As evidence supporting LGBTQ families mounts, legal hurdles loom

New studies say kids of gay parents are just as well-adjusted as those with a mom and dad. But Congress is moving to allow adoption agencies to bar LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ families made headlines twice this month, but for very different reasons.

Last week, a study found that from a mental health perspective, adult children with lesbian parents fared just as well as their peers with opposite-sex parents. This follows an Italian study released in May that found that children with same-sex parents were actually slightly better off psychologically than children with a mom and a dad.LGBTQ families

Earlier this month, however, Republican lawmakers dealt a blow to LGBTQ people seeking to become LGBTQ families. The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment allowing foster care and adoption agencies that receive federal funding to refuse to work with same-sex couples on religious or moral grounds. Though the amendment has several steps to go before becoming federal law, 10 states already have a similar law in place.

The House amendment goes even further than current state-level laws. It would cut 15 percent of child welfare funding to states that explicitly prohibit agencies from excluding LGBTQ people.

Independent and private adoption agencies that do not receive federal funding are already allowed to deny LGBTQ people.

The studies of children with same-sex parents don’t surprise advocates of LGBTQ families. Zach Wahls, who was born to a lesbian couple through artificial insemination and famously defended same-sex parents to the Iowa Legislature in 2011, said it was exciting to have studies to back up his experience.

“In our current climate, we’re at risk of backsliding on this issue,” Wahls told NBC News. “We need to be ready to contest that, and now we can do it in a scientific way.”

Scientific as they may be, the studies are unlikely to move those who advocate for allowing agencies to exclude LGBTQ families, because the objections are faith-based and do not pertain only to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

by Avichai Scher NBCNews.com, 

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Missouri Lesbian Couple Sues Senior Housing Community for Discrimination

The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ), Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, and co-counsel filed a lawsuit today on behalf of married lesbian couple Mary Walsh, age 72, and Bev Nance, age 68, against St. Louis senior housing community Friendship Village Sunset Hills.

The complaint alleges that Friendship Village violated the federal Fair Housing Act and Missouri Human Rights Act by discriminating against Walsh and Nance on the basis of sex, denying them a unit because they are a lesbian senior couple.lesbian senior

Friendship Village told Walsh and Nance that it would not accept them because it followed the “Biblical definition” of marriage and “defined marriage as between a man and a woman.” Friendship Village is not affiliated with or operated by any religion or religious order; it is open to the public and does not inquire about the religious beliefs or affiliations of residents. Walsh and Nance considered seeking housing elsewhere, but Friendship Village is the only senior housing community in St. Louis that can provide increased levels of care without an increased monthly cost to residents.

“We’ve been together for nearly 40 years and have spent our lives in St. Louis. We want to grow older here by each other’s side,” said plaintiff Mary Walsh. “We should not be prevented from accessing the housing and care we need.”

“Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only—because they were married to each other rather than to men. This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Julie Wilensky. “Their story demonstrates the kind of exclusion and discrimination still facing same-sex couples of all ages.”

Walsh and Nance have both lived in St. Louis since childhood and have been in a committed relationship together since 1978. They first heard about Friendship Village from several friends who lived there. Nance became acquainted with it when she met a former colleague and his wife for lunch there. Then, Walsh and Nance went to dinner at Friendship Village to visit a friend living there with her husband. Walsh and Nance’s friends enthusiastically recommended Friendship Village and encouraged the couple to move there.

Before deciding on Friendship Village, Walsh and Nance made multiple visits, had extensive conversations with staff, and paid a $2,000 deposit. They even canceled a long-planned vacation, losing their nonrefundable airfare, because Friendship Village told them they could get advantageous rates if they signed all of their paperwork quickly and moved within a short timeframe. After being actively encouraged by Friendship Village for several months to obtain housing there, Walsh and Nance were shocked to be denied housing because they are a same-sex couple.

In addition to NCLR and Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU of Missouri and Arlene Zarembka.

