Dozens of anti-LGBTQ state bills already proposed in 2020, advocates warn

Many of the anti-LGBTQ state bills focus on transgender youth, including legislation in South Dakota that would make it a felony to provide trans health care to minors.

Like most high school students, Aerin Geary does not typically pay attention to state legislation. However, the South Dakota teenager has been closely following House Bill 1057, a Republican anti-LGBTQ state bills proposal that would make it a felony for medical professionals to provide transgender health care to minors.anti-LGBTQ state bills

“This bill makes me feel scared, since this is something that affects me deeply,” Geary, 15, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, told NBC News. “Transitioning is something that I’ve been hoping to get and been yearning for for years.

The high school sophomore is afraid that if the legislation passes, plans to take puberty-suppressing medication will be delayed indefinitely.

“I recently managed to convince my family to allow me to start transitioning, and I’m so close to getting there,” Geary said. “To take it away from me when I’m so close would be a huge blow to my hope.”

HB 1057, which successfully passed out of committee on Wednesday, would make providing certain forms of gender-affirming medical care to minors — including the prescription of puberty blockers — a Class Four felony, which in South Dakota carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Proponents say the bill is needed to protect children from rushing into a “life-changing” decision, while critics say it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and could cause physical and psychological harm to trans youth.

South Dakota’s trans health care bill is not the only state legislation that has lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocates sounding the alarm. In fact, they say it’s just one of at least 25 anti-LGBTQ state bill s that have been proposed so far in 2020.

Many of the bills, like South Dakota’s, focus on transgender youth, but a number of others deal with nondiscrimination protections and religious exemptions. Chase Strangio, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, called this legislative session “one of the most hostile” for LGBTQ people in recent years.

Trans youth and health care

Bills seeking to limit transgender health care for minors have been introduced in at least seven states this month — all by Republican lawmakers.

Like South Dakota, Florida and Colorado have introduced bills that carry criminal penalties. The “Vulnerable Child Protection Act,” one of four bills proposed in Florida last week that have been opposed by LGBTQ advocates, would make providing certain medical care or treatments to transgender minors — including nonsurgical care, like hormone therapy — a second-degree felony. Medical practitioners could face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Tennessee lawmakers pass legislation allowing adoption agencies to deny gay couples

Tennessee lawmakers are already making waves on the first day of the Legislative Session with passing a bill that would allow some adoption agencies to deny gay couples.

TennesseeIn the first bill voted on for the year, Tennessee lawmakers have passed HB 836/SB 1304. The bill would allow faith-based, private adoption agencies to deny certain couples. The bills prohibit privately licensed agencies from being required to perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in foster placement or adoption of a child with a family that would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions.

The bill passed the House last year and Senators voted to pass the measure on Tuesday. On Tuesday, 20 lawmakers voted yes and 6 voted no. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally declined to vote on the measure.

Fox17.com by Kaylin Jorge, January 14, 2020

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Methodist Split Over Same-Sex Marriage – United Methodist Church to Divide

Under an agreement to be voted on in May, a new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination would split over same-sex marriage and continue to ban same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy.

Methodist split over same-sex marriage – A group of leaders of the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the United Methodist Church, announced on Friday a plan that would formally split the church, citing “fundamental differences,” a split over same-sex marriage after years of division.catholic

The plan would sunder a denomination with 13 million members globally — roughly half of them in the United States — and create at least one new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination that would continue to ban same-sex marriage as well as the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.

It seems likely that the majority of the denomination’s churches in the United States would remain in the existing United Methodist Church, which would become a more liberal-leaning institution as conservative congregations worldwide depart.

A separation in the Methodist church, a denomination long home to a varied mix of left and right, had been brewing for years, if not decades. It had become widely seen as likely after a contentious general conference in St Louis last February, when 53 percent of church leaders and lay members voted to tighten the ban on same-sex marriage, declaring that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“We tried to look for ways that we could gracefully live together with all our differences,” Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of Louisiana said. After last year’s conference, she said, “it just didn’t look like that was even possible anymore.”

In the months following, Bishop Harvey and 15 other church representatives came together in an informal committee that determined separation was “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the church to remain true to its theological understanding.”

