pack includes tasks that ask pupils to write a letter, song or poem and analyse stereotypical statements about gender and identity, such as “girls should play with dolls”.

The Guardian
February 18, 2016
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Is a Surrogate a Mother?

A battle over triplets raises difficult questions about the ethics of the surrogacy industry and the meaning of parenthood.

Last year, a 47-year-old California woman named Melissa Cook decided to become a commercial surrogate. Cook is a mother of four, including a set of triplets, and had served as a surrogate once before, delivering a baby for a couple in 2013. According to her lawyer, Harold Cassidy, she’d found it to be a rewarding way to supplement the salary she earned at her office job. “Like other women in this situation, she was motivated by two things: One, it was a good thing to do for people, and two, she needed some money,” Cassidy says.

For her second surrogacy, Cook signed up with a broker called Surrogacy International. Robert Walmsley, a fertility attorney and part owner of the firm, says he was initially reluctant to work with her because of her age, but relented after she presented a clean bill of health from her doctor. Eventually, Surrogacy International matched her with a would-be father, known in court filings as C.M.

surrogacy ethics

According to a lawsuit filed on Cook’s behalf in United States District Court in Los Angeles earlier this month, C.M. is a 50-year-old single man, a postal worker who lives with his elderly parents in Georgia. Cook never met him in person, and because C.M. is deaf, Cassidy says the two never spoke on the phone or communicated in any way except via email. In May, Cook signed a contract promising her $33,000 to carry a pregnancy, plus a $6,000 bonus in case of multiples. In August, Jeffrey Steinberg, a high-profile fertility doctor, used in vitro fertilization to implant Cook with three male embryos that were created using C.M.’s sperm and a donor egg. (According to the lawsuit, the gender selection was done at C.M.’s request.) When an egg donor is under 35, as C.M.’s was, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine strongly recommends implanting only one embryo to avoid a multiple pregnancy, but some clinics will implant more to increase the chances that at least one will prove viable. In this case, they all survived. For the second time in her life, Cook was pregnant with triplets. And soon, the virtual relationship she had with their father would fall apart.

Cook and C.M. are still strangers to each other, but they are locked in a legal battle over both the future of the children she’s going to bear and the institution of surrogacy itself. Because she’s come under pressure to abort one of the fetuses, Cook’s case has garnered some conservative media attention. This story, however, is about much more than the abortion wars. It illustrates some of the thorniest issues plaguing the fertility industry: the creation of high-risk multiple pregnancies, the lack of screening of intended parents, the financial vulnerability of surrogates, and the almost complete lack of regulation around surrogacy in many states.

The United States is one of the few developed countries where commercial, or paid, surrogacy is allowed—it is illegal in Canada and most of Europe. In the U.S., it’s governed by a patchwork of contradictory state laws. Eight states expressly authorize it. Four statesNew York, New Jersey, Washington, and Michigan—as well as the District of Columbia prohibit it. In the remaining states, there’s either no law at all on commercial surrogacy or it is allowed with restrictions.

California is considered a particularly friendly place for surrogacy arrangements. In 1993, a California Supreme Court ruling, Johnson v. Calvert, denied the attempts of a gestational surrogate named Anna Johnson to assert maternal rights. (A gestational surrogate is one like Cook who has no genetic relationship to the fetus or fetuses she caries.) What mattered in determining maternity, the court ruled, were the intentions of the various parties going into the pregnancy: “Because two women each have presented acceptable proof of maternity, we do not believe this case can be decided without enquiring into the parties’ intentions as manifested in the surrogacy agreement,” the court said. It was a victory for Walmsley, who represented the couple who’d hired Johnson as their surrogate.

Slate.com, February 15, 2016, by Michelle Goldberg

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