“Friendship Village was repeatedly advised for several years by its former management company to abandon their discriminatory policy but refused to do so,” said Relman, Dane & Colfax Counsel Joseph Wardenski. “By bringing this lawsuit, Mary and Bev will help ensure that other same-sex couples are not subjected to illegal housing discrimination.”

Windy City Times via NCLR Press Release – July 25, 2018

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Compensation for Canadian Sperm And Egg Donors Will Help LGBTQ Couples Build Families

It’s currently illegal to pay, offer to pay or advertise payment for sperm, eggs, or surrogacy services in Canada.

The Canadian government is considering amendments to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA) that will benefit the LGBTQ community.

On May 29, Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather introduced a private members bill to the House of Commons. He is seeking decriminalization of surrogacy services and consideration of reasonable compensation for egg and sperm donation in Canada.canada

It’s currently illegal to pay, offer to pay or advertise payment for sperm, eggs, or surrogacy services. Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act of 2004, any compensation beyond reasonable expenditures is a criminal offence punishable by 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. What constitutes a legitimate expense has yet to be clearly defined by the government, leading to criticism of the Act by many doctors and legal experts.

Housefather’s proposed change will affect many Canadians who don’t have their own eggs or sperm to start a family: single women, sterile men, older women who no longer produce viable eggs and people who carry genetic diseases they do not want to pass on.

It will also be of significant importance to LGBTQ couples.

As a fertility doctor, I know that having children is important to LGBTQ couples. However, most require the help of a fertility clinic to obtain donor sperm or eggs.

The intention of sections 6 and 7 of the Act were to prevent commercialization of donors and surrogates in Canada. In reality, the criminalization of potential donors has led to a complete lack of egg and sperm donors willing to provide their reproductive material for free. Donor sperm and donor egg banks are virtually non-existent in Canada. Surrogacy services are only available through recruiting agencies that operate in a “grey area” of the Act.

Lebanon: Same-Sex Relations Not Illegal

Homosexuality Not an ‘Unnatural Offense,’ Lebanon Appeals Court Rules

A district court of appeal in Lebanon issued a groundbreaking ruling on July 12, 2018, that consensual sex between people of the same sex is not unlawful, Human Rights Watch said.Lebanon Gay

The ruling follows similar judgments from lower courts that have declined to convict gay and transgender people of “sexual intercourse contrary to nature” in four separate rulings between 2007 and 2017. It is the first such ruling from an appeals court and moves Lebanon further toward decriminalizing homosexual conduct.

“This ruling signals a new horizon for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Lebanon, who have long been persecuted under discriminatory laws,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights at Human Rights Watch. “The court has effectively ordered the state to get out of people’s bedrooms.”

Activists in Lebanon have long fought to end the use of article 534 of the penal code to prosecute consensual same-sex conduct. The law is a colonial relic, put in place by the French mandate in the early 1900s, and punishes “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” with up to one year in prison. It has at times been enthusiastically wielded to persecute LGBT people, often affecting particularly vulnerable groups including transgender women and Syrian refugees.

HRW.org, July 19, 2018

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Netanyahu Votes Against Surrogacy Births for Israeli Gay Men Despite Voicing Support

Only on Sunday the PM said he’d like to see the law amended during the current Knesset’s term

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted on Wednesday against a clause in the surrogacy bill that would allow surrogate births for same-sex couples despite voicing public support for it earlier this week.Israel gay

On Sunday Netanyahu said he supports the bill in a closed meeting on Likud lawmakers. “I support surrogacy for single fathers,” Netanyahu said, adding that he favored amending the law during the current Knesset session if possible, but if not, he said it should be done later on, via reservations to an amendment bill that MK Amir Ohana (Likud) raised last week, to permit surrogacy procedures for same-sex couples.

Netanyahu has expressed support for LGBT family rights several times in recent years but has not followed up most of these declarations with any action.

