Gestational Carrier Bill Clears New Jersey Legislature

Twice-vetoed New Jersey Surrogacy legislation that would sanction the type of surrogacy-for-hire contracts famously deemed unenforceable three decades ago in the state Supreme Court’s In re Baby M case has now passed the Legislature.

Twice-vetoed legislation that would sanction the type of surrogacy-for-hire contracts famously deemed unenforceable three decades ago in the state Supreme Court’s In re Baby M case has passed the Legislature a third time.new jersey surrogacy

Lawmakers were hardly unanimous on the issue. On Thursday, S-482 passed the Assembly by a vote of 51-16, with six abstentions. Earlier, on March 26, it passed the Senate 25-10. The votes were along party lines, with majority Democrats voting in favor, and Republicans voting against or abstaining.

S-482 could be met with a friendlier reception from new Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, than its predecessors, which were blocked twice by former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.

The legality of such contracts has been a historically contentious issue in New Jersey.

Surrogacy arrangements made national headlines in 1988 when the state Supreme Court issued its watershed ruling in In re Baby M, which voided surrogacy-for-hire contracts. In that case, the mother initially agreed to carry the fetus to term and surrender the baby to the biological father and his wife, but had a change of heart—to which the court held she was entitled, given the public policy in favor of biological parents maintaining parental rights to their children.

But, as proponents of gestational carrier legislation in recent years have pointed out, science has advanced since Baby M, and a woman can carry a fetus with no biological connection.

In 2012, the court, in a 3-3 split in In the Matter of the Parentage of a Child by T.J.S. and A.L.S., let stand a lower court ruling that parental rights do not vest in the wife of a man who fathered a child through an anonymous egg donor, which was carried by an unrelated surrogate.

Baby M, meanwhile, has remained good law.

Christie vetoed the legislation in 2012 and 2015. Last year the measure once again passed the Senate, though the Assembly didn’t take action before the close of the legislative session. In his 2012 veto, Christie said not enough research had been done to study the possible ramifications. “While some will applaud the freedom to explore these new, and sometimes necessary, arranged births, others will note the profound change in the traditional beginnings of a family that this bill would enact,” Christie said in a veto statement at the time. In his 2015 veto message, he said the sponsors had done nothing to allay his concerns since the prior attempt.

by David Gialanella, NJ Law Journal

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Oklahoma Adoption Bill Allowing Discrimination Against Gay Couples Clears House Panel

An Oklahoma House committee has approved a bill that seeks to allow religious child welfare organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Senate Bill 1140 cleared the Senate last month with an overwhelming 35-9 vote in Oklahoma adoption matter.

The bill states: “To the extent allowed by federal law, no private child placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”adoption

Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, a Republican from Oklahoma City, has defended his bill, arguing that it would increase the number of adoptions in Oklahoma by expanding the pool of faith-based organizations participating.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill to the full House for consideration, adding an amendment that excludes agencies that receive state funding.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT rights advocate, said that the bill does not take into account the best interest of children.

“SB 1140, if passed, would allow state-licensed child-placing agencies to disregard the best interest of children and turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a child in need,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at HRC, said during a press conference. “This would include LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.”

by Carlos Santoscoy, ontopmag.com, April 12, 2018

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Arizona Governor Signs New Human Embryo Law

When a couple is unable to conceive naturally or medical treatments — like chemotherapy — make future pregnancies unlikely, there are a variety of fertility options available, including harvesting a woman’s eggs, freezing them and using them at a later date.

Up until now, reproductive fertility law specialists in Arizona would help couples navigate any tricky ethical issues that might arise in the future, like what happens if you split up or divorce before you decide to use the eggs.Arizona Embryo

But, a new law signed Tuesday by Gov. Doug Ducey has the potential to upend any contractual agreements written between husbands and wives or domestic partners, and dictates who is allowed to keep frozen eggs after a breakup.

Cathi Herrod, President of Center for Arizona Policy, said the new human embryo law helps make the law clearer and it is a positive step for Arizona.

“Just like a judge will decide when there are disputes over property, disputes over who gets the family dog — now who gets the family embryos will also be decided by a judge according to the law,” Herrod said.

by Lauren Gilger, KJZZ.com, April 4, 2018

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Ga. governor signs LGBT ‘neutral’ adoption bill

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia on Monday signed into law a comprehensive bill updating the state’s adoption law after he joined a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in killing proposed changes that would have allowed adoptions by same-sex couples to be denied on religious grounds.

The Georgia General Assembly’s approval of the sweeping adoption reform bill, known as HB 159, which includes no restrictions against same-sex couple adoptions, appears to have been overshadowed by the passage by the Georgia Senate on Feb. 23 of a separate bill, the Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act, or SB 375.

That measure calls for allowing private adoption agencies receiving state funds to deny adoptions for certain couples or individual parents based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Legal experts say the bill’s language would allow faith-based adoption agencies to decline to approve an adoption for those with whom they disapprove, including single parents, unmarried couples and LGBT couples.

The bill would prohibit the state from defunding or penalizing a private adoption agency for making adoption decisions based on religious grounds.

