Judge again rules in favor of intersex passport applicant

A federal judge has once again ruled in favor of an intersex person who was denied a passport because they do not identify as male or female.

Judge R. Brooke Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in Denver in his Sept. 19 ruling said the State Department was “in excess of statute authority” under the Passport Act of 1926 when it denied a passport to Dana Zzyym, an intersex person who requested to list their sex as “X.”

Zzyym, who lives in Colorado, is the associate director of the U.S. affiliate of Organization Intersex International. Zzyym is also a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy.

Zzyym applied for a passport in 2014 in order to attend a conference in Mexico City. The State Department told Zzyym it denied the application because it was “unable to fulfill your request to list your sex as ‘X.’

Jackson ruled in Zzyym’s favor in 2016, but the State Department appealed. Zzyym’s case was reopened in 2017 after the State Department once again denied them a passport.

Zzyym, who is represented by Lambda Legal, in a press release noted it has “been nearly four years since the State Department first denied me a critical identity document that I need to do my job and advocate for the rights of intersex people both in the United States and abroad.”

WashingtonBlade.com, by Michael K. Lavers, September 24, 2018

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New Supreme Court Term Potentially Momentous for LGBT Rights

The Supreme Court begins its October 2018 Term, which runs through June 2019, on October 1.

During the week of September 24, the Supreme Court holds its “long conference,” during which the Justices consider the long list of petitions for review filed with the Court since last spring, and assembles its docket of cases for argument after those granted late last term are heard.  While there are several petitions involving LGBT-related issues pending before the Court, it is unlikely that there will be any announcement about these cases until late October or November at the earliest.Anthony Kennedy retirement

Three of the pending petitions raise one of the most hotly contested LGBT issues being litigated in the lower federal courts: Whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination because of an individual’s sex, can be interpreted to extend to claims of discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. One of the three cases also raises the question whether an employer with religious objections gender transition has a defense under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Another petition presents the question whether a judge who has religious objections to conducting same-sex marriages has a 1st Amendment right to refuse to do so.

Although many state civil rights laws ban such discrimination, a majority of states do not, so the question whether the federal law applies is particularly significant in the Southeast and Midwest, where state courts are generally unavailable to redress such discrimination.

With President Donald J. Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Jr.’s, retirement, which was effective on July 31, petitions pending at the Supreme Court took on heightened significance while the Senate confirmation process was taking place. The Senate Republican leadership had hoped to speed the process so that Trump’s appointee would be seated on the Court by the time the term began on October 1, but accusations of long-ago sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh have caused the Judiciary Committee’s vote to be delayed.  Meanwhile, the eight-member Court had to confront the question during their long conference of whether to grant review on cases as to which the justices were likely to be evenly divided, when they were unsure when the ninth seat would be filled and who would fill it.  As of the end of September, they had already scheduled oral arguments on cases granted last spring running through the first week of November.

ArtLeonardObservations.com. September 24, 2018, by Art Leonard

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The Queen’s Cousin Makes History with First Same-Sex Royal Wedding

The intimate ceremony quietly took place over the weekend.

Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten made history over the weekend as the first royal to have a same-sex wedding when he wed his now-husband, James Coyle. The couple quietly tied the knot in Devon in front of family and friends, Cosmopolitan U.K. reports.

It’s unclear if familiar royals like Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Charles, or the sovereign herself were present. (The Cambridges were seen at a friend’s weddingon Saturday.)

Although Lord Ivar’s wedding to James took place out of the public eye (unlike Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s highly publicized nuptials in May), he did share details and photos from the intimate ceremony on Instagram this morning.

“Well we did it finally!” he wrote in the caption. “It was an amazing day despite the miserable British weather.” The images show the grooms wearing velvet jackets for the occasion, with James in deep blue and Lord Ivar in emerald green.

The couple was married by Trish Harrogate, chief Registrar for Devon, “who set the perfect but lighthearted tone for what is a serious occasion,” Lord Ivar added. Music was provided by the Bristol’s Teachers Rock Choir.

Lord Ivar previously married Penelope “Penny” Vere Thompson in 1994, but they divorced on amicable terms in 2011. Five years later, he publicly came out as gay. They have three daughters together, ranging from ages 15 to 22, USA Today reports. The whole family was present at the wedding—and Penny was the one who walked Ivar down the aisle.

