In Gay Rights Case, Woman to Appeal for Parental Rights to Ex-Partner’s Son

A Manhattan woman who went to court to prove that she should be considered a legal parent to a child adopted by her former same-sex partner is planning to appeal after losing her case last week.

“I have to keep going,” said Kelly Gunn, 52, of the West Village area of Manhattan. “I’m going to do everything I can to protect him and protect my relationship as parent.”

Ms. Gunn went to court last September to prevent her former partner, Circe Hamilton, 45, from moving to her native London with Abush, the 7-year-old whom Ms. Hamilton had adopted from Ethiopia in 2011.

Ms. Gunn and Ms. Hamilton were a couple when they began planning for the adoption, but they separated in 2010 before Abush had been identified by the adoption agency. In court, Ms. Gunn argued that because the adoption plan had been created when they were together, and because she had provided support and care once the boy arrived, she merited the legal status of parent. Ms. Hamilton argued that their adoption plan had ended with their separation and said that the role Ms. Gunn had played in the boy’s life was akin to that of a godmother or a close friend.

Circe Hamilton

Ms. Gunn’s arguments were made possible because of a newly expanded definition of parenthood in New York. Bringing custody law up to date with the realities of same-sex and other nontraditional parenting arrangements, the State Court of Appeals ruled in August that a caretaker who is not related to, or the adoptive guardian of, a child could still seek custody and visitation rights.

The landmark ruling in that 2016 case, known as Brooke S. B., was written by Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman on the court, who last week was found dead in the Hudson River.

Increasing numbers of children were being deprived of access to a loving de facto parent, Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote, simply because that parent did not appear on an adoption paper or have a biological tie. The ruling created a new legal test.

“Where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the nonbiological, nonadoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody,” she wrote.

In one of the first applications of that ruling, Judge Frank P. Nervo concluded in his April 11 decision that Ms. Gunn had failed to prove that her role in Abush’s life rose to the level of parent. Citing her emails to Ms. Hamilton, he said that Ms. Gunn “herself acknowledged repeatedly that the plan to adopt a child with respondent died with their relationship.”

Nancy Chemtob, Ms. Gunn’s lawyer, has 20 days to seek a continued stay of the ruling before Ms. Hamilton can leave the country with Abush. “I believe that this decision doesn’t follow Brooke,” she said.

Bonnie Rabin, one of Ms. Hamilton’s lawyers, said the ruling should allay concerns that a trusted caretaker could suddenly claim parental rights under the state’s expanded definition of parentage. “That would be very scary to parents,” she said.

New York Times, by Sharon Ottoman, April 19, 2017

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HOW TWO DADS ARE SHATTERING THE STIGMA AROUND GAY PARENTING IN THE SOUTH

Parenting is a tough enough job on its own.

Add to that the challenge of being accepted for what kind of a parent you are, and the whole thing can feel insurmountable. But that hasn’t stopped two dads in New Orleans from being extraordinary parents to their little girl.

Husbands Erik and Douglas Alexander have taken to Instagram and their blog NolaPapa to help create visibility around what it means to be positive, loving gay dads. After adopting their daughter Allie Mae in 2015, they wanted an outlet to reach out to other LGBTQ families and document their own family’s journey.

In the process of sharing their story, Erik and Douglas have become a beacon of hope for gay parents in the South.

After dating for almost 11 years, Erik and Douglas married in 2015 when Louisiana legalized same-sex marriage. And despite an expected 3-5 year waiting period, they were able to adopt their daughter Allie Mae in only a month and a half. Suddenly, their small suburban world changed as more and more people noticed their growing family. Their town is close to New Orleans, which is considered to be a very liberal city. But, according to Erik, “The 10-15 minutes it takes to get here takes you back in time about 30 years.”

Babble.com, April 7, 2017 by Lindsay Wolf

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A Baby or Your Money Back: All About Fertility Clinic Package Deals

Trying to have a baby with the aid of modern reproductive technology can feel like visiting a gambling parlor with the highest possible stakes.

