No One Is Safe From the Gender Binary—Even Gay Families

Guess what I got for Christmas from my kids?  A T-shirt that reads “The Daddy of all Daddies.” This was sweet, and I’m glad to win any competition, no matter how imaginary. But it was also weird in a way. If I’m the “Daddy of all Daddies,” where does that leave their other father?

The easy answer, and likely the one that animated my daughters’ purchase, is that I’m “Daddy” and David is “Papa.” (How we arrived at who’d have which title is a matter for another column.) But there’s a more complex one, too, which I’m guessing was in the back of their minds: I’m the dad, and David is the mom.

I don’t even have to imagine this as their thinking, really, because one of the kids said as much out loud a few weeks ago. David had just given her medication to help her deal with a cold, and, quite abruptly, she announced that he was “more like the mom” and I was “the dad.” Wait, what? How can our kids (of all people!) be hypnotized by the rigid gender dichotomy that our family undermines by our very existence?2nd parent adoption, second parent adoption, second parent adoptions, second parent adoption new york

It’s not even as though we follow roles that break down in quite the way of “traditional” mom/dad couples. My job’s hours are pretty flexible, so I have lots of time to spend with the family. I do my share of the laundry and generally clean up after dinner. David does the cooking. And when it comes to caring for them when they’re sick—which, after all, triggered the mom/dad comment—it’s a pretty even deal. In fact, I had to interrupt writing this column to mop up some vomit.

I admit the home workload isn’t strictly a 50/50 proposition. David’s design business is part-time at this point, and he does more around the house than I do. But our roles are flexible and nongendered enough that calling us Mom and Dad is just weird.

It’s also true that our neighborhood is very gender-progressive. Our next door neighbors both work full-time, but the dad’s home a lot more, does more than half the cooking, and is forever busy around the house. On the next block is a dad who mainly works from home while mom goes off to her full-time engineering job. Another mom is a high-level nurse practitioner whose husband is an ice sculptor. And so on. In sum, there is no shortage of gender-role busting all around us. Why isn’t all that enough to steer our kids away from such reductive ways of thinking?

Because even those important, living examples of role flexibility are still overwhelmed by the morass of gender traditionalism swirling around them.

Let’s go back to 2007, when the kids were just 2 years old. We’d just completed the adoption process and wanted to have their Social Security cards re-issued with their new last names and with David and me listed as their legal parents. What ensued, though, was homophobic hilarity of both the internal and external types. The Social Security forms had spaces for two parents: “mother” and “father.” The nice-enough guy who processed the form advised that there had been a few other same-sex couples in this situation, and the solution was simply to choose one parent to do an on-the-spot, limited-time gender change. In other words, he was asking me to lie to the government by designating one of us as “mother” although the application itself was the bigger liar. Then he said: “And since you’re the one standing here, you get to be the father.” I muttered something now lost to the ages and did as he’d suggested.

Not 30 seconds later, of course, I had second thoughts: Why was he making anysuggestion besides “fill in whichever blank you wanted.” And why did I accede to this absurdity rather than doing the only respectable queer thing—signing myself in as “mother,” and then turning on my heel and striding imperiously away, perhaps while quoting Mommie Dearest?

I understand that the forms have been changed since 2007, but the essentializing assumptions that underlay them are much tougher to drive out of our collective mental beehive. Just this past weekend, I heard a trailer for some NPR show featuring a lesbian comedian who declared, to forced laughter, that having two sons was the ultimate joke on her and her wife. I’m sure that if I’d searched out the actual show from which this inanity was plucked, I’d have heard the requisite disclaimers (“Oh, our children are our lives … ”), but I’d already had enough. I thought we LGBTQ parents were supposed to be knocking down these pegs rather than mining them for cheap laughs. Yeah, there’s this “lesbians hate men” trope, but really? And the “joke” feeds into intractable stereotypes about how boys need dads, and girls need moms—even though the comedian was probably trying to make a different point.