Harpers Bazaar by Erica Gonzales, September 24, 2018

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Do IVF And Other Infertility Tech Lead To Health Risks For The Baby?

When patients come to Dr. Molly Quinn for infertility treatments like IVF, they usually aren’t too interested in hearing about the possible downsides, she says. They just want to get pregnant.

Still, she always discusses the risks of procedures such as IVF. For example, there’s an increased likelihood of twins or triplets — which increases the chances of medical complications for both moms and babies. And stimulating the ovaries to ripen extra eggs can, in a small number of cases, cause the ovaries to rupture.IVF

Quinn, an infertility specialist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, now has a new hazard to consider. According to research published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, children conceived through certain infertility treatments may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Parents shouldn’t panic, the study’s authors say: The findings are preliminary, and the study cohort was fairly small. Still, they say, it means that families who used infertility treatments like IVF should be particularly vigilant about screening for high blood pressure in their children and help them avoid other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

“Fertility clinics should really … counsel about potential risks for their kids,” says Dr. Urs Scherrer, a visiting professor at the University of Bern in Switzerland and a senior author of the study.

Scherrer and his colleagues followed the health of children conceived through assisted reproductive technology for more than a decade. ART is an umbrella term that covers a number of different types of procedures, including in vitro fertilization, in which sperm and eggs are mixed in a lab dish, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which sperm are inserted directly into eggs. Today, roughly 2 percent of all births in the U.S are conceived via ART.

In 2012, the same team of scientists published a major paper showing that 65 healthy kids born with the help of ART were more likely than their peers to have early signs of problematic blood vessels. The current study, comparing 54 of those original children with 43 age- and sex-matched peers, shows those early irregularities — signs of “premature vascular aging”, the scientists say — persist into adolescence and young adulthood.

Kids in the study who were conceived via ART are now 16 years old, on average, but have blood vessels resembling those of middle-aged adults, the scientists found.

NPR.org, by Mara Gordon, September 19, 2018

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Federal court allows same-sex couples to challenge Michigan’s anti-gay adoption law

Two same-sex couples are challenging the state’s “license to discriminate.”

A federal judge ruled Friday that a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s “license to discriminate” for religiously affiliated adoption agencies can proceed.

Two same-sex couples, Kristy and Dana Dumont and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton, are directly suing the state for contracting with religious child-placement agencies it knows will refuse service to same-sex couples. In 2015, the legislature approved a law that ensured that agencies receiving taxpayer funding could refuse to serve same-sex couples without endangering their contracts with the state. Both couples have since been denied service from such agencies.

The state, along with St. Vincent Catholic Charities (which has joined the case as an intervenor defendant), argued that the case should be dismissed. But in his opinion Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, a Clinton appointment, agreed that the couples have made a credible case that the government is improperly entangled in endorsing the anti-gay religious views of these agencies.

“The Plaintiffs allege that the State Defendants could not turn away a same-sex couple on the basis of religious objections, yet they acknowledge that they are permitting their delegated agencies, carrying out a State function, to do exactly what the Constitution forbids them to do,” he wrote.

ThinkProgress.com by Zack Ford, September 17, 2018

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Cuban president backs same-sex marriage

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has said he supports an amendment to his country’s new constitution that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“I defend that there should be no type of discrimination,” he told Telesur, a television station that is largely funded by the Venezuelan government, during an interview that aired on Sunday. “The will of the people and the people’s sovereignty will have the final word.”

A source in Havana told the Washington Blade the Telesur interview was broadcast on Cuban television on Sunday night.

Díaz-Canel took office in April after Cuba’s National Assembly chose him to succeed Raúl Castro.

Lawmakers in July approved the new constitution with the marriage amendment.

The Cuban government is currently holding meetings that allow members of the public to comment on the new constitution. The National Assembly later this year is expected to finalize it before a referendum that is scheduled to take place in February 2019.

The debate over whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples is taking place less than 60 years after gay men were among those sent to labor camps — known by the Spanish acronym UMAPs — after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

Fidel Castro in 2010 apologized for the UMAPs during an interview with a Mexican newspaper. His niece, Mariela Castro, a member of the National Assembly who directs the country’s National Center for Sexual Education, over the last decade has spearheaded LGBTI-specific issues in the Communist country.

