Roy S. Moore, Alabama Chief Justice, Suspended Over Gay Marriage Order

The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy S. Moore, was suspended on Friday for the remainder of his term in office for ordering the state’s probate judges to defy federal court orders on same-sex marriage.

The suspension was imposed by the state’s Court of the Judiciary, a nine-member body made up of selected judges, lawyers and others. While the court did not remove Chief Justice Moore from the bench entirely, as it did in 2003 after he defied orders to remove a giant monument of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building, it effectively ended his career as a Supreme Court justice. His term ends in 2019, and Chief Justice Moore, 69, will be barred by law from running again at that time because of his age.

new york probate process

The court was unanimous in its judgment, the decision said, because of both “his disregard for binding federal law,” exhibited in a January order to the state’s 68 probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and “his history with this court.”

No one expects Chief Justice Moore, a major figure in the culture wars since before he entered statewide office, to depart quietly from the political scene. In the years after his first removal, he ran for governor twice, though he finished far behind in the Republican primaries. He considered running for president in 2012 but decided instead to run, again, for chief justice. His victory without a runoff in the 2012 Republican primary rattled the state’s political establishment, and many high-profile Republicans openly supported the Democrat in the general election. He won with a slim majority.

Chief Justice Moore’s legal views defy easy political classification. He is no friend of big business in his rulings, and he has openly questioned the justice of life sentences for drug violations.

New York Times, by Campbell Robertson, September 30, 2016

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Birth of Three-Parent Baby a Success for Controversial Procedure

A few months ago, after a fertility procedure at a Mexican clinic, a healthy baby boy was born in New York to a couple from Jordan. It was the first live birth of a child who has been called — to the dismay of scientists who say the term is grossly misleading — a three-parent baby.

“This is huge,” said Dr. Richard J. Paulson, president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, after the birth was reported on Tuesday of a three-parent baby.

The method used to help the couple is one that reproductive scientists have been itching to try, but it is enormously controversial because it uses genetic material from a donor in addition to that of the couple trying to conceive. The purpose is to overcome flaws in a parent’s mitochondria that can cause grave illnesses in babies.three-parent baby

Mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories, are separate from the DNA that determines a child’s inherited traits. But mutations in these little organelles can be devastating, resulting in fatal diseases involving the nerves, muscles, brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems that often kill babies in the first few years of life.

The technique that led to the healthy birth was to move the DNA from an egg of the mother, who had mutated mitochondria, and place it in the egg of a healthy egg donor — after first removing the healthy donor’s nuclear DNA from her egg cell. Then that egg, with its healthy mitochondria and the mother’s DNA, could be fertilized.

More than a decade ago — before controversy forced the work to stop — researchers tried a simpler technique that did not involve swapping nuclei between eggs. Instead, they injected some healthy mitochondria into an egg in an attempt to help with repeated failures at in vitro fertilization. It was not a method that could be used to prevent the birth of children with mitochondrial diseases.

The story of the Jordanian couple’s procedure began in 2011 when they came to see Dr. James Grifo, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University who pioneered the method in studies with mice. He referred them to his former student Dr. John Zhang, medical director of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York. Dr. Zhang had tried the method in 2003 in China, but the 30-year-old woman’s twins were born prematurely and died, though their mitochondria were normal.

When Dr. Zhang told the Jordanian couple about the technique, they hesitated. They already had a child who was terribly ill with Leigh syndrome, a mitochondrial disease, but there was a chance they could have a normal baby on their own — a quarter of the woman’s mitochondria were mutated, but mitochondria are distributed at random in eggs. If an egg with mostly good mitochondria happened to be fertilized, the baby would be fine. They decided to take their chances.

New York Times, by Gina Kolata – September 27, 2016

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Ethical Surrogacy – Making the Right Choices

Ethical surrogacy is, and must be, the goal of an intended parent (IP) who is looking to have a family with the assistance of a surrogate mother.

Because of the different parties involved and the roles that they play, there must be a guiding, ethical roadmap for intended parents to follow to ensure that everyone has a successful and positive experience, an ethical surrogacy. Up until very recently, no such roadmap existed for intended parents.  Doctors have such guidelines in the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) Recommendations for Practices Utilizing Gestational Carriers.  Attorneys also have such guidance in numerous articles and section committees dedicated to issues surrounding surrogacy.

Respect Ethics Honest Integrity Signpost Meaning Good Qualities

Now there is a place where intended parents can go to review best practices and baseline protocols for ethical surrogacy, ensuring that each IP has the tools to create an ethical journey. Men Having Babies (MHB), a non-profit organization of which I am the board chairperson, recently introduced A Framework for Ethical Surrogacy for Intended Parents, available online in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Hebrew.  This comprehensive document is supported by several LGBT organizations in America and abroad.