Before I work myself into hysterics, though, it’s worth acknowledging the more benign take on all this. Maybe my daughter was just expressing, in the terms available to her, that David’s more likely to express his feminine side, or is more comfortable doing so. But I have trouble with that explanation when gender division is made normative from birth. Retail establishments still divide clothing and toys by gender, and the advertising that parades in front of kids’ eyes almost invariably features moms doing mom things, and dads doing dad things. That I don’t even have to tell you what they’re doing makes the point well enough. Our daughters have managed to develop their own gender styles despite all this hounding, but as they reach adolescence, that’s only going to get harder to maintain. The “Papa is the mom” comment could be an early sign of what’s to come despite our tiresome reminders otherwise.

By John Culhane – slate.com, January 24, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

The LGBT Trump Disconnect

The LGBT Trump disconnect is real and attention must be paid to what appears to be the beginning of a not so veiled assault on LGBT rights in America.

First, I must say that there is an LGBT Trump disconnect.  Since I wrote my first piece about LGBT family rights in the Trump presidency, a lot has changed.  I have heard from many people, and I myself wanted to believe, that Trump wouldn’t touch the LGBT gains that we have made during the Obama years.  But his actions have proven different.  His appointments, activity in state courts and the often unintelligible rhetoric we have become accustomed, all suggest that we may not be as safe as some thought we were.

The Appointment Problem – My greatest fears about Trump’s appointments center around the Department of Justice (DOJ), and more specifically, around the civil rights division of the that agency.  First, the long and telling history of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the Republican Senator from Alabama who President Trump has tapped to lead the DOJ, is troubling for many more that just LGBT Americans.  According to The Washington Post, Jeff Sessions has claimed to be a civil rights champion, yet he has overstated his experience and, in some cases, lied altogether about his involvement.  Sessions has spent the majority of his career attempting to undermine LGBT equality, the details of which are numerous and troubling.

But the worst of this story is that President Trump has chosen John M. Gore to head the DOJ’s Civil Right s division.  Mr. Gore, prior to this nomination, was in the process of defending North Carolina’s odious trans-bathroom bill.  Prior to that, he defended Republican efforts to gerrymander congressional districts in violation of the civil rights of minority Americans.       This is not only putting the fox in charge of the hen house, but the hens in this analogy are real people who have had their civil rights violated in what should be the most fundamental right this country possesses – the right to vote.  How can they now trust that their best interests will be defended by a person who, up to now, has made a career out of challenging these fundamental rights?

The Visibility Problem – One of the first signs that there might be a distance between Trump’s “accepting” rhetoric toward the LGBT community during the campaign and what he plans to do as president appeared, or rather disappeared, within the first hour after he was sworn in.  The official White House website, www.whitehouse.gov, removed the LGBT rights page which had been there throughout Obama’s last term, and before.  No explanation was given, however, the pro-Trump Twittersphere rejoiced.LGBT Trump

In an equally expedient manner, all data regarding climate change was removed as well from the whitehouse.gov site.  As most LGBT Americans are not one issue voters, this deletion concerned me as much as the LGBT page being removed.  “Out of sight, out of mind,” seems to be the rule of law now.

The Marriage Issue – I referred earlier to things having changed since I wrote LGBT Family Rights in a Trump Presidency.  At that time, the Supreme Court of Texas had declined to re-hear a case which would abolish benefits that the City of Houston provides to same-sex married couples. Literally on Trump’s inauguration day, the Supreme Court of Texas changed its mind, under GOP pressure.  The Republican Governor of Texas himself wrote a brief to the court asking them to reconsider, essentially arguing that the Obergefell Supreme Court marriage decision does not apply to Texas.  In that brief, the Governor wrote of the “Federal Tyranny” of the courts and that Obergefell does not require that same-sex married couples and different-sex married couples receive equal treatment under the law.

In my previous article, I was originally at a loss for identifying a case with a fact pattern that would make it to the Supreme Court which would have the effect of etching away at the Obergefell marriage decision.  This Texas case may be just that.  It would undoubtedly take time to make it to the Supreme Court, and who knows what its makeup will be then.  But the anti-marriage movement’s argument is in development and may take the same amount of time to get its legs.  The Arkansas Supreme Court issued a decision based on the above mentioned logic denying same-sex couples that right to be listed on their children’s birth certificates.  The issue is now before us and we cannot afford to stop paying attention.

