Wednesday, August 5, 2009





Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maine Governor Signs Legislature's Bill Approving Same-Sex Marriage Equality

As reported by NBC's reported Domenico Montanaro, Maine Governor Maine's Governor John Baldacci on Wednesday signed a bill, which only days earlier had been passed by the Maine Senate and House, into law affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry. Maine becomes the fifth state to recognize same-sex marriage, and only the second state to do so by legislative action.

The other four states that presently allow same-sex marriage are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. "In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said in a statement. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

The following is an Maine Governor Baldacci's full statement:

I have followed closely the debate on this issue. I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste.

I appreciate the tone brought to this debate by both sides of the issue. This is an emotional issue that touches deeply many of our most important ideals and traditions. There are good, earnest and honest people on both sides of the question.

In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to a civil marriage.

Article I in the Maine Constitution states that 'no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of that person's civil rights or be discriminated against.'

This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State," Governor Baldacci said. It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine's civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government. Even as I sign this important legislation into law, I recognize that this may not be the final word. Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the State belongs to the people.

While the good and just people of Maine may determine this issue, my responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and do, as best as possible, what is right. I believe that signing this legislation is the right thing to do.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Maine Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill; House of Reps to Vote Next Week

On Thursday, April 30, 2009, Reuters reported that Maine's Senate has passed a bill that would make it the fifth in the country to allow gay marriage. The legislation, which will go to a vote in the state House of Representatives next week, seeks to redefine marriage as the legal union of two people rather than between a man and a women. The bill passed in the Senate on Thursday by a 20-15 margin.

The Gay-Marriage Roundup:

In November, Connecticut became the second state to allow legal same-sex weddings after neighboring Massachusetts' top court ruled in 2003 that a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for the first same-sex marriages in the United States the following year.

In a single week in April, Iowa and Vermont also legalized same sex marriage. And on Wednesday, New Hampshire's state Senate approved a gay marriage bill, about a month after its House approved it. The bill needs New Hampshire Governor John Lynch's signature to become law.

Gay marriage legislation has yet to advance in Rhode Island.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why Adoption Is Absolutely Necessary for Same-Sex Couples (Yes, Even in Massachusetts!)

As tens of thousands of same-sex couples take advantage of various equal marriage laws and civil union statutes throughout the country, it is important to remember that the patchwork quilt of laws regarding same-sex families is largely unfinished.

So while there is much cause for celebration, we should remember that the federal government refuses to recognize any kind of same-sex relationship; that the nation's largest single employer (the military) will not tolerate homosexuals (much less recognize same-sex relationships); that same-sex couples are not treated equally in the application of immigration laws; and that throughout the country there are laws that ban adoption by homosexuals, that permit discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation, and prohibit any recognition of same-sex relationships. In response to the aforementioned laws and prohibitions, same-sex couples are forced to spend time and money on domestic partnership agreements, estate and health care planning to obtain even the most basic protections for family and loved ones. Failure to plan can have truly devastating and unintended consequences for same-sex couples and their families.

When it comes to child-rearing and parenting for same-sex couples, this national patchwork of rights, prohibitions, and outright discrimination can be catastrophic and downright terrifying. I advise my clients (and the various LGBT legal advocacy groups agree) that the only way to guarantee the recognition of their legal parent-child relationship is by petitioning the Court to grant a Co-Parent Adoption.

Your State-Sanctioned Same-Sex Marriage/Civil Union/Domestic Partnership Does Not Guarentee A Legally Enforceable Parent-Child Relationship. A recent New York case - Debra H. v. Janice R. - highlights this fact particularly well.

Two months prior to the birth of their child, Debra and Janice registered a domestic partnership in their home state of New York. A month later, the pair also entered into a civil union in Vermont. But two and a half years after the birth, the two women split up. Debra petitioned the court for custodial and visitation rights over the objections of her partner Janice, the child's birth mother. On October 9, 2008, the New York trial court found in favor of Debra, finding that she stood in loco parentis (what we would call De Facto Parental Status in Massachusetts) to the child. This means that although Debra was neither the child's biological mother nor an adoptive parent, the court was convinced that she acted sufficiently like a parent and deserved legal recognition.

However, on April 9, 2009, a New York appellate court reversed this decision and refused Debra any parental rights to the child she helped raise for two and a half years. The Court's reasoning is clear and unambiguous:

"Although the record indicates that petitioner served as a loving and caring parental figure during the first 2½ years of the child's life, she never legally adopted the child. ... This matter is governed by the Court of Appeals decision in Matter of Alison D. v Virginia M. (77 NY2d 651 [1991]), which provides that a party who is neither the biological nor the adoptive parent of a child lacks standing to seek custody or visitation rights under Domestic Relations Law § 70..."

