Recent wins for LGBTQ families

March arrived like the proverbial lion with a wave of good news for LGBTQ families.

LGBTQ Families

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a bill Feb. 19 expanding the state’s paid family leave law in a number of ways, including by expanding the definition of “family” to include chosen families and expanding the definition of “parent” to include foster parents and those who become parents via gestational surrogacy.

“New Jersey is now the first state in the nation to offer paid family leave that is inclusive of all families,” according to the Center for American Progress. 

A bill also passed the New York Assembly Judiciary Committee Feb. 27 that would more effectively protect families created through assisted reproductive technologies. The Child-Parent Security Act would legalize gestational surrogacy in the state and simplify the procedure for securing the legal rights of non-biological parents. It has yet to pass the full Assembly and Senate, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has expressed his support.

And in Virginia, the General Assembly on Feb. 22 passed an update to its surrogacy laws that will now give same-sex couples and single parents the same rights as different-sex couples. The legislation, known as Jacob’s Law, is named after the son of two dads who had to fight for their rights to him after he was born with the help of a surrogate. A Virginia court had refused to recognize their Wisconsin surrogate contract, precipitating a long legal battle.

On the federal level, Judge John F. Walter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Feb. 21 recognized the birthright citizenship of Ethan Dvash-Banks, the son of U.S.-citizen Andrew Dvash-Banks and his Israeli husband Elad Dvash-Banks. Two-year-old Ethan was previously denied recognition of his citizenship—even though his twin brother was granted it.

That means that at least one other family, that of U.S. citizen Allison Blixt and her spouse Stefania Zaccari, an Italian citizen, must continue to fight for their children’s right to be U.S. citizens. Like the Dvash-Banks’, they married abroad while the Defense of Marriage Act was still in effect, and then had two sons, Lucas and Massi. The U.S. State Department refused to recognize their marriage and said that Massi was Allison’s son because she had given birth to him, but Lucas, who was carried by Stefania, was not. It thus has refused to recognize Lucas’ citizenship. The Dvash-Banks victory is thus a step forward, but not the end of the story.

Washington Blade by Dana Rudolph, March 18, 2019

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Gay Dads and Stigmas

A new study finds that families with gay dads still face discrimination and stigma, especially in states and settings that offer fewer legal and social protections.

LGBTQ families

Public acceptance for gay marriage in America has grown since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in 2013. By May 2015, a Gallup poll reported that 60 percent of Americans approved of gay marriage.

Despite that shift in attitudes, though, a recent Tufts study found that gay fathers still feel the brunt of stigma, experiences that the researchers linked to states with fewer legal and social protections for gays and their families.  

The study, a collaboration between Ellen Pinderhughes, professor of child study and human development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and Ellen Perrin, professor of pediatrics emerita at the School of Medicine, analyzed survey responses from 732 men in forty-seven states, revealing how social contexts shape personal experiences of stigmatization. It was published last month in the journal Pediatrics.

“The key takeaway is that states’ legal protections do matter,” Pinderhughes said. “In states that provide more protections, the dads are experiencing less stigma.”

Pinderhughes said the most striking finding was that about 63 percent of respondents reported that they had experienced stigma based on being a gay father in at least one aspect of their lives. Half also reported that they had avoided situations out of fear of stigma in the past year. Forty percent of those who attempted to adopt a child said they faced barriers on their pathway to fatherhood.

More than 30 percent reported stigma in religious environments, and about one-fourth reported experiencing stigma in the past year from family members, neighbors, gay friends, and/or service providers such as waiters, service providers, and salespeople.

These encounters in settings “that are traditionally expected to be sources of support and nurturing is particularly troubling,” reported the researchers. “It is important for pediatricians caring for these families to help families understand and cope successfully with potentially stigmatizing experiences.”

To understand the influence of the social environment on responses, the Tufts researches used equality ratings that reflect each state’s lawsfor protection of LGBT families. They also used rankings of religious groups based on the explicit beliefs of each group regarding homosexuality and marriage equality.  

Among fathers who identified with a particular religion, the likelihood of having experienced stigma in a religious context was directly associated with the tolerance ranking of the religious group with which they affiliated. Almost one-third of respondents affiliated with a religious community had avoided such contexts in anticipation of stigma.

Pinderhughes said that the research also has implications on how to support gay fathers and their children. Increasing evidence, she said, links feeling stigmatized “with reduced well-being of children and adults,” including psychiatric problems.

Potentially harmful to families and children, stigma must be recognized and called out, she said. “We all have biases, and we must own them,” she said. And if one feels stigmatized, “you must resist it and learn how to arm yourself and your children against it.”