So consider the pitch that many fertility clinics now put in front of people like Kristi and Carleton Chambers.

After several miscarriages, the Leesburg, Va., couple took their doctors up on an offer to hand over $50,000 — $20,000 more than what they might have paid for the in vitro fertilization and other services that they needed at the time. In return, the clinic promised multiple procedures until they gave birth, and if it didn’t work, they would get a full refund.IVF

The catch? If they made a baby on the first try, the practice would keep all their money. That is exactly what happened — to their great joy. After their baby boy was born, the couple eventually signed up for a similar deal and ended up with twins.

Welcome to the fertility casino, which frequently presents the rarest of scenarios: A commercial entity offers a potentially money-losing proposition to customers in exchange for a generous supply of in vitro fertilization procedures. People pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege, and when they come out with a newborn in their arms they’re often thrilled to be on the losing end financially.

So who wins? The house. Doctors (and third-party companies that help manage these programs and may take on any financial risk) keep careful track of their data. So they set prices at profitable points given the odds.

Here’s how the house can stack the deck: By admitting only people who have a better-than-even chance of bearing a child early in the process. Those people, however, may not need to pay extra for such a plan, given that their clinics picked them precisely because they were such good bets.

“It’s kind of like the clinic bets on your success, and you bet on your failure,” said Sarah Burke, a Pittsburgh woman who became a parent after enrolling in such a program.

Some of the overall performance numbers of fertility clinics are available in federal databases, but at my request, FertilityIQ, an information clearinghouse and doctor-review service, recently gathered some additional data.

Of the 54 people it found who had enrolled in a baby-or-your-money-back program, 30 of them achieved success not just in the first I.V.F. “cycle” (when doctors retrieve eggs) but on the first transfer — that is, the first time, after retrieval, that doctors attempt to implant an embryo or embryos they created with those eggs. A total of 67 percent were successful in the first cycle, which is at least 20 percentage points or so higher than the birthrate that similarly aged women nationwide experience in any I.V.F. cycle.

So are those two sets of women comparable? Not exactly.

three-parent babyWhile we shouldn’t make too much out of a sample size this small, FertilityIQ’s founders, Jake Anderson and Deborah Bialis, believe that doctors cherry-pick patients who have a high likelihood of success. According to Mr. Anderson and Ms. Bialis, a married couple who were themselves treated for infertility before becoming parents, medical professionals screen the harder cases out — say, people with more problematic diagnoses or those who are older or have a high body mass index.

That’s what happened to Johanna Hernandez of Marana, Ariz., who — after two miscarriages and struggles with I.V.F. — couldn’t get into a program that offered multiple rounds and a refund. “We’re in such a precarious position,” she said. “At the beginning, there’s no way to know that you’re going to need these programs. But at the end, they just won’t help you.”

Ms. Hernandez and her husband paid for additional à la carte treatment, had one more miscarriage along the way and now have a baby boy.

Another way for doctors to improve the odds of producing more babies would be to implant more embryos during each transfer. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine frowns on this, given the additional risks that come with twins and triplets. It has also warned of this possibility in a position paper on the package deals and refund programs, which are known in the industry as “risk-sharing.”

New York Times – April 14, 2017 by Ron Leiber

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7th Circuit Victory for Lesbian Worker Shows Why Judges Matter

On April 4, 2017, in a case called Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex, protects lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees. Reversing several of its earlier decisions, the Seventh Circuit became the first federal appeals court to conclude that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

This landmark ruling advances one of the most important goals of the LGBT movement — obtaining nationwide anti-discrimination protection for LGBT workers. Along with the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, this ruling underscores just why the courts are so important to the future of our movement.    Discrimination
 
For years, LGBT advocates and allies have worked hard to pass state and federal anti-discrimination laws. In 2015, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. David Cicilline introduced the Equality Act, a comprehensive federal bill that would prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. But faced with conservative majorities in many state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, our progress on the legislative front has been grueling and slow. In contrast, the federal courts have become increasingly receptive to claims by LGBT people brought under federal sex discrimination laws. 