Upon approval last month by the State Senate, SB 375 was sent to the House Judiciary Committee. A spokesperson for the committee’s chair, Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), told the Washington Blade on Tuesday that Willard had yet to schedule a hearing for the bill due to the committee’s consideration of numerous other bills. The spokesperson said she didn’t know when or if Willard planned to call a hearing.

Under the Georgia General Assembly’s 2818 legislative session, any bill that isn’t fully approved by the state House and Senate by March 29 will be considered dead for the session.

Jen Ryan, a spokesperson for Deal, told the Blade in an email that the “governor’s office doesn’t comment on pending legislation.”

However, at least one source familiar with Deal and the Republican-controlled legislature said Deal and a number of prominent GOP lawmakers have made it known they oppose SB 375, among other things, because they believe its perception as a discriminatory law would hurt efforts to bring and retain large businesses in the state.

Deal made his views known on that score in 2016 when he vetoed a “religious liberties” bill that critics said would have given employers and landlords authority to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds.

Republican senators want to protect people with anti-gay beliefs with the First Amendment Defense Act

President Trump has promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act into law

Twenty-two Republican U.S. senators have reintroduced the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would potentially allow people to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples under the guise of “religious freedom,” reports The Hill.Discrimination

The bill would insulate any individual who holds “a sincerely held religious belief” opposing homosexuality, transgenderism, or same-sex marriage, or any business operated by an individual with such beliefs, from being penalized or punished by the government should they be found to have discriminated against such people.

As a result, it would prohibit the government from levying fines against people who discriminate, denying them government contracts, or taking away special tax breaks, so long as the person claims that their refusal to provide goods or services was motivated by their religious beliefs.

Critics have warned that the bill is so broadly written that it would not just condone discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and same-sex couples, but single mothers, divorcees, those who engage in premarital sex, or anyone else whose lifestyle does not comport with a person’s religious beliefs, no matter how radical or out-of-the-mainstream those beliefs may be.

The bill was sponsored and introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and co-sponsored by several prominent conservative senators, including Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Rand Paul (Ky.).

A similar iteration of the bill was introduced in both the House and Senate in 2015, but only received a hearing in the House. The measure failed to gain traction, and was eventually set aside by leadership amid protests from Democrats, and the realization that then-President Obama would veto the measure if it managed to pass Congress.

Lee had previously promised to reintroduce FADA after Donald Trump was elected president. Lee’s House counterpart, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), now running to be the next governor of Idaho, said last he would introduce similar legislation in the House during the current session, but never did, according to a search of filed bills in Congress.

By John Riley, metro weekly.com, March 8, 2018

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Georgia Senate passes anti-LGBTQ adoption bill

The Georgia Senate on Friday morning passed a bill that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.

The bill would also prohibit the Georgia Department of Human Services from taking “adverse action” against such agencies. The bill passed along party lines 35-19 and will now head to the House for consideration.Georgia gay adoption

Senate Bill 375, called the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act,” was introduced earlier this month by state Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), who added similar language to an adoption overhaul at the end of last year’s legislative session, causing the bill to stall. A Senate Judiciary sub-committee met on Feb. 8 to take up the bill, moving to send it on to the full committee, which passed the bill on Feb. 20.

Senators debated the bill for over an hour, and the 2015 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage was a hot topic throughout, with several senators who support the bill quoting directly from the ruling.

Sen. Ligon and other supporters of the bill continued to try and make the case that passage of the bill would lead to more adoption opportunities in the state and not less.

“This bill does not prevent anyone from adopting,” Ligon said emphatically at one point.

Sen. Ligon and Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta), who beat an anti-LGBTQ Democratic opponent to win her state Senate seat in December, got into a lively discussion on the merits of the bill. Jordan questioned the need for the bill, confirming with Ligon that there are is no record of adoption agencies being discriminated against in Georgia because of their faith. Jordan then repeated a point brought up by State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) during Tuesday morning’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing — that the concern these agencies have is based on a feeling rather than facts.

“It’s not based on feeling,” Ligon responded. “They want to have the assurance that they’ll be able to exercise their fundamental right to practice their faith.”

State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) spoke in favor of the bill, saying that it would broaden opportunities for children in foster care.

“I’m tired of watching [the state] fail in certain areas and we have failed foster children,” Millar said. “The statistics [Ligon] read are true. If this broadens the opportunities for people to love them and raise them, then by God I’m going to vote for it.”

State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) pointed out that LGBTQ people also have religious beliefs.

by Patrick Saunders, gavotte.com, February 23, 2018

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NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs LGBT Anti-Discrimination Order

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order that prohibits state entities from doing business with any company that promotes or tolerates discrimination.

Cuomo announced the order at Saturday’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Greater New York Gala, where he also promised New York would lead the nation on ending the AIDS epidemic and announced plans to introduce legislation this session that would put an end to the so-called gay panic defense.Cuomo

The Democrat said that his order was a direct response to President Donald Trump’s policies.