The Big Picture for Families

Pinderhughes and Perrin have been working together for more than ten years on their shared interest in sexual minority parents.

by Laura Ferguson, tufts.now.edu, March 11, 2019

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Twins Were Born to a Gay Couple. Only One Child Was Recognized as a U.S. Citizen, Until Now.

Aiden and Ethan Dvash-Banks are twin brothers who were born minutes apart.

But only one of them was considered to be a United States citizen by the State Department. A federal judge ruled this week that was a mistake.

The twins are the sons of two married gay men, an American citizen and an Israeli citizen. Aiden was conceived using sperm from his American father and Ethan was conceived using sperm from his Israeli father, court records show. A surrogate mother gave birth to the boys in Canada in 2016.

The family sued the State Department for denying Ethan citizenship, drawing attention to a department policy that says that a child born abroad must be biologically related to an American parent to become a citizen. Gay rights activists argued that the policy harms same-sex couples, who often use assisted reproductive technology to have children.

“Two kids who have almost identical life experiences and parenting,” said Aaron C. Morris, a lawyer for the family and the executive director of Immigration Equality, a legal advocacy group that worked on the case. “To treat them differently is absurd.”

In a ruling on Thursday, Judge John F. Walter of Federal District Court for the Central District of California said that Ethan should be recognized as a citizen since birth. The judge ruled that federal law does not require a child born to married parents to prove a biological relationship with both parents.

The State Department said in a statement on Friday that it was reviewing the ruling, but did not respond to questions about what it would mean for the policy going forward.

The twins, now 2 years old, were born to Andrew Dvash-Banks, an American citizen, and Elad Dvash-Banks, an Israeli citizen. The couple met in Israel and married in Canada in 2010 before having their sons with the help of assisted reproductive technology, according to their lawsuit.

After the twins were born, their parents went to the United States Consulate in Toronto to certify the children’s American citizenship and get United States passports. But they were told that the twins had to take a DNA test to prove a genetic connection to Andrew, the lawsuit said.

Ethan was denied citizenship because Andrew was not his biological father, according to a copy of a letter from the State Department included in the lawsuit.

by Sarah Mervosh, New York Times, February 22,2019

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The Right Way to Legalize Surrogacy in New York State


New York State is on the brink of replacing an outdated and prohibitive law that criminalizes the practice of compensated surrogacy, one of only two states that does so.

Legislation to reverse the law has been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature, and Governor Cuomo has demonstrated support for it by including it in his Executive Budget.

As a law professor who focuses on gender equity, I’ve taken great interest in issues related to surrogacy in the United States and abroad. I’ve closely reviewed laws in multiple states as well as internationally and I support New York’s legalization of surrogacy.

When a woman chooses to support a couple or individual by serving as a gestational surrogate (where she is not genetically connected to the child because she did not contribute her egg), I believe she must have the autonomy to do so – provided she is protected by the law to ensure that any power imbalance between her, on the one hand, and the intended parents, surrogacy agencies and doctors, on the other hand, is mitigated.

The proposal the New York Legislature is considering and that Governor Cuomo is advancing, the Child-Parent Security Act, does protect surrogates in many ways. While the bill clarifies the parentage of all children born through third-party reproduction, here I focus only on how it legalizes and regulates gestational surrogacy arrangements.

Protections provided by the bill include: giving the surrogate the sole right to make decisions regarding her own health or that of the fetus or embryo she is carrying; giving the surrogate the sole right to terminate the pregnancy; and ensuring that the surrogate is represented by her own legal counsel. These types of commonsense protections are critical to creating a successful and effective program. If the New York Legislature passed the Child-Parent Security Act, New York’s law would be more protective of women who choose to be surrogates than laws in many other states.

Reexamining current law is long past due as technological advances and changes in acceptance of various family structures have made surrogacy much more commonplace. When lawmakers first implemented a ban on surrogacy in New York in 1992, they did so for several reasons that are less relevant today.

For example, when the restrictive New York law was enacted, there were ethical concerns about what was then nascent medical treatment — in vitro fertilization (IVF). Today, IVF is commonly-accepted as treatment for infertility and is also used in the gestational surrogacy process.

Despite the ban, today New Yorkers do work with surrogates to build families. They are just required to employ surrogates living in other states. This results in legal challenges, risks, and costs for the intended parents, including confusion regarding what laws are applicable to the situation.