After attending the Women’s March in Washington this last weekend, I left with a renewed sense of hope and possibility.  Hundreds of thousands of people made the impossible seem possible.  The greatest lesson that I took from my experience there was that no matter how generous I may have felt before in giving President Trump a chance to govern, I cannot forget, nor should any of us, that he won the election by dividing the country and making it clear that some people were simply not welcome.  Those are not “alternate facts.”  Those are the facts.  

This is the LGBT Trump disconnect.  I fear now that my beloved LGBT community has taken its place among women, black people, brown people, Muslim people and immigrant communities that were so vilified during the election and may have no voice in the Trump administration.  I hope that the LGBT Trump disconnect is a myth, but if past is prologue, we have no option other than to pay attention, remain engaged and share our feelings with everyone we can. 

For more information, visit www.timeforfamilies.com, or email me at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.  

 

Update – 1/30/2017 – As of Friday, January 27, 2017, the Trump administration has reacted to outrage regarding the removal of climate change information from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website by restoring that information on to the EPA website.  All LGBT information remains missing from the whitehouse.gov site.

 

Update – 2/23/2017 – As of Thursday, February 23, 2017, the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgendered students in public schools.

Contact Time For Families

Contact Form
* indicates required field

After GOP pressure, Texas Supreme Court takes gay marriage case

In a rare reversal, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court accepted a gay marriage case Friday after pressure from state GOP leaders and grass-roots activists.

The state’s highest civil court had rejected the case 8-1 in September, prompting a concerted effort to revive a lawsuit that sought to abolish benefits the city of Houston provides to married same-sex couples. Opponents believe the Houston case provides an opportunity for a ruling that limits the impact of the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage opponents asked the court to reconsider by filing a rarely granted motion to rehear the case that the court accepted, without comment, on Friday.homophobia

Oral arguments will be heard March 1.

The motion to rehear urged the court to reject the “ideology of the sexual revolution” embraced by federal judges who found a constitutional right to gay marriage, overturned Texas abortion regulations and struck down a Mississippi law that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious objections to gay marriage.

A separate friend-of-the-court brief, signed by 70 Republican politicians, conservative leaders and Christian pastors, urged the court to stand up to “federal tyranny” and warned that failure to accept the appeal would deny voters “an opportunity to hear what their duly elected high court justices have to say on such an important issue.”

Ratcheting up the pressure, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Attorney General Ken Paxton, all Republicans, filed a brief telling the court that the Houston lawsuit provides an opportunity to limit the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage.

Opponents of same-sex marriage, spurred by religious and social conservative leaders, also barraged the court with emails asking justices to strike down the Houston benefits or face a voter backlash in future Republican primaries.

by Chuck Lindell, statesman.com – January 20, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

Gabriel and Dylan’s Story – Our Families Matter

Gabriel and Dylan’s Story – via LoveComesFirst.com

Gabriel and Dylan – Love Comes First: Creating LGBT Families is an ongoing transmedia project designed to inspire, inform and document a community on the brink of tremendous societal and cultural change. As legal bans to marriage and adoption are lifted and reproductive technology advances, new possibilities for building families have arisen. At the same time, LGBT characters and stories have become more prevalent in entertainment and the media—bringing awareness and creative influence to the world at large.  Enjoy!

Under Trump, Approach to Civil Rights Law Is Likely to Change Definitively

Washington — In the final weeks of the Obama administration, the Justice Department won the first hate-crime case involving a transgender victim and sued two cities for blocking mosques from opening.

Prosecutors settled lending-discrimination charges with two banks, then sued a third. They filed legal briefs on behalf of New York teenagers being held in solitary confinement, and accused Louisiana of forcing mentally ill patients into nursing homes.

