Arkansas Supreme Court grants visitation rights to non-biological co-mom

Justice Donald L. Corbin

In a 5-2 decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 17 that a non-biological lesbian co-parent should be granted visitation rights.

In the case of Bethany v. Jones, the high court upheld the ruling of a lower court, even though Arkansas law forbids adoption by cohabiting same-sex couples. The decision was written by Associate Justice Donald L. Corbin.

The decision lists these as undisputed facts:

Bethany and Jones were same-sex partners from 2000 until 2008.

In 2003, the parties purchased a home together, with both of their names listed on the mortgage.

In 2004, the parties began to take steps toward having a family. A male friend of Jones’s agreed to donate sperm. Bethany agreed to carry the child because Jones was experiencing some health issues, including reproductive problems.

Through the process of artificial insemination, Bethany became pregnant, and the minor child was born in 2005.

After the child’s birth, Jones stayed home with the child and her parents became the child’s grandparents. Bethany has no relationship with her family so they were not involved in the child’s care.

In 2008, the couple split up. At that time, they shared custody. But Bethany began a relationship with another woman who is also raising a child and she wanted to end Jones’ involvement and denied her visitation rights.

Jones’ filed for breach of contract. Bethany charged her former partner had no standing.

The court found Jones’ claims similar to that of a step-parent and decided that since they had planned to raise the child together at the time of birth and Jones had provided care for the child until the break up, she did have visitation rights.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Appeals court grants stay of DADT ruling, making policy enforceable again

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask don’t tell” likely will soon go back into effect, after a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay Wednesday of a district judge’s previous order halting enforcement of the policy.

The U.S. Department of Justice requested an emergency stay of the order from District Judge Virginia Phillips, who ruled in September that the policy is unconstitutional, in a lawsuit brought by Log Cabin Republicans. Phillips issued an order halting enforcement of the policy last week, and denied the government’s request for an emergency stay on Tuesday. However, the DOJ then requested an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which will hear the government’s appeal of Phillips’ ruling.

Wednesday’s temporary stay, issued by a three-judge panel of the appeals court, means the ban on open service is legally enforceable again. The temporary stay will remain in effect until sometime after Oct. 25, when the Ninth Circuit court decides whether to leave it in place pending the appeal.

“This interim temporary stay means that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is once again on the books, and is likely to be enforced by the Defense Department,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Gay and lesbian service members deserve better treatment than they are getting with this ruling. We now must look to the Senate next month in the lame duck session to bring about the swift certainty needed here and to repeal this unjust law that serves no useful purpose.”

It’s unclear how Wednesday’s stay will affect gays and lesbians who may have enlisted during the eight days since Phillips’ injunction when the policy was unenforceable.

“The revival of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law is a sad day for all Americans who want the best and brightest service members defending our country,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Today’s decision only furthers our resolve to send this law to the dustbin of history and also draws a spotlight on the administration to make good on their pledge to end these discharges that damage our national security.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said he hopes the appeals court will opt not to extend the stay during the appeal, which will take at least several months.

“While we are obviously disappointed that the injunction was temporarily stayed, we hope that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the inherent contradiction in the government’s arguments for a longer stay in light of eight full days of non-enforcement with no ‘enormous consequences,” Nicholson said. “An objective look at the evidence before the court clearly indicates that ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would not harm military readiness, but would rather enhance it.”

GetEQUAL announced that it will be protesting Thursday when President Barack Obama visits Seattle.

“This temporary stay, sought by President Obama’s Department of Justice, bring the military’s discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law back from the dead,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL. “It is a travesty that after numerous attempts, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will go down in history as the Administration that breathed life back into ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The lives and careers of openly gay and lesbian servicemembers are now back in the crosshairs of our government and a renewed commitment to discrimination falls squarely in the hands of this White House.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Appeals court grants stay of Prop 8 ruling; gay marriages won’t resume Wednesday

A federal appeals court reportedly has granted a stay of Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. This means same-sex marriages will not resume in California on Wednesday, the deadline for Walker’s previous stay to expire. From the National Center for Lesbian Rights at about 6 p.m. Dallas time on Twitter: “BREAKING: 9th Cir grants stay but puts case on expedited schedule & orders parties to address whether #Prop8 proponents have standing.”

This is a developing story. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

UPDATE: Some early analysis of the appeals court’s decision courtesy of the Courage Campaign:

Three things:

First, and drastically most importantly, the Court granted the stay. Consequently the thousands of couples who were waiting for the day of equality will have to wait at least a few more months until December.

Second, the Court wants this case to be resolved quickly. Appellants’ opening brief is due in just a month and the hearing will happen on December 6th. This is lightning quick for a Federal Court of Appeals, and it’s a very good sign. The Court understands that this case is important, and it doesn’t want it to linger.

Third, the Court specifically orders the Prop 8 proponents to show why this case should not be dismissed for lack of standing. Here’s a discussion of the standing issue. This is very good news for us. It shows that the Court has serious doubts about whether the Appellants have standing. Even better, the Court is expressing an opinion that its inclination is that the case should be dismissed. That being said, the panel that issued this Order (the motions panel) is not the same panel that will hear that case on the merits. The merits panel will be selected shortly before December 6th and we don’t know the three judges who will be on the merits panel. But this is a very good sign that the appeal could be dismissed on the ground of standing alone.

UPDATE NO. 2: Here’s a statement from the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is representing the same-sex couples challenging Prop 8:

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit set a highly expedited schedule for briefing and argument of proponents’ appeal from the district court’s August 4, 2010 decision striking down California’s Proposition 8 as an unconstitutional violation of the rights of gay and lesbian citizens to due process and equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment, and it granted proponents’ request to stay the judgment of the district court’s order while the appeal is decided. This means that although Californians who were denied equality by Proposition 8 cannot marry immediately, the Ninth Circuit, like the district court, will move swiftly to address and decide the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims on their merits. Today’s order can be found here:  http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/legal-filings/9th-circuit-ruling-on-motion-for-stay-pending-appeal/

“We are very gratified that the Ninth Circuit has recognized the importance and pressing nature of this case and the need to resolve it as quickly as possible by issuing this extremely expedited briefing schedule. As Chief Judge Walker found, Proposition 8 harms gay and lesbian citizens each day it remains on the books.   We look forward to moving to the next stage of this case,” said Attorney Theodore B. Olson.

“Today’s order from the Ninth Circuit for an expedited hearing schedule ensures that we will triumph over Prop. 8 as quickly as possible. This case is about fundamental constitutional rights and we at the American Foundation for Equal Rights, our Plaintiffs and our attorneys are ready to take this case all the way through the appeals court and to the United States Supreme Court,” said Chad Griffin, Board President, American Foundation for Equal Rights.

UPDATE NO. 3: We’ve posted a full story here.

—  John Wright