“The Trump administration gave the attorney general a license to discriminate by interpreting ‘religious liberty’ protections in the federal law. What that means is a business can refuse to serve LGBTQ individuals because it violates their religious beliefs. They did that. So, today I’m signing an executive order prohibiting New York state government from doing any business with any entity that discriminates against any New Yorker, period,” Cuomo said at Saturday’s event.

by Carlos Santascoy, ontopmag.com February 6, 2018

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Is America Growing Less Tolerant on L.G.B.T.Q. Rights?

When my sister came out, there was an accordion trio on hand to perform the music of Sly and the Family Stone.

Debutantes in white dresses and boys with matching cummberbunds and bowties drank from the waters of a gurgling champagne fountain. The entire affair, staged in my parents’ old house in Devon, Pa., was an anachronism, to be sure — but as wingdings go, it was tons of fun. It was 1975.

When I came out, in 2002, there wasn’t any party. There were tense meetings with the affirmative action/equal opportunity officer at my place of work; there was a carefully worded statement sent to my colleagues explaining exactly what “transgender” was; there was a series of conversations with my friends, and my mother, and the people whom I loved best, many of whom — in spite of their brave pledges to stand by me — ended those conversations in tears.

That was then.

People who “come out” at debutante parties have been off my radar for a long time now, although apparently they’re still going strong in some quarters. As for L.G.B.T.Q. people, “coming out” has gotten safer in fits and starts, not only in the wake of the Obergefell decision but also in other ways: L.G.B.T.Q. people are now visible in a way that was inconceivable half a generation ago. Most of the people that I thought I had lost after my 2002 unveiling have, miraculously, been returned to me, the intervening years having brought not only forgiveness but also understanding. Since my coming out, our family has thrived, and in the wake of that progress, I have believed that just as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. predicted, the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice.

Until now.

Last week, GLAAD — the media advocacy group for L.G.B.T.Q. people (of which I was a national co-chairwoman from 2013 to 2017) — released the results of its latest “Accelerating Acceptance” survey at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While the biggest headlines from the forum focused on the fact that the president of the United States managed to get through an event on the world stage without shoving any prime ministers or calling anyone’s country an outhouse, the results of the poll, conducted by Harris, deserve attention as well. They are shocking.

For the first time since the poll began, support for L.G.B.T.Q. people has dropped, in all seven areas that the survey measured. They include “having an L.G.B.T. person at my place of worship” (24 percent of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable), seeing a same-sex couple holding hands (31 percent are uncomfortable) and “learning my child has an L.G.B.T. teacher at school” (37 percent are uncomfortable).

New York Times – by Jennifer Finney Boylan, January 29, 2018

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Australia Makes Same-Sex Marriage Legal

Australia’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage on Thursday, overcoming years of conservative resistance to enact change that the public had made clear that it wanted.

The final approval in the House of Representatives, with just four votes against the bill, came three weeks after a national referendum showed strong public support for gay marriage. The Senate passed the legislation last week.Australia gay marriage

“This belongs to us all,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage who had previously failed to get it legalized, said on Thursday. “This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect. For every one of us this is a great day.”

After the vote, spectators in the public gallery began singing “I Am Australian,” a well-known anthem. Lawmakers stood and looked up at the gallery, some wiping tears from their eyes.

The new law expands on earlier legislation that provided equality to same-sex couples in areas like government benefits, employment and taxes, and it changes the definition of marriage from “the union of a man and a woman” to “the union of two people.” It automatically recognizes same-sex marriages from other countries.

Gay rights advocates praised the landmark vote even as they said it was long overdue. In a country where there had been 22 unsuccessful attempts in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage since 2004, they said, the law should be seen as the triumph of a democracy learning to live up to its values.

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A Historic Tax Heist

With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost.

The approval of this historic tax heist, a looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy, makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.tax heist

Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.

The votes for the bill by Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona were particularly disheartening. Ms. Collins, who helped sink an effort to effectively repeal the A.C.A. in September, blithely voted for a tax bill that will leave a gaping hole in that law by repealing its requirement that most people have insurance or pay a penalty. She traded away her vote for an inadequate deduction for property taxes and empty promises from Mr. Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that they would help shore up the A.C.A., which they have repeatedly tried to sabotage. Mr. McCain, who previously voted against tax cuts in the Bush era because they were heavily tilted in favor of the rich rather than the middle class, seemed unconcerned that this bill was even worse in that regard. Then there is Mr. Flake, who has spoken powerfully against Mr. Trump and who is not seeking re-election. He folded on the basis of vague assurances about protecting the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

Republicans offered one fantasy after another to make the case for their budget-busting tax cuts. For example, the White House has said that cutting the corporate tax to 20 percent from 35 percent will lead to a boom in investment and wages — an argument disputed by most credible economists. Almost all of those extra profits will enrich senior executives and shareholders, experts say. This week, The Times reported that despite the repeated claims of the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, his department never produced an analysis that backs up the administration’s assertion that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. It is not hard to see why. The Joint Committee on Taxation, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and other experts say that the bill would not come close to paying for itself.

New York Times Editorial Board – December 2, 2017

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