What is Ethical Surrogacy?

MHB’s ethical surrogacy framework revolves around the notion that surrogacy can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience for all parties involved, even if the surrogate is compensated for her efforts, risk and inconvenience. While compensation is part of the process, the act itself is not commercial because the IPs are not buying anything, particularly a child, which is a claim made by some anti-surrogacy activists.  A surrogate efforts should be compensated, even if the journey does not result in a pregnancy or in the case of a miscarriage.

How can Ethical Surrogacy be Achieved?

Regulation is the key to achieving ethical surrogacy. Having laws in place that require independent representation for all parties ( in their home languages), ensuring that all parties are vetted medically and psychologically, limiting compensation so as not to create irresistible incentives for participation and making surrogacy legal in each state and in each country so IPs and surrogate mothers do not have extraordinary distances between them, all work together to create an ethical surrogacy environment.

Reasonable and appropriate legislation should be enacted to allow perspective parents, donors and surrogates enter into legally enforceable agreements for surrogacy arrangements without having to cross state lines or country borders. This fosters more successful and fulfilling relationships between surrogate mothers and IPs.  Steps must also be taken to limit any medical risks that donors and surrogates face in the surrogacy process.

Baseline Protocols for Providers

Several baseline protocols should be implemented by service providers to ensure an ethical surrogacy experience including, but not limited to: informed consent from all parties, medical screening, social and psychological screening, independent legal representation (with language interpretation is required) before any treatments begin, medical insurance review from the surrogate mother and an agreement regarding contact during and after the surrogacy journey.

Best Practices

Best practices are suggestions for “above and beyond” thinking that is required of IPs because so much of the integrity of the journey depends on them. Among these suggestions is the creation of a long term vision about your family.  Who will be the biological parent?  How many journeys do you anticipate? What will the relationships be during and after the surrogacy?  How will you explain your family make-up to your child?  These questions are just a few of those that need to be asked and answered in the surrogacy process.

Above all, the autonomy of your surrogate mother must be respected and supported. While it may be your child that she is carrying, it is her pregnancy.  Insuring that she knows that you, as IPs, understand this distinction is critical to supporting her autonomy.  Her family and community will also play a role in her pregnancy, so getting to know her circle of support is a wonderful way of bolstering that support, making the journey a happy and healthy one for your surrogate mother.

While the MHB Framework for Ethical Surrogacy for Intended Parents goes deeper into the specifics of making your journey an ethical one, this article is designed to begin a conversation about the quality and success of your surrogacy journey.  After all, your family is worth it!  For more information, go to timeforfamilies.com or email Anthony at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

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Wisconsin Lesbian Couple Win Discrimination Lawsuit Over Their Child’s Birth Certificate

A federal judge ruled last Wednesday that Wisconsin officials discriminated against a married lesbian couple for not allowing the non-biological mother’s name on their child’s birth certificate. Jessamy and Chelsea Torres were married in 2012 in New York and two years later conceived their son through artificial insemination. Chelsea gave birth to their son in 2015, after same-sex marriage became legal in Wisconsin. The couple requested a birth certificate listing them both as the parents but the Wisconsin Department of Health Services gave them one with Chelsea’s name as the sole parent.

lesbian family law

drawing of a happy couple of lesbians and adopted child

“It felt like I got punch right in the stomach,” Jessamy Torres told the Star Tribune. “Through the whole birthing process, we were treated like we were both his parents. … But to have the state kind of erase me from all that, yeah, it was heart wrenching.”

The forms the couple filled out for a Wisconsin birth certificate only had lines asking for the mother’s and father’s name and not the gender-neutral term “parent” that other states now use. There wasn’t an option on the form for Jessamy to add her name. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Wisconsin was unconstitutional to treat the couple this way when different-sex partners in the same situation weren’t discriminated against. She directed the department to use gender-neutral terms in their forms including using the words “parent” and “spouse.”

A parent’s name omitted from their child’s birth certificate could present problems for a family when trying to authorize medical treatment, registering for school or day care, boarding an airplane and entitling the child to benefits from a parent’s job. “Everyone else gets a birth certificate right away,” attorney Clearesia Lovell-Lepak told the Star Tribune. “You don’t have to go to court or a lawyer. It just makes you feel a little less than when you have to fight so hard to get what everybody else gets for free right away.”

