New York’s surrogacy laws may get a major update to be more inclusive of queer families – Child Parent Security Act

A broad coalition of organizations has come together to support the passage of the Child Parent Security Act this year.

The Child Parent Security Act would change New York law, allowing for better protections for those using modern reproductive strategies such as in vitro fertilization.

The law would legalize the right to use paid surrogates in the state. At current, New York only allows unpaid surrogacy while also declaring invalid any contracts between surrogates and parents. This puts both parents and surrogates at risk

“New York is known as a place where every type of family is welcome. Unfortunately, our state’s progressive ideals fall short when it comes to supporting LGBTQ people and so many others who want to become parents,” said Family Equality Council CEO Rev. Stan J. Sloan.

“New York’s outdated laws lag far behind most other states in easing the burden for families who rely on assisted reproductive technology to become parents. Fifty years after Stonewall, it’s time to protect all New York families.”

Calling themselves the Protecting Modern Families Coalition, the group is advocating on behalf of families who rely on medical advances to have families. The push to support the passage of the Child Parent Security Act is their first formal act.

The Family Equality Council formed the council. It is made up of eleven groups, including LGBTQ advocacy groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal, plus other organizations like the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Union Theological Seminary. 

New York banned the use of paid surrogates in 1992, a reaction to New Jersey’s “Baby M.” case where a surrogate mother, Mary Beth Whitehead, had a change of heart and asserted her parental rights. The court ruled that the surrogacy contract Whitehead entered into with William and Elizabeth Stern was invalid. 

In the years since that case, both medical advances and societal change have driven a new look at surrogacy. The New York Department of Health’s Task Force on Life and the Laws recommended that the law be changed in December of 2017.

His husband died months after they were able to marry. He’s still fighting for Social Security benefits.

Before their wedding day, Michael Ely and James Taylor hardly ever held hands in public.

When they first started living together, more than four decades earlier and only two years after the Stonewall uprising, it was dangerous to be an openly gay couple. Homosexuality was still considered a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.Social Security Benefits

But surrounded by close friends on that day in November 2014, two weeks after Arizona began legally recognizing same-sex marriages, Ely and Taylor walked out of the Pima County courthouse holding hands as a married couple.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how that felt,” Ely said. “After that we started holding hands everywhere we went.”

Seven months later, Taylor died of liver cancer, and Ely was left mourning the loss of his partner of 43 years, a skilled guitarist who he always called “Spider.” Because Taylor, a structural mechanic for aerospace company Bombardier, was the main breadwinner for the couple, Ely was also left without an income.

And now, more than three years after his partner’s death, Ely still has not qualified for Social Security survivor’s benefits. The Social Security Administration requires that a couple be married for at least nine months before a spouse’s death for a widow to collect survivor’s benefits. Because Ely was only married to Taylor for seven months before he died, he is not eligible.

Last week, Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ legal advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration on behalf of Ely, arguing that excluding surviving same-sex spouses from Social Security benefits based on the nine-month requirement violates their equal protection and due process rights under the Constitution.

“By denying same-sex couples an important benefit associated with marriage, that they paid for with their own taxes, the federal government is replicating the same harms of marriage inequality,” said Peter Renn, a lawyer with Lambda Legal. “They’re basically putting same-sex surviving spouses to an impossible test that they can’t meet.”

A spokesman with the Social Security Administration said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Ely is one of several same-sex surviving spouses across the country who have been denied social security benefits based on the nine-month requirement, Renn said. He could not estimate how many such cases exist, but said his office has received numerous calls from people in similar situations. He also anticipates more cases could emerge soon, now that spouses like Ely have exhausted all of their administrative options, appealing their cases through the Social Security Administration.

“People like Michael have been basically in administrative purgatory for a number of years,” Renn said.

Lambda Legal has also joined a lawsuit in New Mexico on behalf of Anthony Gonzales, whose husband Mark Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher, died of cancer in February 2014. Gonzales and Johnson were in a relationship for almost 16 years, and they got married on the first day they were legally allowed to do so in New Mexico — Aug. 27, 2013. But because their marriage lasted less than nine months, Gonzales has not been able to qualify for Social Security survivor’s benefits.

by Samantha Schmidt, Washingtonpost.com, November 28, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.trans trump

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.

By Erica L. Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear, New York Times, October 21, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Sperm donor secrets emerge as Australia law erases anonymity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By KRISTEN GELINEAU AP.com, August 2, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Compensation for Canadian Sperm And Egg Donors Will Help LGBTQ Couples Build Families

It’s currently illegal to pay, offer to pay or advertise payment for sperm, eggs, or surrogacy services in Canada.

The Canadian government is considering amendments to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA) that will benefit the LGBTQ community.

On May 29, Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather introduced a private members bill to the House of Commons. He is seeking decriminalization of surrogacy services and consideration of reasonable compensation for egg and sperm donation in Canada.canada

It’s currently illegal to pay, offer to pay or advertise payment for sperm, eggs, or surrogacy services. Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act of 2004, any compensation beyond reasonable expenditures is a criminal offence punishable by 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. What constitutes a legitimate expense has yet to be clearly defined by the government, leading to criticism of the Act by many doctors and legal experts.

Housefather’s proposed change will affect many Canadians who don’t have their own eggs or sperm to start a family: single women, sterile men, older women who no longer produce viable eggs and people who carry genetic diseases they do not want to pass on.

It will also be of significant importance to LGBTQ couples.

As a fertility doctor, I know that having children is important to LGBTQ couples. However, most require the help of a fertility clinic to obtain donor sperm or eggs.