The New York Court denied parental status to Debra even though it recognized that the child had been "born approximately one month after the parties entered into a civil union in the State of Vermont, and more than two months after they registered as domestic partners in New York City".

The Constitution Requires That States Give Full Faith And Credit To The Judgments Of Another State. In a recent Federal Court decision, the State of Louisiana refused to issue a new birth certificate for a child born in that state and then adopted jointly in New York by two men. The state's position was that joint adoption by an unmarried couple was against Louisiana's public policy, and that it could refuse to issue an amended birth certificate.

Rejecting the state's argument, the District Court Judge Jay Zainey explained that the well-settled meaning of the federal constitution's "Full Faith and Credit Clause" requires states to recognize the "judicial proceedings" of other states. "Judicial proceedings" are matters that are resolved in courts, and the final resolution of a court proceeding is called a judgment. Importantly, the judge said that "the full faith and credit clause does not require a state to substitute the statutes of another state for its own..." On Summary Judgment, Judge Jay Zainey ordered the State Registrar to honor the valid New York adoption judgment and issue an amended birth certificate to the adoptive same-sex parents.

This case reminds us that although a state is constitutionally required to recognize the judgment of a foreign jurisdiction, it will not be equally compelled to recognize foreign statutory schemes or regulations (see: same-sex marriage or civil union) that violate its laws or public policy.

But Will My Spouse And Children Be Protected By Our Valid Same-Sex Massachusetts Marriage?

Yes! But only in Massachusetts.

In the case of heterosexual married couples, it has always been the case in Massachusetts that a child born during the marriage is legally presumed to be the biological child of both the husband and wife. With full legal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2004, married same-sex couples should receive the same presumption of parenthood here Massachusetts, although I am not aware of any cases that have tested this right.

Same-sex couples should not rely on the Massachusetts presumption of parenthood alone to establish a legal parent-child relationship between a non-biological parent and child. Put another way, if your only legal connection to a child is through your same-sex marriage, your parent-child relationship is only as valid as your same-sex marriage. Because only four states currently recognize same-sex marriage, the chances of ending up in a state that treats you as a legal stranger to your same-sex spouse and your same-sex spouse's child is great.

Regardless of whether your same-sex marriage is valid at the time of the birth of your children, or whether you wish to parent your same-sex partner's biological children, only a final and binding Adoption Decree will guarantee the creation of a universally recognized and legally valid parent-child relationship.

Given the uncertainty caused by a patchwork of new and untested state laws recognizing and banning same-sex relationships, same-sex couples should consult with an attorney to ensure that all of their exceptions and assumptions surrounding their rights are correct, especially if there is a child involved. Adoption is the only guaranteed method of creating a legal parent-child that will be recognized by other states. Uncertainty in this area may never result in a problem, but discovering your lack of legal standing during a stressful or tremulous time can make an unpleasant situation terrifying and even dangerous.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Japan Offers Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages Abroad

As reported by the AP, Japan's Justice Ministry announced on March 27, 2009 that it has begun issuing marriage-eligibility certificates to Japanese citizens who plan to marry someone of the same sex in a foreign country where same-sex marriage is legal.

For Japanese nationals, whether they are gay or not, to marry foreigners in foreign countries, they must obtain certificates from the ministry by submitting documents including their name, birth data, sex and nationality, and similar information about their marriage partner.

The ministry has so far rejected the issuance of such certificates to Japanese citizens seeking to marry same-sex partners of foreign nationality as such marriages are not approved under domestic law. Because the Justice Ministry would not issue the requisite eligibility certificate, Japanese gays and lesbians were blocked from marrying a same-sex foreigner, even if their marriage partner's country approved of same- sex marriage.

Under the latest decision, the ministry will issue a new type of certificate which will only clarify that the person has reached the legal age for marriage and that he or she is single. Under the changed policy, gays and lesbians in Japan will be able to bring a foreign same-sex spouse to live with them in Japan.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vermont 4th State in Nation to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Update: Breaking News: Vermont 4th State in Nation to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

As reported by the AP on April 7, 2009:

Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.

It's now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.