GothamGazzette.com, February 21, 2019 by Sital Kalantry

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Lingering flaws – Gendered Holdouts Nixed in NYS Marriage Equality Amendment

State Senate Republicans, after five years of resistance, support legislative fixes to lingering flaws in law

gay estate planning, family estate planning, estate planning NY

Roughly eight years after the passage of marriage equality in New York, the newly progressive State Senate finally overcame Republican obstruction to fix some lingering flaws in that law. 

The updated law, which unanimously sailed through the upper chamber and awaits another easy passage in the State Assembly, wipes out gendered language within the Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) in order to reflect the intentions of the Marriage Equality Act. 

Spearheaded by out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, the lingering flaws included provisions to remove “paternal” and “maternal” from the EPTL and SCPA and replace those with the phrases “of one parental side” and “the other parental side.” 

Another section of the EPTL was changed to say “spouses, husbands, or wives,” while the SCPA made similar adjustments by swapping out “the father or mother” with “parents” or “either parent.”

“Marriage equality is the law of the land, and all provisions of the law ought to reflect that,” Holyman told Gay City News in a written statement. “I’m proud to see the Democratic Conference acting to advance the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers after Senate Republicans blocked this bill for five years.”

The law’s passage was a long time coming for Hoylman. But after six IDC members were dethroned during the September primaries and eight new Democrats snagged Republican seats, the blue wave opened up doors to pass a series of bills that were previously blocked by conservatives to fix these lingering flaws.

by Matt Tracy, GAyCityNews.com, February 15, 2019

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Kansas bill seeks to define same-sex marriage as ‘parody’


Kansas state representatives introduced legislation Wednesday that would define same-sex marriage as “parody marriage” and would prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages or transgender people.

The bill seeks to establish an “elevated marriage” for straight couples, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The legislation would also allow controversial gay “conversion therapy” which seeks to change a gay person’s sexual orientation. Critics of conversion therapy say it is often inhumane and does not work.

Two bills were introduced, one that says same-sex marriages “erode community standards of decency.” It argues that civil rights for gay people are different than civil rights for black people because it claims that there are “no ex-blacks but there are thousands of ex-gays.” 

The measures would also prohibit public schools and libraries from hosting or endorsing “drag queen storytime.”

The legislation has very little chance of becoming law, according to the Eagle. The state’s Democratic governor is supportive of gay marriage and is likely to veto the bill if it passes the state legislature.

In an interview with the Eagle, the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Randy Garber (R) admitted that the language in the legislation is “kind of harsh.”

“Their marriage probably doesn’t affect me — their union or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “But in my opinion, they’re trying to force their beliefs on society.”

BY RACHEL FRAZIN – 02/14/19 – TheHill.com

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ABA Adopts Resolution Taking a Stand for LGBT Parents

The American Bar Association, ABA, the nation’s top voluntary bar association for lawyers, has adopted a resolution taking a stand for LGBT parents in the aftermath of states enacting laws enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption.

ABA resolution

According to the LGBT Bar Association, Resolution 113 was adopted at the ABA midyear meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. The 14-page resolution says although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 same-sex couples have the right to marry, they still face discrimination in adoption in forms of anti-LGBT state laws and policies.

Among the laws cited the resolution are recently adopted state laws allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBT homes over religious objections. Those laws exist in North Dakota, Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi, South Dakota, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Carolina.

The resolution also cites continued litigation in which the rights of LGBT parents are in jeopardy. Among those cases is Pavan v. Smith, in which Arkansas refused to place the names of lesbian parents on their child birth certificates. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that policy violated its decision on same-sex marriage (although U.S. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch penned a lengthy dissent containing the ruling didn’t apply to birth certificates.)

The ABA resolution adopts the resolution in the wake of the Trump administration granting a waiver to South Carolina allowing religious-based adoption agencies in the state, including Miracle Hill Ministries, to continue receive funding from the Department of Health & Human Services even if they refuse to place children in LGBT homes or with other families contrary to their beliefs.

ABA resolution

“Any discriminatory law which restricts an LGBT individual’s right to parent not only disregards these precedents, but also contradicts longstanding research,” the resolution says. “Decades of medical, psychological, sociological, and developmental research overwhelmingly conclude that sexual orientation has no bearing on an individual’s ability to be a fit parent. This resolution therefore reaffirms the equal parenting rights of LGBT individuals.”

According to a study from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, LGBT families are significantly more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to have adopted or foster children. One in five same-sex couples, or 21.4 percent, are raising adopted children, compared to just 3 percent of different-sex couples, and 2.9 percent of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4 percent of different-sex couples

The resolution states adoption of the resolution sends the message ABA “stands with LGBT individuals and their families against the increased threat to their ability to raise children.”