The intention of sections 6 and 7 of the Act were to prevent commercialization of donors and surrogates in Canada. In reality, the criminalization of potential donors has led to a complete lack of egg and sperm donors willing to provide their reproductive material for free. Donor sperm and donor egg banks are virtually non-existent in Canada. Surrogacy services are only available through recruiting agencies that operate in a “grey area” of the Act.

Did Republicans Vote to Make It Legal to Ban Gays and Lesbians from Adopting?

In a party line vote, the Republicans in the majority in the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to a funding bill that would allow federally-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ families.

The news came at a moment when LGBTQ activists were still reeling from a 2 July Supreme Court decision siding with republicans and a Colorado baker sued for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing, on religious grounds, to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In their narrow ruling, the justices upheld the law itself but found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did not act with sufficient neutrality with respect to the baker’s religious beliefs.

The vote on gay adoption (which also turned on the issue of religious objections to same-sex relationships) did, in fact, take place during consideration of a funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education by the House Appropriations Committee on 11 July 2018.

Among the amendments proposed to the bill was one offered by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) forbidding the federal government, and state and local governments that receive federal funding for child welfare services programs, to act against individual providers who decline to supply services to anyone — including promoting adoption, recruiting adoptive parents, assisting adoptions, and supporting adoptive families — for religious or moral reasons. 

The committee approved Aderholt’s amendment by a vote of 29 for and 23 against, with all 22 Democrats and only one Republican (Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia) opposed. The full bill still has to pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the president before it can become law.

July 14, 2018, Snopes.com

Click here to read the entire article.

Adoption agencies could refuse same-sex couples under measure OK’d by House panel

The House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment on Wednesday that, if implemented, would allow adoption agencies to refuse gay couples based on their moral or religious beliefs.

The amendment, which was introduced by GOP Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, would allow child welfare providers to decline to “provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” according to the congressman.Bribes congress
 
Because of this provision, the amendment would allow more religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services — examples Aderholt provided — to operate child welfare agencies.
 
“The reason for this is simply because these organizations, based on religious conviction, choose not to place children with same-sex couples,” he said in a statement.
 
He continued: “The amendment I introduced seeks to prevent these (state) governments from discriminating against child welfare providers on the basis that the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with its sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” he said in a statement.
 
The amendment could have consequences for LGBTQ-friendly states. It would require the US Department of Health and Human Services to withhold 15% of the federal funds for child welfare services from states and localities don’t meet the same standards for protecting religious adoption groups.
 
Progressive Democrats in the House are speaking out against the amendment, saying it would deny same-sex couples the right to adopt.
“Same-sex couples are six times more likely to foster and four times more likely to adopt. Denying kids loving parents is wrong,” Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a gay congressman from Wisconsin, said in a tweet.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the amendment a “disgusting, deeply immoral and profoundly offensive effort.”
 
“House Republicans chose to sacrifice the well-being of little children to push a bigoted, anti-LGBTQ agenda, potentially denying tens of thousands of vulnerable children the opportunity to find a loving and safe home,” the California Democrat said in a statement.
 
The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

By Daniella Diaz, CNN.com, July 12, 2018 

Click here to read the entire article.

My Family’s Story

My husband Gary and I were able to share our family’s story with Robin and Jaimie of the hit podcast, If These Ovaries Could Talk.

 We spoke about being a known donor, having our son with a known egg donor and gestational carrier, as well as our commitment to inviting others to get to know us through honest question and answer.  Anthony Brown

This podcast is really important.  Not only are Jaimie and Robin helping others to have their families, they are demysifying the process and helping others to know that our families are just like theirs.

Go to www.ovariestalk.com for information and you can download their podcast on all podcast platforms.

Click here to listen to our episode, “They Met at the Disco.”

LGBT Couples Could be Denied Adoption on Religious Grounds in Kansas and Oklahoma

Lawmakers in Republican-controlled legislatures in Oklahoma and Kansas approved bills granting legal protection to faith-based agencies that refuse adoptions to LGBT families on religious grounds.adoption ban

Supporters of the legislation believe that the new regulations will help address the need for foster families by attracting more adoption agencies to their state and protect religious liberties. Critics such as the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) believe the laws give “license to discriminate.”  

In Oklahoma, bill SB 1140 was approved by the House of Representatives in a 56-21 vote on Thursday without discussion or debate, Reuters reported. The abrupt move was vocally opposed by Democrat lawmakers.

“The abomination of process & justice in the OK House of Reps makes me weep for democracy,” Representative Cory Williams, a vocal critic of the bill which he described as “homophobic and bigot,” wrote on Twitter about the vote.

Newsweek.com by Sofia Lotto Persio, May 4, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Colorado Anti-LGBTQ Adoption Bill Fails in Senate

This morning, the Colorado Senate considered a bill that would not only endanger children, but would allow adoption and foster care agencies to turn away any potential parent or family from providing a loving home to a child, simply because that parent or family doesn’t meet their religious requirements.

When debated before the full Senate, Senate Bill 241 failed on 2nd reading by a voice vote. Senator Kevin Lundberg, sponsor of the bill and perennial proponent of anti-LGBTQ measures, pushed an amendment to revive the bill. But all members of the Colorado Senate Democratic Caucus, and Senators Cheri Jahn, Don Coram, and Beth Martinez Humenik voted no, ensuring the bill’s defeat by a vote of 19-16.colorado anti-gay

Daniel Ramos, Executive Director of One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families, released the following statement on the bill’s defeat:

“I commend the State Senators who came together to vote down this harmful and mean-spirited legislation. After seeing a very similar bill just pass in Oklahoma, I am pleased to see that a bipartisan group of Senators united to defeat this bill, sending a clear signal that hateful legislation like this has no place in Colorado.”

May 1, 2018 – one-colorado.org

Click here to read the entire article.