And then, with days remaining, prosecutors announced a deal to overhaul Baltimore’s Police Department and accused Chicago of unconstitutional police abuses.gay hate

The moves capped a historic and sometimes controversial eight-year span in which the Justice Department pushed the frontiers of civil rights laws, inserting itself into private lawsuits and siding with transgender students, juvenile prisoners, the homeless, the blind, and people who videotape police officers. On issues of gay rights, policing, criminal justice, voting and more, government lawyers argued for a broad interpretation of civil rights laws, a view that they consistently said would put them on the right side of history.

Few areas of federal policy are likely to change so definitively. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, opposes not only the Justice Department’s specific policies on civil rights but its entire approach. While liberal Democrats have criticized Mr. Sessions’s views on specific issues like gay marriage and voting, the larger difference is how differently the Trump administration will view the government’s role in those areas.

by Matt Apuzzo, New York Times, January 19, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

Thanks, Obama: A Gay Dad’s Love Letter To POTUS

“Under your stewardship, the US has become an LGBT city upon a hill.”

Dear Mr. President,

Sweeping rhetoric aside, it wasn’t love at first sight. As a social studies teacher, I was delighted by the possibilities of hope and change, but I found something a little opportunistic about a relatively young politician cutting the political line and surrounding himself with Kennedys. I was skeptical to say the least.

But you were persistent. Your intellect, humor and charm warmed me, and you clearly had an LGBT game plan, one that I recognized long before your “evolution” happened publicly. In June 2009, you issued a directive on same-sex domestic partner benefits and opened the door for the State Department to extend a full range of benefits to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service. In October of that same year, you signed the long-stalled Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. In December, 2010, backed by studies conducted by the Pentagon, you showed a willingness to spend significant political capital by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I admired your long game ― methodically chipping away at the wall of homophobic policies ― and found you to be the savviest of quarterbacks. I was smitten.same-sex married couples

Your administration sought input from national LGBT non-profits like Treatment Action Group and Family Equality Council, organizations on whose Boards of Directors I serve, to ensure as part of the Affordable Care Act that insurers could no longer turn someone away just because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Obamacare also made it easier for people living with HIV and AIDS to obtain private health insurance and Medicaid. Most notably, you developed and released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States. Your administration changed passport and student loan application forms to become more gender inclusive. Next time I fill out my children’s governmental forms, I will not be forced to complete a box labeled “mother” like I did last time. Now, families like my own are allowed to re-enter the country as the unit that we are. These gestures may have gone unnoticed by the general public, but not by those of us who for decades have felt the simple desire to be treated like everybody else.

For Easter in 2011, my partner and I took our twins to the White House Easter Egg Roll. As a formerly closeted man who fearfully came of age during the Reagan years, I had a near out-of-body experience watching my two-year old children frolic carefree on the lawn of the White House and in the shadows of history. I felt a sense of belonging I had never before imagined, and I left the South Lawn with renewed optimism in the direction of our country. At that moment I felt the need to become active in your campaign for reelection, something I hadn’t considered since college. So I made nightly phone calls to swing states, talking to prospective voters about how the Obama administration had quite simply changed my life. I will never forget the voter from Scranton, Pennsylvania who told me she “couldn’t stand having that nigger in the White House.” I remember marveling at how the election of a black man to the highest office in the land had not moved us into a post-racial world. Neither of our fights is yet won.

I brought my twins to D.C. to witness your second inauguration in 2013; they turned four that very day. While they innocently thought that everyone had gathered at the Capitol for their birthday, our family did receive a present on that bitter cold morning just the same. I was floored by your mention of Stonewall in the same breath as Seneca Falls and Selma – incredulously asking everyone around me “Did he really just say that?” Yes, the President of the United States just gave legitimacy to my struggle as a gay man, and you’re damn right I shed a tear or two in appreciation. Our family returned to D.C. later that winter to be part of a rally at the Supreme Court when the Windsor case was being heard. This was more of a pilgrimage than a road trip. When I was a young man, I couldn’t fathom being comfortable enough with my sexuality to bring a boyfriend home, let alone think about marriage, the most ‘normal’ of American institutions. Now I was a grown partnered man, bringing his kids to the site where history was being made. Your administration’s decision to no longer defend the indefensible DOMA, paved the way for the court’s eventual decision. I just had to be in the room where it happened.