As Expected, Vermont Governor Vetoes Same-Sex Marriage Bill; Legislature Prepares for Override Vote

As reported by the New York Times on April 7, 2009:

Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, setting the stage for an override vote by the legislature. Mr. Douglas, a Republican, announced in March that he would veto the bill, which the Senate passed overwhelmingly and the House of Representatives approved 96 to 52. The House needs five more votes for a successful override.
As reported by the AP on April 7, 2009:
As expected, the Vermont Senate has overridden the governor's veto of a bill that would allow same-sex marriage.

The House planned to take up the issue later Tuesday, but it's unclear whether there are enough votes to override the veto by Gov. Jim Douglas.

If there are, Vermont would become the fourth state to legalize marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

The others are Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa High Court Upholds Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages

In a unanimous decision on Friday, April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court held that the state's decade-long ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional and furthered no legitimate state interest. Before yesterday's ruling, only Massachusetts and Connecticut allowed same-sex marriage. New York has said it will recognize such unions performed in other states. California allowed same-sex marriage for about five months last year before the ballot initiative banned it.

The Iowa Supreme Court decision upholds a lower court's ruling which declared that a 1998 state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.

"We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective," the justices wrote.

The decision will take effect in 21 days unless a rehearing is requested. Attorneys for Polk County, which challenged the earlier ruling, indicated that the county will not request a review, meaning that same-sex couples will be able to apply for marriage licenses in Iowa in three weeks. The only other recourse for overturning the decision is a state constitutional amendment, which would take at least two years to be adopted.

Click here for a copy of the entire opinion of the Iowa Supreme Court.

For more information from a local Iowa news affiliate, click here.

Vermont House Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill; Seeks Senate Approval Friday - then to Governor

As reported by the Burlington Free Press:

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House voted 95-52 on Thursday night to allow same-sex couples to marry in Vermont. The tally suggests it might be difficult for the House to override a promised gubernatorial veto of the bill that would need 100 votes, though supporters said they would push for that.

The vote came at 9 p.m. Thursday after four hours of impassioned debate on the bill in a chamber filled with supporters and opponents. Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, spoke on the House floor about gays and lesbians in his community — carpenters and nurses and maple sugarers — and of his own relationship with his male partner.

“That’s who we’re talking about here today,” he said. “These couples are living everyday lives of ordinary and extraordinary significance.” Lippert declared that the civil unions law he helped craft nine years ago could not provide complete equality. “People know what it means when you say you’re married,” he said.

Rep. Johanna Donovan, D-Burlington, agreed. “There’s only one thing truly equal to marriage and that’s marriage,” she said. “Now is the time to give civil unions a respectful burial.” Like Lippert, several legislators who are gay or who have gay family members spoke emotionally of their own circumstances.

“I didn’t choose to be gay,” Rep. Steve Howard, D-Rutland, said. “God made me gay. I begged him not to make it so,” he said. “I stand because nobody should be ashamed of how God made them.” With his voice breaking from emotion, Rep. Jason Lorber, D-Burlington, described seeing the notice about his union with his partner under the heading “civil union” in the newspaper. “Why do we have to be off to the side,” Lorber said. “Why do we have to say you are different? Why can’t we just say congratulations?”

Rep. Tim Jerman, D-Essex Junction, said he hopes his daughter, a lesbian, will be able to come home to marry when the time comes.

There were a few surprises from legislators. Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, said he was undecided going into the debate. Quoting a letter from former Sen. Peter Brownell, who lost his seat over civil unions but didn’t regret his support, Wright said he would support the bill.

Other legislators spoke about why they could not support the bill. “It’s not easy to speak against this bill,” said Rep. Thomas Koch, R-Barre. “Marriage in my understanding has for the ages been one man and one woman. Now we take it upon ourselves to change that definition.” Rep. Albert “Sonny” Audette, D-South Burlington, apologized for voting no. As a Catholic, he said, he could not vote to change marriage.

Efforts to derail the bill failed. Rep. Robert Helm, R-Castleton, argued for putting the issue to an advisory public referendum next March, asserting that the public has not had sufficient time to debate the issue. The measured failed by a vote of 96-52.

Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, succeeded in amending the bill to clarify the distinction between civil and religious marriage. She was among five Republicans who voted for the bill. She was joined by Wright and Reps. Rick Hube, R-South Londonderry, Patti Komline, R-Dorset and Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe.

It was unclear Thursday night whether supporters of the bill could muster the 100 votes that would be needed to override a veto that Gov. Jim Douglas has said is coming. Some of the 11 Democrats who voted against the bill have said they would change course and vote for an override.

The House holds a final vote on the bill today. It then goes to the Senate, which passed the bill 26-4 last week, but would need to either concur with changes the House made or work the differences out in conference committee to send the bill to the governor.