Netanyahu heads a conservative coalition which rejects any recognition of LGBT family units. Habayit Hayehudi, the ultra-Orthodox parties and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu Party all reject support for any amendment on the issue.

Members of the opposition booed Netanyahu after the vote, and MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) was removed from the Knesset chamber. Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud) was at the Knesset at the time of the vote but she did not enter the chamber.

and  July 18, 2018 – Haaretz.com
 
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Religious adoption agency can’t exclude gay parents, judge rules

In a ruling hailed as “historic,” a federal judge sided with the city of Philadelphia and same-sex foster and adoptive parents.

A federal judge on Friday ruled against a religious organization that refused to place foster children with gay families on religious grounds.Family law

Judge Petrese B. Tucker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that the city of Philadelphia can require the foster and adoption agencies with which it contracts to abide by the city’s nondiscrimination policies. The decision marks the first time a federal court has ruled that such agencies may not turn away same-sex couples who don’t meet the agencies’ religious criteria.

The plaintiffs in the case — Catholic Social Services and three foster families with whom the agency works — were quick to file an appeal.

The dispute began in early March when the commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) discovered that two of the 30 foster care agencies with which it has contracts — Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services — had policies that deny their publicly funded services to same-sex couples.

Following this discovery, DHS stopped working with the two organizations, noting that their policies regarding LGBTQ families violated the nondiscrimination clause included in the contract they entered into with DHS.

NBCNews.com, July 19, 2018 by Julie Moreau

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Did Republicans Vote to Make It Legal to Ban Gays and Lesbians from Adopting?

In a party line vote, the Republicans in the majority in the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to a funding bill that would allow federally-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ families.

The news came at a moment when LGBTQ activists were still reeling from a 2 July Supreme Court decision siding with republicans and a Colorado baker sued for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing, on religious grounds, to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In their narrow ruling, the justices upheld the law itself but found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did not act with sufficient neutrality with respect to the baker’s religious beliefs.

The vote on gay adoption (which also turned on the issue of religious objections to same-sex relationships) did, in fact, take place during consideration of a funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education by the House Appropriations Committee on 11 July 2018.

Among the amendments proposed to the bill was one offered by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) forbidding the federal government, and state and local governments that receive federal funding for child welfare services programs, to act against individual providers who decline to supply services to anyone — including promoting adoption, recruiting adoptive parents, assisting adoptions, and supporting adoptive families — for religious or moral reasons. 

The committee approved Aderholt’s amendment by a vote of 29 for and 23 against, with all 22 Democrats and only one Republican (Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia) opposed. The full bill still has to pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the president before it can become law.

July 14, 2018, Snopes.com

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Adoption agencies could refuse same-sex couples under measure OK’d by House panel

The House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment on Wednesday that, if implemented, would allow adoption agencies to refuse gay couples based on their moral or religious beliefs.

The amendment, which was introduced by GOP Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, would allow child welfare providers to decline to “provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” according to the congressman.Bribes congress
 
Because of this provision, the amendment would allow more religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services — examples Aderholt provided — to operate child welfare agencies.
 
“The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with same-sex couples,” he said in a statement.
 
He continued: “The amendment I introduced seeks to prevent these (state) governments from discriminating against child welfare providers on the basis that the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” he said in a statement.
 
The amendment could have consequences for LGBTQ-friendly states. It would require the US Department of Health and Human Services to withhold 15% of the federal funds for child welfare services from states and localities don’t meet the same standards for protecting religious adoption groups.
 
Progressive Democrats in the House are speaking out against the amendment, saying it would deny same-sex couples the right to adopt.
“Same-sex couples are six times more likely to foster and four times more likely to adopt. Denying kids loving parents is wrong,” Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a gay congressman from Wisconsin, said in a tweet.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the amendment a “disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort.”
 