In December 2014, I was honored and surprised to receive an invitation to a White House Christmas reception. Even my mother, who is not a supporter, couldn’t contain her pride. Walking the halls of the White House with a glass of champagne that sparkled in equal measure with my awe, this teacher truly felt that he was in The People’s House. Unable to resist the urge to finally meet you in person, I strategically positioned myself along the receiving line. I cannot imagine that you remember having met me, but frequently find myself secretly hoping that you do. I gave it my best unscripted shot: “I know a lot of people blow smoke up your ass because you’re the President, but I want to keep it real. I’m a gay dad, and my husband is probably behind me snapping photos right now. Our twins were born the day after your inauguration. Our lives have benefitted immeasurably because of your leadership. Anytime the recalcitrant Congress tries to thwart you, I want you to think of me and my family. You are making a difference.” You put your hand on my shoulder and said, “Thank you. That means the world to me.” But really, you had me at hello.

The last two years of your administration have, for the LGBT community, demonstrated a stronger sprint to the finish line than American Pharaoh at Belmont. On the day the Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergerfell v. Hodges (2015), you directed that the White House be illuminated in the colors of the gay flag, a gesture so breathtakingly unbelievable that it left me scouring the Internet to determine its veracity. The photo went viral, sending a message of surreal optimism to gays in all corners of the world. But you didn’t stop with this rainbow exclamation point. This past year, you opened up the military to transgender soldiers and took aim at those who would deny transgendered students access to the bathroom they deem appropriate in public schools. One day transgender intransigence will be in the trash heap of history – next to segregated lunch counters – and we will look back to your actions as the tipping point. As a final salvo, this past June you directed the National Park Service to dedicate Stonewall, the site of riots and arrests of innocent gay people which is widely seen as the dawn of the modern gay rights movement, as the first National Monument focused on LGBT history. We’ve taken our children several times since, each time with a cone from Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, to reflect on just how sweet progress tastes.

by Frank Bua – huffingtonpost.com, January 8, 2017

Click here to read the entire letter.

Do I need a Will ? – Essential Estate Planning

Do I need a Will ? “I don’t own anything.”  “It’s too complicated.”  “I’m too young to think about a Will.”  I have heard all of these reasons and more for not adequately preparing an estate plan.

“Do I need a Will ?” is a very important question and this article will shed light on your Will’s importance and what happens if you don’t have one. While it may trigger unwanted emotions, having your “affairs” in order is the best gift you can give to your family and friends.

What happens if you do not have a Will? For the family and friends of those who have died without indicating their wishes for the disposition of their assets after death, not having a Last Will and Testament can be a nightmare.  State law determines where assets go when someone dies without a Will and the state doesn’t always get it right.  If you are married, your spouse receives your estate.  If you are married with children, most states direct half of your assets to your spouse and the other half to be divided among your children.  This may or may not be appropriate depending on an individual’s wishes and the ages of their children.estate planning trust, estate planning gay estate planning, lgbt estate planning, glbt estate planning, Wills, trusts, gay family law

If you do not have children, the state will look to your closest living legal relative as a recipient of your estate. This is where it gets tricky.  In most cases, a surviving parent is next in the line of succession, then siblings and their children.  If you do not have siblings, nieces or nephews, then the court will look out to your aunts, uncles and cousins.  The reality of this scenario is that someone who you may have never met, or had a relationship with may be the beneficiary of your estate if you do not plan carefully.

How does a Will work? A Last Will and Testament passes only probate assets, or assets that are owned    in one person’s name without a designated beneficiary.  Examples of probate assets include land, homes, cars, personal belongings and bank accounts.  A Will does not cover non-probate assets.  A non-probate asset is something that is owned jointly or an asset with a designated beneficiary.  Examples of non-probate assets include jointly held real property, a joint bank account, a life insurance policy with a designated beneficiary and an IRA, 401(k) or other investment account with a designated beneficiary.  You may also name a “TOD” (transfer on death) designation for a bank account you own solely in your name.