It wasn’t till a few months ago in May that Wisconsin changed their forms to obtain a birth certificate. They now include two boxes that acknowledges same-sex women couples conceiving through artificial insemination. So this ruling only affects “other female same-sex couples who were artificially inseminated, married before they gave birth and requested a birth certificate before May 2, 2016,” according to the Star Tribune.

Click here to read the entire article.

Posted by Yvonne, September 20, 2016 Autostraddle.com

Unmarried Estate Planning Information

While America has transformed in its understanding of marriage equality over the last five years, unmarried estate planning is still vital for those who, by choice, remain unmarried.

Unmarried estate planning was the bulk of my practice prior to marriage equality. In 2010, I published a law review article on estate planning for unmarried couples discussing just this material.  Finding the loopholes that would provide protection for unmarried couples is an art form and many today who are unmarried by choice, must know these rules and regulations that may negatively affect them without proper planning.

What unmarried couples must know – The law protects married couples in a way that is truly unique.  While some argue against making marriage the benchmark for protection, it nevertheless remains the standard in America.  Without proper planning, a surviving unmarried partner can face a number of pitfalls that could have been prevented with careful planning.  The main categories of awareness center on death, property, health care and asset transfer.tips for estate planning

Death – When an unmarried person dies, their Will is the operative document for distribution of assets upon their death.  If that unmarried person dies without a Will, the state in which they live will decide through the law of intestacy who receives from their estate.  Blood relatives are given priority.  In many states, New York included, if an unmarried person dies with a Will, their closest living legal relatives are also required to consent to the probate of the decedent’s Will.  The emotional and financial costs of these notification provisions can run high depending on the legal family of the decedent.

To best prepare for these issues, maximize your non-probate assets, or assets that are titled solely in the name of the one unmarried partner.   Create “POD,” or payable on death, designations for your bank accounts so they don’t have to go through probate.  Place real property titled in one unmarried partner’s name into a trust, which removes it from probate.  Also, verify all of your non-probate asset designations, such as life insurance beneficiaries, IRA beneficiaries and 401(k) beneficiaries.  These assets will pass directly to whomever you designate, as long as you make a designation.  If you do not, those assets pass into your estate and must go through the probate process.

Real property – You cannot discuss unmarried estate planning without talking about real property ownership.  If there is one legal owner of a house or apartment, then upon death the property will pass either through the Will of the decedent unmarried partner, or through a trust if they were savvy enough to create one.  If you purchase the property together, make sure to hold the title as Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship.  This will ensure that the property passes to the surviving joint owner without having to go through a probate or an administration proceeding to pass to the surviving partner.

Health Care – One of the most important aspects of unmarried estate planning is addressing one another’s health care needs.  Each partner should have a carefully crafted Medical Power of Attorney, or Health Care Proxy, and a Living Will.  These documents will ensure that your individual wishes are met given an end of life situation and that your partner will make the medical decisions necessary if you cannot.

Asset Transfer – One of the real benefits of marriage is the unlimited transfer of assets between spouses, both during life and after death.  If an unmarried partner wanted to add their partner’s name to the deed of a home or apartment, they would have to file a gift tax return for half the value of the property.  If, however, they were married and did the same transaction, no gift tax return would be required.  Likewise, gifting of over $14,000.00 to any one person who is not your spouse in a calendar year also requires the filing of a gift tax return.

For more information about unmarried estate planning, please visit www.timeforfamilies.com or email me at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

 

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The Most Detailed Map of Same-sex Married Couples in America

More than three years after a Supreme Court decision gave federal recognition to same-sex marriages performed in states that allowed them, the demographics of same-sex married couples largely remain a mystery.

In fact, no one has a definitive count of same-sex married couples in the United States.

One reason it’s hard to get a fix on the marriages is that detailed marriage records are not tracked at the federal level. They’re managed by counties and states, which report the count of marriages and not much else. The Census Bureau isn’t always a lot of help either. Methodological problems like sample size and false positives have long plagued census estimates of this relatively small group.

But a new research paper published by the Treasury Department on Monday has found an interesting way around these problems: tax records.marriage equality

By linking the tax returns of same-sex couples who filed jointly in 2014 with their Social Security records, researchers are able to give us the most accurate picture of same-sex marriages to date. And their estimate is this: In 2014 there were 183,280. same-sex marriages in America, roughly a third of 1 percent of all marriages.

Of course, implicit in this estimate is the assumption that all married couples file their returns jointly. But as a proxy for that, it’s pretty good. The Treasury Department estimates that 97.5 percent of married couples file joint returns.

