Italy’s deputy prime minister calls gay parents ‘unnatural’ and surrogacy ‘a horror’

The Italian deputy prime minister has called same-sex parents ‘unnatural’ and vowed to keep all families heterosexual.

Matteo Salvini, the far-right leader of the Northern League party, has risen to popularity on the back of rhetoric against migrants, Islam and the European Union.

Soon after becoming deputy prime minister in June alongside Five Star Movement leader Luigi di Maio, the two nationalist politicians tried to appoint anti-LGBT+ journalist Marcello Foa as the head of public broadcaster Rai.

In an interview with Catholic news outlet La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Salvini expressed his strong opposition to same-sex parents, equal marriage and surrogacy.

The 45-year-old populist figurehead, who is also the country’s interior minister, was asked about same-sex marriage, to which he responded: “My position is firmly against.”

by Josh Jackman, pinknews.co.uk, August 13, 2018

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Sperm donor secrets emerge as Australia law erases anonymity

For Peter Peacock, fate arrived in the form of a registered letter.

The letter, at least initially, looked to be a bit of a letdown. Peacock had gone to the post office expecting the delivery of a big, furry aviator jacket he’d ordered online. And so it was with little fanfare that the Australian grandfather and retired cop tore the envelope open as he walked back to his car — at which point he stopped dead in his tracks.

“Dear Mr Peacock,” the letter began. “The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) has received an enquiry of a personal nature which may or may not relate to you. The matter concerns a record held in relation to a project you may have assisted with at Prince Henry’s Institute.”

Prince Henry’s? The Melbourne clinic where he’d donated sperm nearly 40 years ago?

There could be only one reason for such a letter, he thought. Someone out there had come to life through his donation.

His mind raced. How on earth was he going to tell everyone? How would he break it to his two grown daughters? And how could this person even know who he was? He had been promised that his donation would be anonymous.

And for decades it was, until a new law in one Australian state retroactively erased the anonymity of sperm and egg donors. Their offspring now have the legal right to know who they are.

Which is why a week after receiving that letter, Peacock found himself staring at a photograph of a woman named Gypsy Diamond, whose face looked so much like his own that he felt an instant and overwhelming connection. He gazed in wonder at her dark, almond-shaped eyes. His eyes.

“God almighty, I looked at it and I thought — ‘Bloody hell. I can’t deny that girl,’” he says. “She was my child from the start.”

By KRISTEN GELINEAU AP.com, August 2, 2018

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Sudbury court awards woman ownership of embryo called ‘property’ in precedent-setting case

Woman, 48, was divorced from man and awarded embryo based on fertility clinic consent form.

A court in Sudbury, Ont., has awarded an embryo to a woman in a case involving her ex-husband, in what is being called a precedent-setting decision because the embryo has no biological connection to the couple.embryo

Two childhood friends decided to get married in 2009 to have and raise children together, but the man didn’t want his sperm used and the woman’s eggs weren’t suitable. So three years later, they purchased eggs and sperm from a business in the United States for $11,500 US, and two good embryos were created through in-vitro fertilization. 

In December 2012, the woman gave birth to a son. Eight days later, the marriage dissolved and both sides claimed ownership of the second embryo in the divorce.

The judge’s decision awarding the embryo to the woman, who is now 48, was released last week.

It hinged on a consent form from a fertility clinic in southern Ontario on which the couple indicated the “patient’s wishes” would be honoured in case of divorce. The form describes the woman receiving the embryo as “the patient.”

Erik White · CBC News ·

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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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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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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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The Anthony Kennedy Retirement  – a Death Knell for LGBT Rights in the Court?

The Anthony Kennedy retirement was a shock to many, as was his pro-LGBT legacy.  Whether the Kennedy legacy will live on with a new Supreme Court remains to be seen.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy was responsible for the first pro-LGBT Supreme Court decision in 1996, when Colorado, by voter ballot, amended its state Constitution to prohibit the state from protecting gay people from discrimination.  This decision, Romer v. Evans, started a conversation among the Justices that would continue on through the marriage cases and beyond the Anthony Kennedy retirement.Anthony Kennedy retirement

Anthony Kennedy laid that ground work for marriage equality by decriminalizing sodomy in the Lawrence v. Texas case, decided in 2003.  I had the privilege of working at Lambda Legal, the attorneys for Petitioner Lawrence, while preparing for that case.  Sodomy was a crime only for gay people in Texas and a conviction of the crime of sodomy was used as an excuse for employment discrimination, removal of children and much more.  This landmark ruling laid the foundation upon which much of our current LGBT jurisprudence rests.

