Gay Rights Groups Seek One More Win From Justice Kennedy

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the greatest judicial champion of gay rights in the nation’s history, will turn 81 on Sunday. Rumors that he would retire in June turned out to be wrong, but he will not be on the Supreme Court forever.

Gay rights groups hope to score one more victory before he leaves the court. The goal this time is nationwide protection against employment discrimination.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinions in all four of the court’s landmark gay rights rulings, culminating in the 2015 decisionestablishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But there is more work to be done, said Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia.

“Marriage equality did not bring an end to sexual-orientation discrimination in this country,” she said.

The same-sex marriage decision left gay men and lesbians in a strange position, said David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University.

“You can get married, put a picture on your desk from the wedding and then be fired because the boss sees the picture,” he said.

“Marriage was certainly an important step, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is no federal law protecting against sexual-orientation discrimination in employment or housing or education or public accommodations,” Professor Cohen said. “Only about 20 states offer protection under their own state laws.”

This month, the gay rights group Lambda Legal announced that it would ask the Supreme Court to hear a case that could prohibit employers from discriminating against gay and lesbian workers. The group argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex, also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Most federal appeals courts have rejected the theory. But in April, by an 8-to-3 vote, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, said Title VII covered gay people. “It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation,’” Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority.

She relied on the language and logic of Title VII, and on Supreme Court precedents.

In 1989, for instance, the Supreme Court said discrimination against workers because they did not conform to gender stereotypes was a form of sex discrimination. Being a lesbian, Judge Wood wrote, “represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional).”

By Adam Liptak, July 17, 2017

New York Times

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French High Court Grants New Rights to Gay Parents

French gay couples with children born to foreign surrogate mothers won a key victory Wednesday, with the country’s highest appeals court ruling that the partner of the biological father could adopt the child born through gestational surrogacy.

Surrogacy, when a woman carries a child for a couple that cannot conceive — sometimes for financial gain — is banned in France.

Some gay couples have turned to surrogate mothers in countries such as the United States, where the practice is legal in some states, in order to have children.

 Until now, however, France has refused to recognise the partner of the biological father as one of the child’s parents.

 Weighing in on an issue that has divided French liberals and conservatives, the Cour de Cassation refused a request that French authorities automatically recognise the two parents listed on the foreign birth certificate.

But it ruled that the father’s partner could apply to adopt the child, in line with a 2013 law allowing both gay marriages and adoptions.

Patrice Spinosi, lawyer for a gay couple whose child was born to a surrogate mother in California, welcomed the “third way” ruling.

“It’s not entirely satisfactory for all families but it allows children born to surrogate mothers to have a filial relationship with both their parents — their biological father and their sociological parent (the other partner in the couple),” he said.

Up until 2015, France refused to recognise surrogate children as French citizens a hardline stance that left the children in limbo.

After being rapped by the European Court of Human Rights, France eventually agreed to give the children birth certificates and recognise their biological fathers.

Towleroad.com via RFI, July 6, 2017

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A Transgender Groom Sees Beyond What He Ever Imagined

When I said it out loud for the first time to my brother, Mikey — “I think I’m transgender” — I was weeping. “I’m afraid no one will ever love me again.”

It was February 2006, and I was 25 years old. I was living in Bangkok on a research grant from the Fulbright Program, studying the impact of public health marketing on the stigma surrounding H.I.V. I spent most of my free time researching how to transform my body from female to male. I could no longer look in the mirror because each time I was reminded of how uncomfortable I was in my body. Eventually, I covered up all the mirrors.

Growing up female, I didn’t know people like me existed. I had no language for my everyday experience of gender, but I knew that I was not the same. And I knew that not the same was not good and not normal.

“Why did you cut off all of your hair?” people asked. “You were so beautiful.”

“Are you a girl or a boy?”

The truth is, I didn’t know the answer at first. Every time someone asked me, I was reminded of how confusing this question was for me. I knew that I made people uncomfortable.

I did not want to make people uncomfortable.

I was labeled a tomboy. It was a compromise. I still had to wear a white frilly dress to my First Communion like all the other girls, but I got a jean jacket and Vans Half Cabs too. I played sports in my suburban Southern California neighborhood. I rode dirt bikes. But I wasn’t a tomboy. My discomfort wasn’t about the expression of my gender.

My discomfort was about my gender itself.

When puberty happened, things got worse. While girls around me shared their excitement about first kisses, prom dates, makeup and bras, I became increasingly disoriented by adolescence.

New York Times, June 21, 2017

by ALIC CUSTER-SHOOK – Click here to read the entire story.

 

As Surrogacy Surges, New Parents Seek Legal Protections

As more couples turn to surrogates to carry their child, some states are considering further protections for the intended parents, many of whom are gay, by handling custody issues before a child is born.

When Brad Hoylman and his husband wanted to start a family, they looked to a woman nearly 3,000 miles away to carry their child.Hoylman

The two Manhattanites turned to a surrogate in California, a state with a robust commercial surrogacy industry, because the practice is banned in New York.

The advent of gay marriage, advances in reproductive technology, and the fact that more people are waiting longer to start families have fueled a surge in the surrogacy industry.