One highlight of the study: Pretax household income of same-sex married couples is higher than that of heterosexual married couples. Most of that is driven by the average earnings of male same-sex couples: $176,000. On average, they make $52,000 more than married lesbian couples and $63,000 more than married straight couples.

Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said one reason is the gender pay gap. The math here is simple — for heterosexual couples, the gender pay gap affects one partner. For same-sex female couples, the gender pay gap affects both partners.

But that doesn’t explain why same-sex female married couples earn more than heterosexual married couples, over all. The other key component is geography. The tax data shows same-sex married couples clustering along the coasts, and in urban pockets across the United States. These are regions that also tend to have higher wages. In fact, heterosexual couples actually earn more than same-sex female ones when you compare married couples who live in the same three-digit ZIP code region.

Child care plays a huge role as well. Same-sex female couples are four times more likely to have children than same-sex male couples. That means that many women will have to make tough trade-offs between career and family. Combine that with the likelihood of lower pay to begin with and you start to understand why the income differences are so large.

New York Times, September 12, 2016 by Quoctrung Bui

Click here to read the entire article.

New York Family Law, Matter of Brooke S.B.

Late August 2016 marked a turning point for New York family law and how it defines parents, particularly lesbian parents.

What the court decided – Up until this decision, many lesbian parents who had not adopted the biological children or their partners or spouses were considered legal strangers to the children that many of them had raised since birth.  Under previous New York family law, these non-biological and non-adoptive parents could not seek the legal system’s assistance in gaining custody, or even visitation, to the children who they helped to raise.

All that changed last month with a court case known as In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.  C.C.  In this landmark decision, the court overturned previous New York precedent that had torn families apart for decades and ruled that non-biological and non-adoptive parents did have standing to sue for custody and visitation in the New York family court system.  This brings New York family law in line with many other states which recognize “de facto” parents for the purpose of custody and visitation and prioritizes the best interests of the child in making these critical decisions.remarkable parenting

What this decision does not address? – The court was careful to base its decision on the specific facts of this case, which included one very important element: the fact that the couple agreed in advance to the conception of the child.  What this means is that if a lesbian couple has children but the non-biological or non-adoptive parent entered the picture after the conception of the child, then she would not fall under the definition of a “de facto” parent as stated in this case.  Also, if the non-biological, non-adoptive parent did not consent to the conception of the child by clear and convincing evidence, she would be forestalled from seeking custody or visitation.

It is also critical to note that the court did not explicitly state that the non-biological, non-adoption mother was a legal parent of a child born to her spouse or partner for all purposes, just that she could seek custody and visitation if she had consented to the conception.  This case also did not explicitly address the notion of the marital presumption of parentage, which a mid-level appellate court has held not to apply to same-sex couples.  This concept holds that the spouse of a married woman is automatically considered the legal parent of any child she gives birth to.

Does this mean I do not have to adopt my partner or spouse’s child? – I do not believe that the court meant for this decision to be a substitute for second or step adoption.  Adoption is the one clear pathway to legal parentage and parentage includes much more that custody and visitation.  Adoption also ensures that a parent’s relationship to their child would be respected across the country and around the world.

For instance, if you are the non-biological, non-adoptive parent and you have a better health care plan at work, this decision would not mandate that an employer must put the child on your health insurance. Second or step parent adoption would, however, ensure that that the child would be protected in this situation.

Brooke S.B. was also silent on whether a legal relationship between a non-biological or non-adoptive mother would be recognized for the purposes of estate administration. This means if a legal parent dies without a Will, their children automatically share in that parent’s estate if they are married, or inherit the estate completely if the decedent spouse is not married.  Finally, the legal and emotional statement of securing your family through adoption resonates beyond just the family unit.  It establishes your family in the community, in your child’s educational institutions and, most importantly, in the eyes of the children with whom you are creating a legal family.

Brooke S.B. also fails to address how gay men can protect their families through surrogacy.  Adoption is still the best way in New York to create legal families established through surrogacy.

Brooke S.B. will undoubtedly protect many families from the horror of being torn apart because one parent was not recognized as a real parent. For that, New York family laws will be better and stronger for all families.  But this decision is not all-encompassing and when it comes to the protection of your family, the establishment of comprehensive legal parentage by a non-biological parent is the ultimate goal.  To accomplish that, a second or step-parent adoption is essential.

For more information about New York family law and the ramifications of the Brooke S.B. decision, contact Anthony Brown at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com or visit www.timeforfamilies.com today.

These Two Dads Almost Lost Their Son In A Bizarre Surrogacy Case

Jay Timmons and Rick Olson thought they’d have no legal trouble using a surrogate to birth their son. Then a rogue judge in Wisconsin pulled them into an 11-month legal battle.