In addition to the Seventh Circuit’s ruling in favor of a lesbian plaintiff in Hively, a number of federal courts of appeals have recognized that Title VII and Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in public schools, protect transgender people. Across the country, federal courts are hearing these sex discrimination claims and, increasingly, ruling in favor of LGBT plaintiffs. In these cases, one of the most common themes is that courts must apply our nation’s laws to reflect society’s growing recognition that LGBT people deserve equal dignity and respect and must be included on equal terms. In Hively, Judge Richard Posner, a prominent and highly respected conservative jurist, wrote a separate opinion to point out the importance of judges taking these societal changes into account: “We understand the words of Title VII differently not because we’re smarter than the statute’s framers and ratifiers but because we live in a different era, a different culture.”
 
In stark contrast, President Trump is seeking to pack the Supreme Court and the federal bench more broadly with judges who, in the chilling words of our newest Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, believe that courts should look “backward, not forward.” The Seventh Circuit decision in Hively illustrates the importance of having judges who, unlike strict originalists like Gorsuch, understand the need to take societal change into account. Of the 11 judges who heard the case, eight ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Kimberly Hively, who was denied full-time employment and eventually lost her job after she gave her girlfriend a goodbye kiss in the car on her way into work. Judge Diane Sykes, who authored an opinion on behalf of the three dissenting judges, took the majority to task for departing from what she considered to be the “original” meaning of Title VII. Citing former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative and anti-LGBT judges in our nation’s history, Judge Diane Sykes wrote: “Is it even remotely plausible that in 1964, when Title VII was adopted, a reasonable person competent in the English language would have understood that a law banning employment discrimination ‘because of sex’ also banned discrimination because of sexual orientation? The answer is no, of course not.” 

April 10, 2017 – Advocate.com, by Shannon Minter and Chris Stoll

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What the Seventh Circuit Said About Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The full bench of the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Chicago, substantially advanced the cause of gay rights on April 4, finding that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Title VII applies generally to private sector employers with 15 or more workers as well as to many federal, state, and local government operations, and, though the statute’s text does not mention sexual orientation, the court found that discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people is a form of prohibited sex discrimination.new york probate process

What is particularly amazing about the unprecedented decision in Kimberly Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College – the first such ruling by a federal appeals court – is that the Seventh Circuit is composed overwhelmingly of Republican appointees, many named as long ago as the Reagan administration.

The lead opinion was written by Chief Judge Diane Pamela Wood, appointed by Bill Clinton, but the eight-member majority of the 11-judge bench included more Republicans than Democrats. Many of the judges in the majority could be generally characterized as judicial conservatives.

Wood’s opinion was joined by Frank Easterbrook (a Reagan appointee), Ilana Rovner (George H. W. Bush), Ann Claire Williams (Clinton), and David F. Hamilton (the only Obama appointee on the circuit). Richard Posner (a Reagan appointee) wrote a concurring opinion, as did Joel Martin Flaum (Reagan), his joined by Kenneth Francis Ripple (Reagan).

The dissent by Diane S. Sykes (a George W. Bush appointee) was joined by Michael Stephen Kanne (Reagan), and William Joseph Bauer (Ford).

The circuit’s decision to grant en banc review clearly signaled a desire to reconsider the issue, which Rovner had called for doing in her opinion for the three-judge panel that originally heard the case. At that time, Rovner made a persuasive case that changes in the law since the Seventh Circuit previously ruled negatively on this question called out for reconsideration.

Observers who attended the November oral argument or listened to the recording of it generally agreed the circuit was likely to overrule its old precedents, the only mystery being who would write the opinion, what theories they would use, and who would dissent.

The lawsuit was filed by Kimberly Hively, a lesbian who worked as an adjunct professor at the college, located in South Bend, Indiana. Despite years of successful teaching, her attempts to win tenure were continually frustrated. Her contract was eventually not renewed under circumstances that led her to believe it was because she is a lesbian.

by Arthur Leonard – Gay City News

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