Gay dads may be more involved in their children’s lives

Kentucky family court judge W. Mitchell Nance says he refuses to hold hearings on same-sex couples’ adoptions “as a matter of conscience.”

He’s not the only authority defying the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land. So-called “religious freedom” bills in Texas, South Dakota and Alabama could let private adoption agencies discriminate against same-sex couples. When pressed on the question, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently refused to tell lawmakers whether she believes the federal government should deny government funds to schools that discriminate against the children of LGBT parents – or LGBT students.more gay couples are embracing surrogacy

Maybe these officials, judges and lawmakers should check out the research on how gay parents differ from straight parents. So far, most of this scholarship has focused on the social, emotional and cognitive outcomes of children they raise. (Spoiler alert: These kids turn out fine.)

As a former teacher who now researches gay dads and their families while pursuing a doctorate in education, I am studying how the growing number of men married to other men are raising their children. So far, I’m finding few differences between them and their straight peers of similar socioeconomic status – especially regarding their children’s schooling.

A growing population

Since the Census Bureau estimates but does not count the number of households headed by two fathers, it’s hard to track them.

Plans were taking shape for the Census Bureau to begin counting same-sex-parented households in 2020. They seem unlikely to move forward due to recent budget cuts, the census director’s recent resignation and the political climate.

Nevertheless, The American Community Survey, the Census Bureau’s ongoing demographic survey of approximately three million households, already follows same-sex parenting. It estimates that in 2015, almost 40,000 two-dad households were raising children, compared to about 30,000 in 2010.

Parenting roles

How do parents in these families settle into specific roles? In short, just like heterosexual parents do.

Research suggests that affluent, white, two-father households adhere to traditional parenting roles. One is the primary breadwinner, while the other earns either less income or none at all and handles most of the caregiving and chores.

However, two-dad households can challenge the 1940s Norman Rockwell image of gendered parenting – just like heterosexual couples can.

Households with two fathers working full-time rely on daycare facilities, babysitters, housekeepers and nearby relatives for support. Some of these men even take on responsibilities based on skills and strengths, rather than who fits the socially and culturally constructed mold of being more “motherly” or “fatherly.”

Community and school engagement

And that’s where the parenting of gay dads may differ from a traditional heterosexual household, as my research and the work of other scholars suggests.

While interviewing and spending time with 20 two-dad families living in the Northeast for my current study, I have learned that they’re apt to step up. Many become involved as classroom parents, voluntarily assisting teachers, reading books or leading singalongs. Some take leadership roles by becoming active PTA members or organizing events that go beyond their children’s classes. In some cases, gay fathers become PTA presidents or serve on school boards.

Like all civically engaged parents, gay fathers support their local museums and libraries and enroll their kids in camps and extracurricular activities. They sometimes do additional volunteer work for social justice groups.

CBSNews.com by Andrew Leland – June 5, 2017

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Gay man says church members beat, choked him for hours to expel ‘homosexual demons’

Matthew Fenner was leaving a Sunday prayer service in January 2013 when a group of church members surrounded him.

As he told police, a church leader and more than 20 other members of the Word of Faith Fellowship — based in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Spindale, N.C. — repeatedly punched, beat and knocked him down for about two hours. At one point, someone grabbed him by the throat and shook him, he said.

That attacks took place “to break me free of the homosexual demons they so viciously despise,” Fenner, who identifies as gay, told television station WSPA a year later. After the episode, he left the fellowship.conversion therapy

In December 2014, a minister and four members of the Rutherford County church were indicted on charges that they kidnapped, beat and strangled Fenner, then 21. They pleaded not guilty.

And on Thursday, Fenner was the first person to testify in the trial of Brooke Covington, 58, the church minister accused of leading the alleged kidnapping and assault of Fenner on that day, more than four years ago. She is the first of five church members to face trial in the case, the Associated Press reported. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison.

Fenner said he thought he was “going to die” while the church members beat and choked him. He accused Covington of telling him, “God said there is something wrong in your life.”

“I’m frail and in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Is my neck going to break, am I going to die?’” Fenner said, adding he had cancer as a child and underwent a biopsy a week before the attack took place, the Associated Press reported.

When Fenner brought the allegations three years ago, it was not the first time the church had been accused of beating members over their sexual orientation. Two years earlier, former church member Michael Lowry said he was beaten and held against his will at the church as an effort to eliminate his gay demons.

