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.

 

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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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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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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