The United Methodist Church is only the latest denomination to be roiled with intense and exhausting theological disputes over the place of L.G.B.T. members and clergy. Such fights have led to an exodus of congregations from Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in recent years, and pushed young evangelicals and Catholics to leave the pews as well.

Representatives from the Methodists’ wide-ranging factions, including church leaders from Europe, Africa, the Philippines and the United States, hammered out the separation plan during three two-day mediation sessions held at law offices in Washington. The negotiations largely centered on how to allocate the church’s significant financial assets and how to craft a separation process.

Once the agreement is written in more granular detail, it must be approved when the denomination meets for its global conference in Minneapolis in May. The initial response from some conservatives and liberals after the announcement suggests its passage is likely.

NYTimes.com by Campbell Robertson and Elizabeth Diaz, January 3, 2020

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Opinion – What Happened to All Those Frozen Eggs?

Frozen Eggs was supposed to be as revolutionary as birth control. It hasn’t lived up to the hype — but it has still changed women’s lives.

Frozen eggs – The potential for egg freezing to allow women to pause their biological clocks is one of the most astonishing developments of recent fertility science. The promise was thrilling: Women could enjoy more time to find the right partners, break up with the wrong ones and become emotionally and financially ready to become mothers.Egg Donations

Enthusiasts even fantasized the technology would promote gender equality by giving women control over their fertility so that they wouldn’t have to scale back their career ambitions during their 20s and 30s. “Freeze Your Eggs. Free Your Career” blared a 2014 cover of Bloomberg Businessweek.

When Facebook and Apple announced that same year that they would pay for egg freezing for employees in a “game-changing perk,” Apple said in a statement, “We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.”

Egg freezing was an act of self-care — and professional advancement — for the modern woman.

“All the talk in the beginning was about how egg freezing would be as big as the birth control pill and liberate women,” said Janet Takefman, a reproductive health psychologist at McGill University in Montreal, who has counseled more than 200 women considering egg freezing.

And women responded to this promise. In 2009, the first year the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology started collecting egg freezing data, 475 women went through the procedure, in which an average of 10 eggs are surgically removed and preserved in liquid nitrogen after 10 days of hormonal stimulation. In 2017, more than 9,000 women froze their eggs.

Now we have a chance to look back and ask: Did egg freezing live up to its hype?

The most obvious question is whether egg freezing worked by allowing women to have children later. Although SART collects data on pregnancy rates using frozen eggs, it doesn’t break out whether women had frozen them as part of in vitro fertilization treatment or fertility preservation during illness, or to delay childbearing. So I contacted four fertility clinics that have been in the field the longest to find out. (I froze my eggs at two of them and haven’t yet thawed.)

nytimes.com, by Sarah Elizabeth Roberts, December 21, 2019
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Utah boy speaks out after he says teacher bullied him for having gay parents

A Utah boy is speaking out after he says he was bullied by a substitute teacher for being adopted by two gay men.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, 11-year-old Utah boy Daniel van Amstel opened up about the experience, which happened on Nov. 22 at his elementary school just outside Salt Lake City.same sex parenting

It began when the teacher asked students what they were thankful for, to which he replied that he was “thankful for my dad and dad, my family, my dogs and everybody that I live with now,” the fifth-grader told CBS.

Though the Utah boy has lived with his parents, Louis and Josh van Amstel, for six months, he was only officially adopted on Thursday.

Daniel spoke of the excitement leading up to the adoption in class, which reportedly led to the teacher making homophobic remarks and questioning why he’d be happy to be adopted by them.

“That’s when one of the three kids, ones in my class, they stuck up for me and said, ‘Let’s stop,’” Daniel said. “But she kept going and she said: ‘Are you going to be gay?’”

“I was very mad,” he continued. “It’s not right … to insult other families, even if you don’t like them.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”

GlobalNews.ca by Meaghan Wray, December 20, 2019

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Opinion – The Big IVF Add-On Racket

IVF Add Ons – This is no way to treat patients desperate for a baby.

There are few things as unsettling as sitting in an in vitro fertilization clinic hearing you need a team of experts — embryologists, lab techs and nurses along with a reproductive endocrinologist — to help you become pregnant.embryo

What comes next can be a blur. First, you meet with the clinic’s financial counselor to assess whether you have enough money for a complex, invasive $15,000-$20,000 IVF cycle. What follows are drug injections, blood tests, invasive ultrasounds, surgical egg retrieval, and fertilization ahead of an embryo transfer. Before your first hormone shot, you’re well into head-spinning, unfamiliar territory.