“House Republicans chose to sacrifice the well-being of little children to push a bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda, potentially denying tens of thousands of vulnerable children the opportunity to find a loving and safe home,” the California Democrat said in a statement.
 
The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

By Daniella Diaz, CNN.com, July 12, 2018 

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For Many L.G.B.T. Migrants, North of the Border Is No Refuge

Jade Quintanilla had come to the northernmost edge of Mexico from El Salvador looking for help and safety, but five months had passed since she had arrived in this border town, and she was still too scared to cross into the United States and make her request for asylum.

Violence and persecution in Central America had brought many transgender women such as Ms. Quintanilla to this crossroads, along with countless other L.G.B.T. migrants. They are desperate to escape an unstable region where they are distinct targets.

Friends in San Salvador, Ms. Quintanilla said, were killed outright or humiliated in myriad ways: They were forced to cut their long hair and live as men; they were beaten; they were coerced into sex work; they were threatened into servitude as drug mules and gun traffickers.

Still, just a few miles from the border, Ms. Quintanilla, 22, hesitated. “I’ve gone up to the border many times and turned back,” she said in a bare concrete room at the group home where she was living, holding her thin arms at the elbows. “What if they ask, ‘Why would we accept a person like you in our country?’ I think about that a lot. It would be like putting a bullet to my head, if I arrive and they say no.”

While the Trump administration has tightened regulations on asylum qualifications related to gang violence and domestic abuse, migrants still can request asylum on the basis of persecution for their L.G.B.T. identity. But their chances of success are far from certain, and the journey to even reach the American border is especially risky for L.G.B.T. migrants.lgbt persecution

Trans women in particular encounter persistent abuse and harassment in Mexico at the hands of drug traffickers, rogue immigration agents and other migrants, according to lawyers and activists. Once they reach the United States, they regularly face hardship, as well.

There are no numbers available disclosing how many L.G.B.T. migrants seek asylum at the border each year or their success rate, but lawyers and activists say that the number of gay, lesbian and trans people seeking asylum each year is at least in the hundreds.

In weighing whether to risk the journey north, many L.G.B.T. migrants from Central America gamble that the road ahead cannot be worse than what they are leaving behind.

Victor Clark-Alfaro, an immigration expert at San Diego State University who is based in Tijuana, said that he has noticed more openly L.G.B.T. people in recent years making the journey to the border with hopes of seeking asylum. He said they are often the victims of powerful criminal gangs in Central America and Mexico — but also of bigoted neighbors, police officers and strangers.

by Jose A. Del Real, New York Times

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Israeli bill allows surrogacy for single women, denies it to same-sex couples

Single women are eligible for surrogacy but same-sex couples are not under a bill advanced by a Knesset committee.

The surrogacy bill must pass a second and third reading in the full Knesset to become law. The Labor, Welfare and Health Committee passed the measure in an 8-4 vote, with government coalition members in favor and the opposition against. The committee rejected an amendment to allow same-sex couples to undergo surrogacy.

Currently, only couples who are married and heterosexual have the right to hire a surrogate in Israel.Israel surrogacy

Under the bill, a family may have five children by surrogacy instead of the two now allowed, and a surrogate can give birth five times, including her own children, and up to age 39.

Itzik Shmuli of the Zionist Union, who is gay, attempted to sway his fellow committee members on extending the legislation to same-sex couples.

“I want to be a father and I cannot be a father. To do this, I have to go to a foreign country, pay $140,000 and hope it’s all right. My life is full, but there is always a part missing that accompanies me everywhere,” Shmuli said. “We are good enough to serve the country, but not to be parents. It’s an insult I cannot describe. It is a situation that is simply discriminatory, painful, and full of insults and dishonesty. This is wrong.”

Likud lawmaker Amir Ohana, who is openly gay and proposed the amendment to include same-sex couples in the bill that was not approved, told the committee about his difficulties in creating a family.

July 10, 2018 – JTA.org

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