In 2015, 2,807 babies were born through surrogacy in the U.S., up from 738 in 2004, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Women are often paid at least $30,000 to carry a baby created from the egg and sperm of others.

But in many places, once the baby arrives, outdated state laws fail to answer an important question: Who are the parents?

In many states the law is murky or even silent on surrogacy. The industry is free to operate but the contracts signed between surrogates and intended parents may not be legally binding. The baby may be born in a state that views the woman who gave birth as its mother, even if she has no genetic connection to the child.

The legal uncertainty is particularly concerning to the intended parents, who usually spend about $100,000 (including payments to a surrogate and the company she works with as well as doctors and lawyers) and risk ending up without the child they counted on. Gay male couples have an additional fear: that they might be discriminated against if they are embroiled in a legal fight over custody.

In states that ban commercial surrogacy and those with no laws at all, legislators are pushing bills that would legalize the practice, determine parentage before a child arrives, and ensure that contracts are enforceable and followed by all parties. In many cases, they would require surrogates to be at least 21, to have already given birth to their own children, and to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluations before signing a contract.

Hoylman, a state senator from New York, introduced a bill this year that would legalize surrogacy in his state and establish the legal framework of intended parentage.

Surrogacy became legal in Washington, D.C., in April, and lawmakers in Minnesota and Massachusetts debated bills this year but didn’t approve them. In New Jersey, state lawmakers passed similar bills in 2012 and in 2015, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed them. The Senate passed another bill this week.

Women and Babies as Commodities?

Critics of surrogacy, including both religious conservatives and some feminists, object to what they view as the commodification of both women and children. Opponents point to numerous European countries that have banned the practice and say states should be wary of letting American women be used by others, including foreigners searching for surrogates beyond their borders.

For many, the financial aspect of surrogacy is most troubling.

“Women will be exploited by wealthy people,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota’s Catholic Conference. “We see all kinds of Hollywood stars contracting with surrogates, but we don’t see any Hollywood stars serving as surrogates for their nannies and maids.”

Surrogacy companies prefer to work with women they consider financially stable in order to avoid women who may be acting out of financial desperation. Medicaid does not cover surrogacy costs, and women who are enrolled in the program would risk losing coverage for themselves and their families if they carry a surrogate baby.

By Rebecca Beitsch, Huffingtonpost.com, june 29, 2017

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Parliament in Germany Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Lawmakers in Germany voted on Friday to allow same-sex marriage after a brisk but emotional debate in Parliament, setting the stage for the country to join more than a dozen European nations — including Ireland, France and Spain — in legalizing such unions.

BERLIN — The historic decision came with a swiftness rare in Germany’s usually staid politics, after Chancellor Angela Merkel unexpectedly eased her conservative party’s opposition to gay marriage and said she would allow lawmakers to vote their conscience on the measure, although she ultimately voted against it.

Ms. Merkel’s softened resistance paved the way for her coalition partners in the Social Democratic Party and two other political groups to press for Friday’s vote, which passed 393 to 226, with four abstentions.marital trust

“If the Constitution guarantees one thing, it is that anyone in this country can live as they wish,” Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, said in opening the floor debate. “If gay marriage is decided, then many will receive something, but nobody will have something taken away.”

His remark was clearly intended to defuse conservatives — including Ms. Merkel — who argued that the Constitution protected conventional marriage.

The chancellor explained her stance in a two-minute statement after the vote, saying that she had come to support the right of same-sex couples to adopt but maintained her view that marriage remained a union between a man and a woman.

“I hope that with today’s vote, not only that mutual respect is there between the individual positions, but also that a piece of social peace and togetherness could be created,” Ms. Merkel said.

Axel Hochrein, a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany who attended the parliamentary debate, expressed no bitterness toward Ms. Merkel, even though he had said Thursday evening that he thought she was leaning toward supporting the measure.

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Gay Couples Entitled to Equal Treatment on Birth Certificates, Justices Rule

The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed its 2015 decision recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, ruling that states may not treat married same-sex couples differently from others in issuing birth certificates.

WASHINGTON — The decision was unsigned. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., dissented.

The case concerns an Arkansas law about birth certificates that treats married opposite-sex couples differently from same-sex ones. A husband of a married woman is automatically listed as the father even if he is not the genetic parent. Same-sex spouses are not.gay parents adopting, same sex paretners

The case, Pavan v. Smith, No. 16-992, was brought by two married lesbian couples who had jointly planned their child’s conception by means of an anonymous sperm donor. State officials listed the biological mother on the children’s birth certificates and refused to list their partners, saying they were not entitled to a husband’s presumption of paternity.

New York times, by Adam Liptak, June 26, 2017

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Why Do I Have To Adopt My Own Daughter?

This Pride, I’ll be marching for my daughter, who isn’t securely mine without adoption.