Then the doctor tells you there are “add-ons” you might want to consider.

Might you have interest in endometrial scratching? What about vasodilation, human growth hormones, intralipids, assisted hatching, oocyte activation, physiological intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or embryo glue? Post-fertilization, there is also embryo pre-implantation genetic testing to consider. Interested?

These extras come with price tags ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. All are presented as ways to increase your chances of a pregnancy. What are you willing to try? What can you afford? The ball is in your court.

This is no way to treat patients at their most vulnerable.

That’s the conclusion my colleagues and I arrive at in a new paper on the ethics and regulation of IVF add-ons.

An add-on is anything that is not essential to carry out an IVF cycle. Such measures, patients are told, will improve the likelihood of a live birth — and yet our examination revealed a startling absence of robust research into the effectiveness and the safety of these add-ons. Despite this, their use is widespread, and regulation of them is minimal.

The most expensive add-on category is pre-implantation genetic testing. These tests were originally developed to identify embryos at risk for genetic diseases. Today, however, they are primarily sold, at a cost of $6,000 to $12,000, as a way to screen for chromosomal abnormalities that could lead to failed implantation or miscarriages.

In October, however, a large study found that a single abnormal cell does not doom an embryo and determined that one of the tests, PGT-A, made no difference to rates of live births. Worse still, patients who opted not to transfer embryos based on the test’s results may have lost potentially viable ones.

There is also endometrial scratching, a procedure, sometimes costing as much as $500, that purposely irritates the endometrium, the innermost lining of the uterus, before IVF While it’s promoted as increasing the chance of an embryo implanting, a recent large randomized trial found no benefit. Beyond significant patient discomfort, risks include bleeding, infection and uterine perforation.

Then there are intralipids, an emulsion of soybean oil, egg phospholipids and glycerin administered intravenously and described as a way to decrease natural killer cell activation in the immune system and ostensibly aid in embryo implantation. This emulsion is priced around $400 per infusion; typically several are recommended. Side effects include headache, dizziness, flushing, nausea and the possibility of clotting or infection. A meta-analysis last year found that intralipids and other forms of immunotherapy should not be used in routine clinical practice.

Such procedures are often presented to patients in the form of a stack of papers, written in legalese or medical jargon. Resourceful patients might take to the internet to learn more, where searches might deliver densely written scientific articles, and ads might direct them to companies or clinics eager to promote their own brands of add-ons.

Why is all this happening? It’s because IVF remains an under-regulated arena, and entrepreneurial doctors and pharmaceutical and life science companies are eager to find new ways to cash in on a growing global market that is projected to be as large as $40 billion by 2024.

NYTimes.com, December 12, 2019 by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos

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Kindergartner Invites His Entire Class to His Adoption Hearing

Nearly two dozen kindergartners gave testimonials in a Michigan courtroom about how much they loved the soon-to-be-adopted boy.

The 5-year-old boy, wearing a blue vest and a maroon bow tie, sat on a swivel chair in front of a judge as his kindergarten classmates filled two rows of courtroom seats behind him. The students held rulers adorned with paper hearts — the theme being “love rules.”Open Adoption

The boy, Michael Clark Jr., was one of 36 children to be adopted on Thursday during Kent County’s 23rd annual adoption day in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Twenty-one kindergartners and several parents, teachers and school administrators attended Michael’s hearing, said Carlye Allen, the principal of Wealthy Elementary School, where Michael is a student.

He invited his teacher and classmates to the ceremony because, he said, he wanted his whole family to be there on his special day, Ms. Allen said.

Judge Patricia Gardner, the presiding judge of the 17th Circuit Court’s family division and founder of the county’s adoption day, asked all the people in the courtroom to stand up and say what they loved or appreciated about Michael, Ms. Allen said.

One boy declared, “Michael is my best friend.”

Another child stood and said, “I love Michael.”

David Eaton, Michael’s adoptive father, said he started tearing up listening to the children’s testimonials. Michael seemed touched too, though it was hard to tell with a child that age, he said.

“He was in his swivel chair up front, swiveling around and facing his classmates,” Mr. Eaton said. “He felt like a king of a castle on that day, just loving it.”