Díaz-Canel, who was born after the revolution, supported an LGBTI cultural center in the city of Santa Clara when he was secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in Villa Clara Province. Díaz-Canel also defended Mariela Castro’s doctoral thesis that focused on the integration of transgender people in Cuban society.

Independent LGBTI activists with whom the Blade regularly speaks insist they continue to face harassment and even arrest if they publicly criticize Mariela Castro and/or the Cuban government.

Washington Blade, by Michael K. Lavers, September 17, 2018

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GOP lawmaker caught on tape: Orphanages better than gay adoption

In an exchange with high school students that was caught on tape, a Republican congressman from New Jersey was tongue-tied over the prospect of same-sex couples adopting children and suggested kids would be better off in orphanages than with LGBT families.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) made the remarks May 29 when addressing student constituents in the auditorium of Colts Neck High School. They asked the congressman about his opposition to adoption by same-sex couples, according to a source familiar with the recording. A source familiar with the tape, who delivered the recording on Monday exclusively to the Washington Blade, said it was obtained in recent days.homophobia

The recording begins with Hannah Valdes, a senior at Colts Neck High School, telling Smith she has a gay sister who has said in the future she wants to adopt a child with her partner. The student asks the New Jersey Republican whether “based on household studies” her sister would be “less of a legitimate parent” than someone in a different-sex relationship and why she shouldn’t adopt a child.

In an apparent reference to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling for marriage equality, Smith says “the issue, legally, is moot at this point especially with the Supreme Court decision” and tells the student her sister is “free to adopt.”

Although the Supreme Court settled the issue of marriage, attempts are still underway to deprive LGBT families of the right to adopt. An increasing number of states have passed laws allowing religious-affiliated, taxpayer-funded agencies to refuse placement to LGBT homes for religious reasons. In the U.S. House, Republicans incorporated as a component of appropriations an amendment from Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) that would penalize states and localities for having policies prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption.

But that wasn’t enough for Valdes, who pressed Smith on why he thinks her sister shouldn’t be able to adopt. Smith, apparently having difficulty finding words for his response, said he believes “there are many others who would like to adopt who can acquire a child” and “the waiting periods are extremely long.”

Washington Blade, by Chris Johnson, September 12, 2018

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They were gay and wanted a baby. She loved being pregnant. They made a deal.

Christina Fenn and her husband, Brian, have driven an hour and a half to this quaint coffee shop in Monroe, Conn. Fenn sips her morning latte, skittishly glancing out the window at the parking lot. “I’m nervous,” she says, grabbing her husband’s arm. “Nervous-excited, though.” He smiles back.

She’s wearing green, her lucky color. Green shirt and green jacket, green bracelets, green socks. She feels as if she needs all the luck she can get today.

“They’re here,” her husband says, standing to greet two men walking toward them.Hoylman

Bill Johnson and Kraig Wiedenfeld have been a couple for 18 years and married for four. Everyone embraces warmly.

They’re an unlikely foursome: two gay men from the Upper East Side of New York and a small-town husband and wife who met when they both were 20 at a Dunkin’ Donuts.

By lunchtime, if all goes as planned, Christina Fenn will be pregnant with Johnson and Wiedenfeld’s son. An embryo created from Wiedenfeld’s sperm and an egg from an anonymous donor will be thawed and transferred into Fenn’s uterus, and she will be considered “PUPO” — pregnant until proven otherwise.

“Let’s go have a baby!” says Wiedenfeld. They all smile nervously.

The couples drive in separate cars to CT Fertility, a clinic five minutes down the road.

This isn’t Fenn’s first time at the clinic. She has proudly carried three babies — including a set of twins — as a surrogate for two other same-sex couples. She heads to Exam Room 3, while Johnson and Wiedenfeld go to a waiting area until it’s time for the transfer.

“You have a beautiful embryo hatching,” says CT Fertility physician Melvin Thornton, sitting down with the dads-to-be.

by Sydney Page, Washington Post – September 8, 2018

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Guardianship for Children – Priceless Peace of Mind

Creating a guardianship for Children may be the most important reason for creating an estate plan.  With a thoughtfully chosen guardian, parents can rest assured that their children will be ok if something were to happen.