“This ABA policy position would enable further advocacy in this area by providing authority for other organizations, legislatures, and courts to consult when confronted by LGBT parenting issues,” the resolution says. “The policy would also allow the ABA to directly advocate on behalf of LGBT families and make clear its stance that laws which permit discrimination against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional.”

by Chris Johnson, pride source.com, January 29, 2019

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Jussie Smollett, Star of ‘Empire,’ Attacked in What Police Call a Possible Hate Crime

Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of “Empire,” in 2016. The Chicago police said he took himself to Northwestern Hospital after the attack and was described as in “good condition.”

Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the Fox television show “Empire,” was attacked in Chicago early Tuesday morning by two people who yelled racial and homophobic slurs and wrapped a rope around his neck, according to the police, who said they were investigating the incident as “a possible hate crime.”

Smollett, who is black and publicly came out as gay in 2015, was walking on a downtown street when two people approached him and yelled the slurs, according to a statement from the Chicago Police Department. The attackers then began hitting Smollett in the face and poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him.

One of the attackers also wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck before the duo fled.

“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” the police statement said.

The Chicago Sun-Times, citing a police spokesman, said that Smollett went to an apartment after the attack, and his manager called the police. When officers arrived, a “thin, light rope” was still around Smollett’s neck, said the spokesman.

Officers suggested Smollett go to the hospital for lacerations on his face and neck. His manager took him there, and he was later released.

In a follow-up interview later in the morning, The Sun-Times reported, Smollett told the police that the attackers yelled “this is MAGA country,” a reference to President Trump’s campaign slogan.

‘I Have to Stay Alive’: Gay Brazilian Lawmaker Gives Up Seat Amid Threats

An openly gay federal Brazilian lawmaker who has frequently clashed with the country’s new far-right president said on Thursday that he was giving up his seat because of death threats.

The lawmaker, Jean Wyllys, a fierce advocate for gay rights who was due to be sworn in for a third term in February, said in an interview with the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that “this environment isn’t safe for me” after the assassination of a political ally last March and violence that followed the election of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, in October.

“For the future of this cause,” Mr. Wyllys said, “I have to stay alive. I don’t want to be a martyr.” He added that he was currently on vacation abroad and did not plan to return to Brazil.

Mr. Wyllys called Mr. Bolsonaro, a former colleague of his in the lower house of Congress, “a president who always vilified me, who always openly insulted me, who was always homophobic with me.”

In 2016, Mr. Wyllys responded by spitting at Mr. Bolsonaro during the hearing to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. Mr. Bolsonaro, before reinventing himself as a fighter of political corruption and rampant violence, was best known for delivering verbal attacks on women, black people and gay people from the congressional floor. 

Shortly after Mr. Wyllys’ interview was published, Mr. Bolsonaro, who was in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, tweeted “Great day!” and a thumbs-up emoticon. Supporters weighed in, many with homophobic comments.

Mr. Wyllys has been the target of death threats for years, but he said those threats had become more severe after Marielle Franco, a human rights advocate who was his friend and political ally, was assassinated.

NYTimes.com, January 25, 2019 by Shasta Darlington

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Non-gender specific birth certificates to be used for same-sex couples in Ireland

The current options of ‘Mother’ or Father’ pose problems for same-sex couples

birth certificate

Same-sex couples who are parents in Ireland will be able to list themselves as ‘parent’ on their child’s birth certificate.

This amendment to the law is designed to accommodate to same-sex couples, allowing both partners to register on their child’s birth certificate.

Under the current system, birth certificates only include the categories ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’.

Birth certificates for donor-assisted children born to same-sex couples currently only allow one mother to be listed.

‘Introduced as soon as possible’

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said that allowing to the option of ‘parent’ would resolve such issues, saying implementing the bill would be prioritized.

‘While the changes proposed will affect a relatively small number of people, they touch on matters that are very sensitive and of great importance to those families affected,’ Doherty said.

‘I have met with and spoken to many affected by this issue and I am now very pleased to be able to bring these changes forward as a priority to ensure that they can be introduced as soon as possible.’

The case had been raised in the Dáil (the Lower House of the Irish parliament) last year, according to TheJournal.ie.

Politician Richard Boyd Barrett said that a pregnant woman had contacted him with concerns about her wife not being able to register on their child’s birth certificate.

The completed bill will go before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the spring.

GayStarNews.com by Calum Stuart, January 12, 2019

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