Jay Timmons and Rick Olson, a married gay couple from Virginia, didn’t think they’d have any trouble becoming the legal parents of the baby boy their surrogate, a Wisconsin woman, delivered for them last year.

They had gotten the frozen embryo that became their son as a gift from straight friends whose in vitro fertilization created more embryos than they could use. They had chosen a Wisconsin surrogate specifically because the state’s Supreme Court had upheld surrogacy, and other same-sex couples had had smooth sailing there. And by just about any measure, the two intended fathers were prime parent material: They both had good jobs, they had been together for 25 years, and they were already raising two daughters from previous surrogacies.Timmons

But their careful plans went awry the month before their son, Jacob, was born, when their effort to be named his legal parents landed before a conservative judge who saw surrogacy as a form of human trafficking. Over the next 11 months, the couple’s bizarre legal battle cost more than $400,000 and kept them in constant terror of losing their son.

“We didn’t have one night’s peace,’’ Timmons, 54, a conservative Christian and president of the National Association of Manufacturers, told BuzzFeed News. “We’d wake up absolutely panicked, around 2 in the morning, and talk about the fact that we didn’t know what was going to happen.”

The couple took out second and third mortgages to cover the legal fees, and Olson, 49, quit his job as a federal lobbyist for Capital One to manage the proceedings.

Over the last couple of years, a handful of high-profile surrogacy lawsuits have cropped up in U.S. courts. In California, a surrogate named Melissa Cook refused a man’s wishes to abort one of the triplets she was carrying for him. And in a Pennsylvania, The View co-host Sherri Shepherd tried, unsuccessfully, to pull out of a contract with a pregnant surrogate after splitting up with her husband.

But the Wisconsin case is likely unprecedented, legal experts say, in that the surrogate, her husband, and the intended parents were all happy with their arrangement. Only the judge was not.

The case was a “judicial hijacking,” Melissa Brisman, a surrogacy lawyer in New Jersey, told BuzzFeed News. “We’re at a time when a lot of people are still very committed to the idea that family values means straight married couples who have sex are the only ones who should have babies.”

In June the couple won the case, thanks in large part to the judge’s abrupt resignation. Although the proceedings had played out in closed court, once it was over, supporters of Timmons and Olson provided copies of court transcripts, briefs, and filings to BuzzFeed News. And although the case is certainly an anomaly among the thousands of surrogacy arrangements made in the US every year, it underscores how, in certain areas of the country, surrogacy has become a flashpoint for cultural debates about same-sex marriage, reproductive rights, and the booming fertility industry.

by Tamar Lewin, buzzfeed.com

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Adoption equality in Victoria Australia starts today

LGBTI couples in Victoria can now adopt under new laws that come into effect from today.

Changes to the Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Act 2015 gives same-sex couples the same rights in adoption law as heterosexual couples, and gay and lesbian individuals.

“Today is a historic day in Victoria – we’re another step closer to equality for thousands of same-sex families,” said Equality Minister Martin Foley.gay parents adoption

“This law brings much needed certainty for many children and their parents who currently live in a legal haze in terms of their relationships with the people they love.”

The government said the increase in families applying to adopt will mean that there will be more opportunities for children to be matched with the best possible family.

Felicity Marlowe, co-convenor of the Rainbow Families Council, said the new laws will ensure children of LGBTI couples will now have the rights and legal protections they deserve.

“We wholeheartedly thank the Andrews Government for their commitment to equality for rainbow families. Just like us, the Premier and his Government understand that it is love that makes a family,” Marlowe said.

Anna Viola is part of a same-sex family with a daughter in a step-parent family. The law means she and her partner can now officially adopt her daughter.

“Being able to adopt means that my partner and child will be able to have their relationship bound by law and all the protections and rights that we couldn’t take for granted before,” Viola said.

“It’s a momentous step for us emotionally too – what adoption symbolises as well as what it means on paper.”

But religious exemptions will remain in place, a clause equality groups say it still discriminatory.

“We are very disappointed that faith-based services remain able to discriminate against same sex couples who apply to adopt,” said Sean Mulcahy, Co-Convenor of the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby.

“We firmly believe that children’s rights should never be trumped by the religious beliefs of a state-funded service provider,

“This reform marks the end to the last Victorian law to discriminate against same-sex couples. We will not stop until all LGBTI Victorians are treated equally in both law and policies.”

by Reg Domino, gaynewsnetwork.com/au

Click here to read the entire article.