Kennedy authored the Windsor case in 2013 and the Obergefell case in 2015, both of which solidified marriage equality and the federal recognition thereof.  But he also joined the majority siding against LGBT issues in several cases, most recently in the Masterpiece cake shop case.

In order to predict the future of a post-Kennedy Supreme Court’s treatment of LGBT rights, we need to dispense with a few misconceptions.  First, the Republican senate will not hold themselves to the same standard they held President Obama in his attempt to fill the Scalia vacancy.  If they did, they would wait until after the 2018 midterm elections to allow a new, possibly democratic, senate the right to vote on President Trump’s next pick.  Do not hold your breath, but do call Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski!

Second, the Anthony Kennedy retirement will not move current right-leaning Justices to the left in order to preserve the very delicate balance between the conservative and progressive wings of the court.  Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch have made their opinions clear on previous LGBT matters before them and another conservative voice on the court will tip the balance against progressive protection of LGBT rights for generations to come.

Finally, there are real and relevant conflict of interest issues which may directly affect criminal and civil prosecutions directed at the very president that would be nominating Supreme Court Justice who would be hearing them.  If there were ever a “litmus test” issue, it is not abortion or LGBT rights, it is the potential ability of a sitting president to be indicted or prosecuted.

Anthony Kennedy retirementWhat is most troubling about Anthony Kennedy’s legacy is what he did not do.  Kennedy was a wordsmith, much to the chagrin of many in the legal community.  He never clearly defined what level of legal scrutiny gay people deserved in equal protection cases.  The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution provides for different levels of protection depending on which category the discriminated class falls into.  The legal scrutiny that a class receives often determines whether the discrimination is permissible or not.  The key indicators of whether a case deserves heightened scrutiny were, perhaps purposefully, left out of Kennedy’s written decisions regarding LGBT litigants.  He shied away from describing gay people as a “subject classification.”  

Kennedy did not discuss whether a “compelling state interest” existed to justify the discrimination, another word indicator of common equal protection analysis.  My fear is that the absence of a clear direction for equal protection scrutiny will now be left in the hands of a decidedly more conservative court.  Make no mistake; they will not speak around the issue as Kennedy was accused of doing.

The Anthony Kennedy retirement will, and should, cause LGBT individuals, couples and families to reevaluate their own legal affairs.  The good news is that the most important issues, such as estate planning, second and step adoption protections and anti-discrimination policies are state based.  This cuts both ways if you live in a state which does not provide adequate protections for LGBT Americans. 

While it is unlikely that the Supreme Court would overturn their 2016 decision in V.L. v. E.L., a case which required states to recognize the second parent adoptions of other states, of particular interest to gay couples moving to less LGBT friendly states, a newly conservative court may take the opportunity to allow a state to deny recognition of a pre or post-birth order for a gay male couple establishing parentage after surrogacy from another state.  While this fact pattern has not yet arisen, it is foolish to deny that anti-LGBT organizations will be looking for ways to chip away at the protections we have fought so dearly for.

If the Anthony Kennedy retirement can teach us anything, it is that being proactive in the creation and protection of our families is no longer optional, it is imperative.  Create your estate plan if you do not have one.  If you have been putting off your second parent adoption, don’t!  Give to Lambda Legal, the ACLU, NCLR and GLAD.  If the senate allows Trump to nominate and appoint a new Justice to the Supreme Court, we, as LGBT Americans, will be living with that choice for the next generation.  That is the sad and simple reality. 

By Anthony M. Brown, June 29, 2018

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With Supreme Court Justice Kennedy Gone, Abortion and LGBT Rights Are Next

The swing vote is leaving him. Trump’s right-wing replacement will be there for decades. Democrats have no power to stop it.

The judicial apocalypse is here, and there’s nothing Democrats can do to stop it.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing voter in most of the Supreme Court’s close cases of the last decade, is retiring at age 81.

President Donald Trump will choose his successor.

With the Senate filibuster of Supreme Court nominees eliminated last year by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, anyone Trump nominates will be rubber-stamped.  That has been the pattern so far, with 39 judges confirmed so far, often in an expedited process, with not a single Republican vote opposing any of them.

Moreover, Trump’s judicial nominees thus far have been chosen by the far-right Federalist Society, which has put forward extreme ideologues in the mode of Justice Clarence Thomas, whose ideas were once considered on the fringe but are now increasingly within the mainstream. 

While Justice Neil Gorsuch replaced another conservative, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whoever replaces Justice Kennedy will likely be a conservative firebrand replacing a moderate.  The shift will transform the Court for decades to come.

by Jay Michaelson, DailyBeast.com, June 27, 2018

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