The above described assets pass outside a Will, the benefit of which is a faster and easier transfer of someone’s money or property when they die. If, however, you are single and there is no appropriate person to name as a designated beneficiary, it is imperative that you have a Will to pass your property where you want it to go upon your death.

What else does a Will do? A Last Will and Testament, in most states, is the only document that will allow you to name a guardian for children if something happens to both legal parents.  If you have young children, it is critical that you have a Will to state who you want to care for them if anything were to happen to both parents.  A Will also allows you to name an executor.  An executor is the person who will be in charge of marshalling your assets, identifying your debts and ultimately paying them off and making a final distribution according to your wishes as written in the Will.  If you die without a Will, your closest living legal relative will be the first choice for an executor.  Only you know whether this would be appropriate or not.

What happens after I die? If you die with a Will, the executor named in your Will petitions the probate or surrogates court in the county where you lived to receive authorization letters from the court.  This process is called “probate” and it ensures that a Will has been drafted and executed correctly, as well as managing the asset distribution.  Authorization letters will allow you to set up a bank account in the estate’s name and start paying any bills that are due.  If an executor must spend their own money to start a probate proceeding, it will be reimbursed prior to any distribution of assets.

Each state is different and will have a different time line and fee structure, so it is imperative that you meet with an attorney in your area to discuss the process in detail. If you find yourself asking, “Do I need a Will ?,” now you know better how to answer that all important question.
For more information, visit www.timeforfamilies.com or email me at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

Contact Time For Families

Contact Form
* indicates required field

Fearing the Trump era, same-sex couples rush to adopt their own kids

As soon as the presidential election results were in, Megan Moffat Sather of West Seattle got a call from her lawyer: It was time to adopt her 6-month-old daughter, Winslow.

“I have to go through something that I think is actually humiliating,” Moffat Sather said. “I have to pay my own money for someone to come into my home and to judge whether or not I should be able to be the parent to my own child.”gay parents adoption

Jen Moffat Sather is Winslow’s biological mom. Megan Moffat Sather is not. They’ve been together 14 years and also have a son together.

But in the current political climate, Megan is afraid her rights as a parent might not be recognized if the family travels outside of Washington state.

One fear she expresses is that at some point in the future a hospital in some other state, for example, might exclude her from decisions involving her family. “It’s wrong, it’s absolutely wrong,” she said.

So Megan has embarked on a process called second parent adoption.

 

By David Hyde, KUOW.org, January 12, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

Florida settles federal birth certificate suit, agrees to recognize same-sex married parents

Two years after gay marriage became legal in Florida, the state has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over birth certificates issued to children born into same-sex marriages.

Two married lesbian couples and the advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued the state in 2015 after health officials refused to include both parents’ names on the documents. The lawsuit came months after same-sex marriages became legal in Florida and two months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans on gay marriage as unconstitutional. 

LGBT family rights in a Trump presidency

American Flag 3D Illustration

“Now more than ever, it’s imperative that our families have every protection available under the law,” Miami family law attorney Elizabeth Schwartz said in an Equality Florida news release. “As a Florida native, I’m grateful my home state has recognized the validity of our marriages and is willing to honor legal parents on this most essential of documents.”

State Department of Health officials had contended they lacked the authority to change birth-certificate forms without lawmakers taking action, a position that led to only birth mothers — and not their spouses — being listed on the documents. But the Republican-dominated Legislature, which last year met from January until mid-March, did not approve changes to the law to recognize that same-sex marriage is legal in Florida.

The Department of Health in May asked U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was moot because the state had started listing both spouses on birth certificates of children born into same-sex marriages and had started a rule-making process to allow the designation of “parent” — in addition to “mother” and “father” — on the birth records.

But lawyers for the same-sex couples and Equality Florida objected, arguing that the health department’s “recent remedial measures are both substantively incomplete and procedurally lacking in finality” and that the issues are not moot.

Last week, lawyers for the plaintiffs and the state filed a document telling Hinkle they had reached a settlement in the case.