After the official documents were signed, the kindergartners waved their handmade heart signs in the air. They were bumping in their seats with excitement, and all the adults were “extremely emotional,” Ms. Allen said.

“I think he understands that this means he has a permanent home now,” Mr. Eaton said. “He’s not going to be taken away.”

NYTimes.com by Maria Padilla, December 7, 2019

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The Impact of Trump’s Discriminatory Policies on LGBTQ+ Americans

LGBTQ+ people already face discrimination. A new HHS proposal would only make those problems worse.

On November 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking along with a “Notice of Nonenforcement” which states the agency will not enforce nondiscrimination protections put in place by the Obama administration in December 2016. These protections were enacted to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people would not experience discrimination by any entity receiving federal grants from HHS. To comply with these protections, the grantees — including foster and adoption agencies — were also directed to treat persons in same-sex marriages as equal to persons in different-sex marriages, in line with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.LGBTQ+.Discrimination

If enacted, the New York Times has reported that the proposed HHS rule change could remove sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public has 30 days to submit comments. After that point, if HHS decides to finalize the proposed changes, any organization receiving federal funds from HHS will have the ability to discriminate against individuals who are LGBTQ+ on religious grounds. Such scenarios include allowing agencies receiving HHS funds to bar would-be adoptive or foster parents from taking care of children explicitly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As the largest university-wide LGBTQ+ health research center in the U.S., the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) at Northwestern University conducts scientific research on the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ people. It is already well established that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people face high levels of discrimination. Research has consistently found that such discrimination manifests itself in the form of tangible and quantifiable health disparities.

For instance, in Texas, research has shown that LGBTQ+ people experience disparate rates of food insecurity, housing insecurity, housing access, and healthcare. Other research has found that “[LGBTQ+] youth and young adults are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than their straight and cisgender peers” and that “[LGBTQ+] youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth in our country, and their experiences of homelessness continue to be characterized by violence, discrimination, poor health, and unmet needs.” These disparities have profound effects upon the immediate health of [LGBTQ+] persons, and they also reverberate throughout the wider society with great costs (in terms of public spending and human suffering).

Here at ISGMH, we have found that discrimination takes a particular kind of toll on the health of LGBTQ+ youth, including mental health disparities which affect trans, nonbinary, and gender diverse youth. We have also found that young men who are sexual minorities experience high levels of victimization and are at a higher risk for mental health and substance use problems compared with heterosexual youth; that the cumulative effects of victimization experienced by LGBTQ+ youth result in a higher risk for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder; and that LGBTQ+ youth have a higher prevalence of mental disorder diagnoses than youth in national samples.

Out.com, November 19, 2019 BY STEVEN W. THRASHER, PHD, SARAH QUAIN, AND BRIAN MUSTANKSKI, PHD

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Is It Selfish for a Gay Couple to Have Kids via Surrogacy?

My husband and I are gay and are exploring the possibility of having children using an egg donor and a surrogate mother.

Sometimes when we mention this in conversation, people ask us, in a chiding tone, Why don’t you adopt? They often then argue that with so many children in need of good homes, it would be ethically superior for us to adopt, instead of spending a small fortune so we can have children to whom we are genetically tied. In addition, there are ethical issues related to paying women for their eggs or paying women to carry our children as surrogates. Are we acting unethically — or at the least selfishly or self-indulgently — in pursuing biological children instead of adopting orphans who could benefit from what (we like to think) would be a good home? David Lat, New Yorkethical surrogacy

Anybody who is contemplating having a baby, by whatever means, could be adopting a child instead. If those who chide you include people who have biological children themselves, you might want to point this out. Come to think of it, your friends who don’t have children are also free, if they meet the legal requirements, to adopt.

Every child awaiting adoption is someone who could benefit from parental volunteers. There is no good reason to pick on you.

The path you have chosen, it’s true, mixes commerce and reproduction through egg donation and surrogacy. But while acquiring an egg and then working with a surrogate mother are transactions with ethical risks, they can each be conducted in morally permissible ways. The main concerns I would have are avoiding exploitation — so you need to make sure that the donor and the surrogate are acting freely and are fairly compensated — and taking care that your understanding with the surrogate mother is clearly laid out in advance. But any responsible agency that assists you in this should cover these bases.