A guardianship for children in a Last Will and Testament is the only way to ensure that your children will be with whom you choose in the event of a death of a parent.  To dispel a common misconception, naming someone as a godparent through a church ritual has no legal weight when a guardian is required after the death of a parent or parents.  I would argue that the exercise of choosing that person is good for the parents as it has them thinking about why someone may be a good choice as a guardian for their children, but that exercise is just that until the choice is declared in a properly executed Last Will and Testament.guardianship for children

To be crystal clear, only a child guardian designation made in a properly executed Last Will and Testament is a valid designation of a guardianship for children

Becoming a parent forces that person to think in the long-term.  Imagining your children’s lives without you is certainly not easy but imagining their lives without you and without any clear direction as to where they should live or who they should live with is far worse.

Hypothetically, if no guardianship for children is established in a properly executed Last Will and Testament, the court will look to see if there are any family members who would petition the court to take on that responsibility.  That person, while being a close family member, may not be the person that a parent would choose for their child.  Also, the court prioritizes the closest living blood relatives, so if you have not made your wishes known through a properly executed guardianship for children in a Will, then a more distant family member who may be the better choice would have an uphill battle in court.

Another fact that most parents do not realize is that when there is a guardianship for children properly established in your Last Will and Testament, the designated guardian still must petition the court to be made the legal guardian of the child.  This process is streamlined when the deceased parent has made a clear guardianship for children designation, but that designee must still follow the protocols of having the guardianship established in court.

singleIf no guardianship for children has been properly executed, then the closest living blood relatives must petition the court to be named legal guardian, creating an often time consuming and emotional journey for all involved, especially the children.

While this article focuses on how to properly execute a guardianship for children, I also want to remind readers of the different ways that parents can provide financially for their children if a parent, or parents, die.  Basic estate planning is essentialEstate planning with children in the mix offers new options, and challenges.

Remember also that you can name a guardianship for children even before they are born.  Carefully crafted Wills may refer to “future born children,” as well as defining children to include adopted children, children in utero, children you are in the process of adopting and children who are created through assisted reproductive technology. 

Now that you understand the process, the real work begins.  Being able to have these conversations among parents is crucial. Agreeing upon an appropriate guardianship for children may take time and effort, but it may be the most important decision you will ever make for your family.

 

Anthony M. Brown, Esq. September 7, 2018

 

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India Strikes Down Colonial-Era Ban on Gay Sex

In a groundbreaking victory for gay rights, India’s Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down one of the world’s oldest bans on consensual gay sex, putting to rest a legal battle that stretched for years and burying one of the most glaring vestiges of India’s colonial past.

After weeks of deliberation in the Supreme Court and decades of struggles by gay Indians, India’s chief justice, Dipak Misra, said that the colonial-era law known as Section 377 was “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.”

“We have to bid adieu to prejudices and empower all citizens,” he told a packed courtroom.

The court said that gay people were now entitled to all constitutional protections under Indian law and that any discrimination based on sexuality would be illegal.

All around this country, explosions of happiness erupted — and some of outrage, as well.

Gay people hugged, danced, kissed and closed their eyes and cried on the steps of the high court in Bangalore. In Mumbai, human rights activists unleashed a blizzard of confetti.

In their judgments, the justices said that homosexuality was “natural” and that the Indian Constitution was not a “collection of mere dead letters” and should evolve with time.

The Indian justices seemed well aware of the place they were taking in history. Nation after nation has been extending full rights to gay people under the law, and now India, as the world’s second-most populous country, stands, at least legally, among the more progressive.

Human rights activists said they hoped this decision would reverberate around the world.

“This ruling is hugely significant,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch. It could set a precedent for nations with similar colonial-era laws to end their “discriminatory, regressive treatment” of gay and transgender citizens, she said.

The court said that Section 377, which was written in the 1860s to cover what were then considered unnatural sexual acts, would still be used in cases of bestiality, for instance, but that it could not be applied any more to consensual gay sex.

New York Times, September 6, 2018 By Jeffrey Gettleman, Kai Schultz and Suhasini Raj

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