Under the settlement, the state agreed to issue corrected birth certificates free of charge to the plaintiffs and to all same-sex couples who received incorrect documents. The state also pledged to apply the statute regarding birth certificates “and any forms promulgated based on that statute to same-sex spouses in the same manner as they are applied to opposite-sex spouses.”

The state also agreed to pay $55,000 to in legal fees and costs to the plaintiffs.

By Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida – Miamiherald.com – January 11, 2017
Click here to read the entire article. 

I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.

In 2008, gay marriage was so new, my wife and I had a hard time finding a lawyer to help us legally join our lives together.

In 2013, gay divorce was so new, I had a hard time finding a lawyer to take our marriage apart.

We fell in love in the ’90s, when getting legally married wasn’t something two women could do. We danced in the streets on May 15, 2008, when the California Supreme Court ruled that “an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

And we decided to tie the knot ourselves the day before Election Day that year, when it suddenly seemed that California Proposition 8 was going to pass, banning same-sex marriage again.gay marriage

Beneath an arbor of grimy plastic ivy at the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, we wept grateful tears as we swore to “love, honor, and keep each other, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.”

Twenty-four hours later, Prop 8 did pass, changing the marital status of 18,000 same-sex California couples from “married” to “who knows?”

Also unknown: why the happiest day of our life together was one of our last happy days. Why nothing we tried — individual and marriage therapy, romantic vacations, trial separations — could fix us.

In 2013 I Googled “gay divorce lawyer” and found only “gay family law” attorneys. I called the one with the best Yelp reviews.

“I need to file for d — ” The word caught in my throat.

In many cities over many years, my wife and I had marched for marriage equality. We’d argued with the haters and we’d argued with the gay people who said that legal marriage would co-opt us, diminish us, turn us into a caricature of “normal” married people. We swore we could enjoy the rights only marriage conferred and still have our gender-fluid commitment ceremonies, our chosen-family configurations, our dexterity at turning friends into lovers and vice versa.

Divorce felt like more than a betrayal of my wedding vows. It was a betrayal of my people and our cause.

“Yours won’t be my first gay divorce,” the lawyer told me, “and I guarantee you, it won’t be my last.”

I asked how long it would take, and what it would cost. He couldn’t give me even a ballpark estimate. The laws were in such flux, he said, that both gay people who wanted to marry and gay people who wanted to divorce were twisting in the shifting winds.

When the lawyer and I had our first, $350-an-hour conversation, same-sex marriage was outlawed in 37 states and legal in 13 (and the District of Columbia). Change was the only constant, and each change increased the time (his) and money (mine) it cost to research its implications.

gay divorceMy case had a bonus complication. In 1999, before real marriage was available to us, my wife and I had registered as California domestic partners. Did we need a separate legal process to end that partnership? No one was sure.

I mailed the lawyer a big deposit. He emailed me a big stack of documents. On the first page, there it was: my wife’s name, right next to mine. The thrill of that triumph, of being a gay person with the legal recognition of a straight person, ran through me as it always had. Then I remembered that I was seeing it for the last time.

As the process unfolded over the next several months, I couldn’t help comparing my second divorce with my first, in 1983, from the father of my kids. That’s the one that should have been complicated. Like most straight married couples, my husband and I owned our stuff jointly — one bank account, two cars, one ranch house and everything in it. Most wrenchingly, we had two little boys whom neither of us could imagine living without for even a day. Yet our divorce, our property division and our custody agreement were all ironed out in a few meetings with a paralegal, whose services cost less than $1,000.

Like most early same-sex-marriage adopters, my wife and I had intermingled our hearts and lives but kept our finances and property separate. And yet I was in for a much longer, costlier contest.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court nullified the Defense of Marriage Act, granting federal benefits to all current same-sex marriages. Six months, dozens of notarized documents and many thousands of dollars into the process of getting divorced, because we hadn’t yet officially filed, my soon-to-be ex-wife and I were more married than ever.

New York Times – January 7, 2017 – by Meredith Maran

Click here to read the entire article.