Lowry testified before a grand jury, but about a year later, the same month Fenner says he was beaten and strangled, Lowry rejoined Word of Faith and took back his allegations. He has since left the church, and later said in a statement that his original claims are true.

The Word of Faith, opened by Jane and Sam Whaley in 1979 in a former steakhouse, began with a handful of followers and grew to a 750-member congregation in North Carolina. Eventually another 2,000 members would join affiliated churches in Brazil, Ghana and other countries.

June 2, 2017 – Washington Post by Samantha Schmidt

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Court Ruling Could Make Taiwan First Place in Asia to Legalize Gay Marriage

In a ruling that paves the way for Taiwan to become the first place in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage, the constitutional court on Wednesday struck down the Civil Code’s definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The legislature now has two years either to amend the Civil Code or to enact laws addressing same-sex couples.

If the legislature fails to pass an amendment or legislation in the next two years, same-sex couples “shall be allowed to have their marriage registration effectuated at the authorities in charge of household registration,” the court wrote in a news release.gay family law

Cindy Su, of the Lobby Alliance for LGBT Human Rights, said she was “excited and proud” of the court’s ruling, but also eager to see legislation passed as soon as possible. “We hope that we don’t have to wait another two years before we can get married,” said Ms. Su, whose marriage to her partner in Canada was not recognized in Taiwan.

The court’s ruling came in response to two petitions to review the current law, one brought by Chi Chia-wei, a longtime gay rights campaigner. Mr. Chi favors amending the Civil Code to define marriage as a union of two spouses, arguing that a separate marriage law for gays and lesbians would be unacceptable.

May 24, 2017 by Chris Horton, New York Times

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Tennessee ‘Natural Meaning’ Law Raises Fears in LGBT Community

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Friday enacted a bill that critics say is an underhanded way of denying rights to same-sex couples by insisting on the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state statues.

(Reuters) – The legislation, which was signed by the Republican governor despite pressure from civil liberty and gay-rights groups, requires words in Tennessee law be interpreted with their “natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language.” It did not explain, however, what that means.

Civil rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates warned the law is meant to undermine the rights of same-sex couples in any statutes that include words like “husband,” “wife,” “mother” or “father.”Discrimination

Neither of the two sponsoring lawmakers, Republican state Senator John Stevens and Republican state Representative Andrew Farmer, could be reached to comment.

However, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Stevens said he proposed the measure partly to compel courts to side more closely with the dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriage.

Haslam said on Friday he believes the law will not change how courts interpret legal precedent.

“While I understand the concerns raised about this bill, the Obergefell decision is the law of the land, and this legislation does not change a principle relied upon by the courts for more than a century, mitigating the substantive impact of this legislation,” he said in a statement.

The Tennessee measure is one of more than 100 bills introduced in U.S. state legislatures this year that to curtail LGBT rights, said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

 

While public opinion polls and court rulings have shifted in favor of same-sex rights in recent years, there is ongoing pushback from the 2015 ruling, Oakley said.

Last month, a Kentucky family court judge made headlines by issuing an order stating he would not hear adoption cases involving same-sex couples due to personal objections. That echoed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ 2015 refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses because it violated her religious beliefs.

U.S. News and World report, May 5, 2017 – By Chris Kenning

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Governor Signs ‘Religious Freedom’ Law Allowing Adoption Agencies to Discriminate Against Gay Couples

‘This Bill Is Not About Discrimination, but Instead Protects the Ability of Religious Agencies to Place Vulnerable Children in a Permanent Home’ Governor Says, Falsely

Alabama’s newly-elevated governor has just signed into law legislation that allows adoption agencies to cite their “sincerely-held religious beliefs” as a reason to ban same-sex couples from adopting. Republican Kay Ivey took office last month when embattled governor Robert Bentley was forced to resign amid a sex and finance scandal.

“The need for adoption is so high. We need to have every avenue available,” State Senator Bill Hightower said of his bill allowing adoption agencies a religious license to discriminate.Discrimination

The Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, also known as HB24, would even allow adoption agencies to cite its “sincerely held religious beliefs” and refuse to place children with blood relatives. As HRC noted last month, even a “qualified, loving LGBTQ grandparent, for example, could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.””I ultimately signed House Hill 24 because it ensures hundreds of children can continue to find ‘forever homes’ through religiously-affiliated adoption agencies. This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home,” Gov. Ivey said.