This year’s Pride Parade will be different. On June 25th, LGBT New Yorkers and their straight allies will congregate in the streets of Manhattan with an urgency the city hasn’t seen since the 80s AIDS crisis or the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which galvanized the modern day Gay Rights Movement. Tens of thousands will stomp down Fifth Avenue protesting the Trump Administration’s sustained efforts to roll back—way back—LGBT progress. I’ll be joining them, but mostly I’ll be marching for my daughter Marty, who, it turns out, isn’t securely mine without an adoption.

Since taking office in January, Trump has rejected proposed changes to include LGBT-related questions on the U.S. Census; he erased a page dedicated to LGBT Rights from the White House’s official website; he rescinded the guidelines Obama put forth allowing trans students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender expression; and he partially revoked an Obama-era executive order compelling federal contractors to demonstrate their compliance with anti-discrimination directives.lesbian moms

Although I thought Marty was already mine in no uncertain terms, a few months ago, while researching estate planning attorneys, my spouse Sabrina and I discovered just how tenuous my relationship to Marty could be without a second-parent adoption. Despite the fact that she was born within my marriage, that my name is on her birth certificate, that we live in New York, one of the most progressive states in the country, and that our marriage is recognized by the federal government, every major LGBT advocacy group strongly advises me—and every other non-gestational parent—to complete a second-parent adoption to protect our family from potential legal consequences. And it will cost, at best, a whopping$4,000.

Neglecting to adopt Marty could have shattering consequences: If we ever visit or live in a state where family law is not settled on questions surrounding the legal status of non-biological parents, or one that continues to challenge marital equality, or another country that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, my parentage could be disputed by a medical or school administrator. In cases of life or death, and the need for immediate decision-making authority, that could be especially devastating.

According to Anthony M. Brown, an LGBT family law attorney in New York City, it’s not just news to me. “Gay couples are often surprised and indignant by the necessity of second-parent adoption because they believe we’ve already fought and won this battle,” he says. “But the battle is still playing out in family courts around the country and world.”

“Emboldened legislatures,” he adds, “are attempting to whittle away at marriage rights through parentage issues.” Arkansas and Indiana, for examples, refuse to allow non-biological parents in same-sex marriages to appear on their children’s birth certificates. And a judge in Kentucky thinks he can recuse himself from gay adoptions because, he says, “under no circumstance would ‘… the best interest of the child … be promoted by adoption …’ by a practicing homosexual.”

These legal quagmires existed before Trump was elected, but his presence in the Oval Office adds new anxieties for same-sex parents. “In the Trump era,” says Cathryn Oakley, a senior legislative counselor at the Human Rights Campaign, “where we see more rhetoric about it being OK to discriminate and Trump giving credence to those who say they should have a religious right to refuse services to same-sex couples, you need to have every possible protection.”

by Stephanie Fairyington, Elle .com June 23, 2017

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Federal Court Lifts Injunction on Mississippi Anti-Gay Law

A federal appeals court on Thursday lifted an injunction on a Mississippi law that grants private individuals and government workers far-reaching abilities to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on religious grounds, though lawyers said the law was likely to remain blocked for the time being during the appeals process.

Thursday’s decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, is part of a legal drama being closely watched by gay-rights advocates and religious conservatives. The state law, titled the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, on April 5, 2016. It is considered the most aggressive of several state-level conservative responses to the United States Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.Discrimination

According to a legal analysis released last year by Columbia University, the Mississippi law would, among other things, allow government clerks to opt out of certifying same-sex marriages (though only if the marriage is not “impeded or delayed” by their decision) and allow businesses to deny wedding-related services to same-sex couples if their marriage contravened “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

It would allow religious organizations to engage in job and housing discrimination against L.G.B.T. people; allow public school counselors to refuse to work with L.G.B.T. students; and potentially force child-welfare agencies to place L.G.B.T. children with anti-gay foster or adoptive parents.

The law also contains provisions that could potentially affect single heterosexual people. “For example,” the authors of the analysis wrote, “it would allow a religious university to fire a single mother working in its cafeteria, who supports her children on her own, because the university has a religious opposition to sex outside marriage.”

Last June, just before the law was to take effect, a federal district judge issued the injunction, finding that the law violated the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

Thursday’s 16-page ruling states, in essence, that the plaintiffs challenging the law, many of whom are gay Mississippi residents, lacked standing because the law had not yet injured them.

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Working with LGBT couples and families – Nicholas has two dads

This series of videos tell my and my husband’s story of how we came to the decision to be parents and how it changes our lives with a magical New York story.  I do believe in miracles.

Columbia Teachers College has created a series of videos for students who want to work with the LGBT community. I am privileged to have been featured as a mentor and to be able to tell my story. This video discusses my dedication to my family and why Nicholas has two dads.

timeforfamilies.com

Working with non profits and how it changed my life – The Wedding Party and Men Having Babies

Columbia Teachers College has created a series of videos for students who want to work with the LGBT community. I am privileged to have been featured as a mentor and to be able to tell my story. This video discusses my dedication to non-profit work and how it has tracked my own personal life.

These series of videos tell my story and why giving back to my community makes me a better lawyer and a better citizen.  I hope that you enjoy this series as much as I have enjoyed living it.

Property Columbia teacher’s College and rights were granted to TimeForFamilies.com to post these for your viewing.