Douglas would have five days from receipt of the bill to act on it, but has said he plans to veto it quickly. Beth Robinson, who led the push for the bill with the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, counseled supporters after the vote that they need to keep calling people and knocking on doors to persuade lawmakers to vote for an override.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sweden's Parliament Affirms Same-Sex Marriage

The Swedish Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to recognize same-sex marriage, becoming the seventh country worldwide to do so.

The new law passed on Wednesday by a vote of 226 to 22, and will become effective beginning May 1, 2009. Sweden will join the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Norway, Canada, and South Africa, and the US states of Massachusetts and Connecticut, in recognizing same-sex marriage.

Sweden was one of the first countries to give gay couples legal "partnership" rights, in the mid-1990s, and allowed them to adopt children from 2002.

As reported by BBC News:

"The decision means that gender no longer has an impact on the ability to marry and that the law on registered partnership is repealed," the government said on its website.

Six of the seven parties in parliament backed the bill, while the Christian Democrats, one of four parties in the governing coalition, refused.

The Lutheran Church, the largest church in Sweden, has offered to bless gay partnerships since January 2007, but has still not given formal backing to the term "marriage", and will allow individual pastors to refuse to carry out gay weddings.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Today is Transgender Visibility Day!

March 31, 2009, marks the first annual International Transgender Visibility Day, with various events scheduled to take place around the globe.

According to Rachel Crandall, the creator of created Transgender Visibility Day, and head of Transgender Michigan explains the need for a day of celebration:
Unlike Transgender Day of Remembrance, Crandall said, the day of visibility aims to focus on all the good things in the trans community, instead of just remembering those who were lost. "The day of remembrance is exactly what it is. It remembers people who died," she said. "This focuses on the living. People have told me they love Remembrance Day but it really focuses on the negative aspect of it. Isn't there anything that could focus on the positive aspect of being trans?"
An article first appearing on March 26 in Issue 1713 of Between the Line News explains:

Though the event was borne out of Michigan, events all over the country and even world have popped up since Crandall put the word out on Facebook. Maryland Equality is holding an event. Members of a high school Gay Straight Alliance in Washington, D.C. are painting the transgender symbol on each other's faces. A group in Minnesota is holding a whole weekend of workshops and discussions surrounding the topic.

And in Michigan, the Ruth Ellis Center and youth trans group GenderSpark also have plans in the works to be involved with the day.

To Crandall, the enormous and viral growth of the events proves that people in the community were waiting for something just like the Transgender Day of Visibility. "I think sometimes people are thirsty for something and we may not even know it until we take the first step," she speculated. "I took the first step and people are just hungry for it."

One big change from usual events, Crandall was proud to report, is that the Transgender Day of Visibility was done all on a grassroots level, without backing from any large organizations. So more than just big events that raise money, Crandall hopes that the day will allow people to get involved as individuals - from coming out to their friends, family or coworkers, to just wearing a ribbon to show support.

"I've heard people say that if it wasn't for this, they wouldn't be doing anything out," she said. "...I think a lot of trans people are just looking for an opportunity to actually do something, not only to write a check. They want to actually do something and I think this day is giving them something to actually do."
In a March 27 article by author, professor, and lecturer John Corvino discusses the need for a Transgender Day of Visibility, on his perspective as a gay man.

Some gay people wonder why we get lumped with the transgender community at all. Sexual orientation is one thing, they say, and gender identity is another.

That’s true as far as it goes, and perhaps it’s better to talk about our overlapping communities than about a single GLBT community.

Still, the alliance makes sense insofar as both (overlapping) groups suffer from rigid social expectations about sex and gender. Compare “If you’re born biologically male, you should grow up to be a man” with “If you’re born biologically male, you should grow up to love a woman.” The similarities between the two inferences seem to outweigh the differences.

Then there are those who question whether linking GLB to T might slow down GLB political progress, insofar as society has a harder time with trans issues than sexual- orientation issues.

Even if you find those who raise such questions insensitive, it’s hard to argue that they’re being irrational. In general, society does have a harder time with trans people than gay, lesbian, or bisexual people, which is one reason why the trans community needs and deserves our support.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of us who could benefit from frank and open dialogue about all of these issues. Transgender Day of Visibility is an important step in that direction, and gays—and everyone else—should support it.

Contact your local LGBT Community Center to learn more or if there is no events planned, why not start one!

For more information, including events, about International Transgender Visibility Day, check out the facebook page of Rachel Crandall, one of the founders of the day.