Wanting a biological connection with your child is pretty normal: We evolved to pass on our genes, after all, even if we’re free to give Mother Nature the side-eye. There are also things you can more likely do for children to whom you’re biologically related — notably, on the organ-donor front. So while it would be terrific if you adopted, it’s no more incumbent on you than it is on any other potential parents.

I’ve worked as an educator and administrator in public schools for over a decade. During this time, I have served as a character witness and written letters on behalf of students who have been arrested. In certain cases, these students have been charged with violent offenses. I often found myself in heated arguments with a loved one over these acts of advocacy, specifically because court proceedings typically take place during the day, which requires me to have someone cover my duties at school. I feel that this advocacy is justified because I am an adult who has invested deeply in the development of the children and knows who they are outside of their offenses. Is it ethical for school staff members to offer their time and efforts to support students charged with violent crimes? Name Withheld

You’re presumably talking about helping the courts to understand the social and educational contexts of students accused of crimes. You’re permitted to testify when the courts find this information relevant in deciding what to do with young offenders. In doing so, you’re helping the courts make what are often very difficult decisions. As long as your advocacy is truthful, it can be a valuable contribution. Asking colleagues to cover for you when you’re doing a public service would seem entirely acceptable; they have good reason to support what you’re doing — and because of that, you should be willing to cover for others when they do the same.

Let me address an issue you haven’t raised: The fact that a student on whose behalf you speak could receive a lighter sentence may upset his or her victims or their families. If the court is doing its job properly, however, the sentence is lighter only because its decision would have otherwise been based on a less complete picture. There is, of course, a question of fairness here, because many young offenders don’t have the advantage of a teacher willing to speak up for them. But you wouldn’t contribute to the overall justice of the situation by denying helpful information in one case on the grounds that it’s unavailable in many others. If you want to help with that problem, you might try to persuade your union to develop ethical guidelines for conducting this form of advocacy.

NYTimes.com, By

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‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

When Kraig Wiedenfeld and Bill Johnson decided they were ready to start a family and wanted a baby biologically related to one of them, they did what a small but growing number of gay couples with their desire do: They found a surrogate to help them.step parent adoption

As chronicled in The Washington Post last year, the two men, then married for four years, embarked on a journey both complicated and expensive that required: sperm from Weidenfeld, an anonymous egg donor and a young woman to carry the baby.

Christina Fenn had already carried three babies — including a set of twins — for two other same-sex couples, when a surrogacy agency matched her to Wiedenfeld and Johnson.

Before becoming a surrogate, Fenn and her husband, Brian, had two sons of their own. She loved being pregnant and longed to help those who couldn’t conceive children.

Assisted reproduction and surrogacy have been around for years, but these days gay men who can afford the cost are choosing this route to parenthood, experts say.

Sometimes, however, desire and hope — and in Wiedenfeld and Johnson’s case, advanced reproductive science — are not enough to guarantee a baby. A first effort resulted in a miscarriage just a month after the embryo transfer. The second effort had the same outcome, and an even heavier emotional toll for all involved.

But the two men and Fenn had contractually agreed on three embryo transfers, leaving them one final chance. On a crisp day last spring, nearly nine months later, that chance came due.

“Are you ready to be a dad?” Fenn’s eager voice said at the other end of the line.

Weidenfeld and Johnson raced from New York City to the hospital in Connecticut just in time for the birth of a seven-pound, 19.5-inch boy, soon to be known as Teddy.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” Johnson said.

After passing the baby around among Fenn, her husband and the two new dads, Weidenfeld turned to Fenn and said, “Look what you’ve done for us. This is not the end of our story together. This is just the beginning.”

“I will be there for every birthday party and special occasion,” Fenn vowed, smiling. “I hope to always be in their lives,” she said of the family.

The number of children born through surrogacy is unknown, but surrogacy agencies say the demand for surrogates has noticeably risen in recent years. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 738 babies were born via surrogacy in 2004; in 2014, that the number was 2,807.

Victoria Ferrara, founder and legal director at Worldwide Surrogacy, says about 50 percent of the 80 to 100 surrogacy arrangements her organization facilitates involve gay parents. She estimates the number of babies born through surrogacy every year ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 worldwide.

Washingtonpost.com, by Sydney Page, October 26, 2019

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