By David Badash, thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, May 3, 2017

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As ‘a matter of conscience,’ a Kentucky judge refuses to hear adoption cases involving gay parents

Two years after a Kentucky county clerk stirred national attention for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a family court judge in the same state announced he will no longer hear adoption cases involving gay parents, calling his stance on the issue “a matter of conscience.”

Judge W. Mitchell Nance, who sits in Barren and Metcalfe counties in Kentucky, issued an order Thursday saying he believes that allowing a “practicing homosexual” to adopt would “under no circumstance” promote the best interest of the child, he wrote in the order obtained by The Washington Post.

The judge disqualified himself from any adoption cases involving gay couples, citing judicial ethics codes requiring that judges recuse themselves whenever they have a “personal bias or prejudice” concerning a case. Nance’s “conscientious objection” to the concept of gay parents adopting children constitutes such a bias, he argued.Discrimination

The announcement garnered support from some conservative groups, while also spurring intense criticism from some lawyers and judicial ethics experts who viewed the blanket statement as discriminatory, and a sign that Nance is not fit to fulfill his duties as a judge. Kentucky state law permits gay couples to adopt children, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that all states must allow same-sex marriage.

That ruling came in four cases consolidated as Obergefell et al. v Hodges, one of which specifically involved a couple who wanted to adopt but was barred from doing so because Michigan banned same-sex marriage and adoption by unmarried couples.

Nance’s recusal drew some comparisons to the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed after she refused in the face of multiple court orders to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying she couldn’t issue the licenses because her name was on them, and it violated her religious beliefs. Eventually, deputies in her office began issuing licenses. Kentucky’s governor and General Assembly would later remove the name of clerks from the marriage licenses.

by Samantha Schmidt, May 1, 2017 – Washington Post

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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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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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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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As Mexican State Limits Surrogacy, Global System Is Further Strained

After years of longing and a mountain of expense, Michael Theologos became a father in December, when a surrogate mother gave birth to his son in a clinic in this tropical town. Mr. Theologos wept as he cut the umbilical cord.

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico — Then the trouble began.

The next day, officials arrived at the hospital and took the baby, Alexandros, into custody. They said Mr. Theologos, a New York City resident, had broken a new law that bars surrogate mothers here in Tabasco State from bearing children for foreigners.

Mr. Theologos, 59, did not see Alexandros again for nearly six weeks.international surrogacy

“You receive your dream and then someone comes over and takes away everything,” said Mr. Theologos, an American citizen who paid $55,000 to an agency for the surrogacy. Speaking by telephone from Queens, he added, “It was the end of the world for me.”

Mr. Theologos and his son are among a dozen foreign families who have been tangled up in a legal battle over how to apply new surrogacy restrictions in Tabasco, which for years was the only state in Mexico that allowed foreigners to hire surrogates.

Dozens of other families whose babies are yet unborn will face the same quandary, officials and lawyers said.

The imbroglio highlights the legal complexities of commercial surrogacy and the hazards of outsourcing it to freewheeling frontier markets, experts said.

“It’s an area that’s incredibly hard to regulate,” said Sam Everingham, global director of Families Through Surrogacy, a nonprofit based in Sydney that organizes seminars and shares information on the internet.

The model in which would-be parents from wealthy countries hire surrogates in poorer — and less regulated — nations is “not sustainable,” he said.

Surrogacy has expanded around the globe over the past decade as adoption rules become more stringent. But several markets have boomed and then abruptly closed to foreigners or people who are not in heterosexual marriages, often catching parents in a messy transition from one law to the next.

surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legalTabasco, where surrogacy has been legal since 1997, became a hub after India closed its doors, first to gay and then to foreign would-be parents, starting in 2013, and Thailand followed suit.

In Tabasco, the new restrictions closed a lucrative door for hundreds of women in a state where the oil industry has shed thousands of jobs, and the unemployment rate, at over 7 percent, is the highest in Mexico.

“There are no opportunities here,” said Mariana, 34, an unemployed saleswoman who bore twins for an Australian man last year. Like other surrogate mothers interviewed for this article, she did not want her full name used.

Sipping a soursop juice at a noisy cafe in the city center recently, she said that the pregnancy, for which she was paid about $10,000, was her “only chance to get ahead.”

The market here was never as large as India’s and Thailand’s had been. The government estimates that about 100 babies were born to surrogates in Tabasco each year from 2013 to 2016; academics and activists say it could have been as many as 500 a year.

by Victoria Burnett, New York Times – March 23, 2017

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