Florida Finally Recognizes Martin Gill As The Legal Father To His Sons

Martin Gill, the Florida man who's been battling for years to adopt his two foster sons, and who conquered the state's ban on gays adopting back in October, has finally been granted his legal adoption. Best wishes, gents.

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And now a man who holds meetings to eliminate my legal marriage will call me an ‘aggressor’

Screen Shot 2011-01-13 At 7.39.02 PmBrian Brown’s latest e-blast is a real piece of work. Here’s just one snip from his faux-victimization:

But for me the worst part of the gay marriage debate is this eliminationist quality coming (in my experience, and of course I’m speaking only about public and visible organizations and spokespeople) almost exclusively from one side: activists who support gay marriage.

They’ve said over and over again, until they’ve totally convinced themselves, that there really is “no legitimate argument” against gay marriage, no reason why marriage in virtually every known society is a union of husband and wife.

They do not see themselves as behaving aggressively when they insist that all good people now support the redefinition of marriage, so the public and political resistance of others to their new views on marriage strikes them as incredibly aggressive.

Having already redefined marriage in their heads, living in progressive bubbles and talking mostly with folks who agree with them, too many have concluded that our words must simply be cover for some dark desire to make other people’s lives miserable.

I’ve come to believe that this is not merely tactical on their part; they really experience the world in this way, which makes me sad.

If you say, “The ideal for a child is a mom and a dad,” they hear something very different, something which sounds more like, “You hate me and my family—you want to attack me.”

I’m not sure what it is possible to do about reactions like that. Many parents are not married, and all responsible parents deserve respect. But an America where our ideal is seen as a vicious and hateful attack?

FULL PIECE: NOM National Marriage News: Defining the “Culture of Hate” [NOM]

Oh, where to even begin? We’re gonna take this one free form:

(A) We’re not “redefining marriage in our heads,” Brian — we have marriage equality in five states and D.C (and civil unions in others). And we had full marriage equality in other states as well, until groups like NOM stepped in and A.G.G.R.E.S.S.I.V.E.L.Y. took it away!

(B) We haven’t “convinced ourselves” that there’s no legitimate argument under American civil law to deny our marriage equality: Our continued studies on the subject have fully convinced us that our position is 100% right under the law of our shared land. That’s a major distinction.

(C) We’re not really ascribing the moral component to the fight that Brian suggests we are. Yes, most of us think that marriage equality for same-sex couples is the “good” thing to do. But it’s not about “good” or “bad” people, at least not on the grand scale. It’s about the constitution. It’s about the rights of citizenship. It’s about due process and equal protection. Personal “niceness” is a silly aside.

(D) The anti-marriage equality movement is RIFE with “ex-gay” rhetoric. And we’re not talking in the abstract: We’re talking about close NOM allies like Cornerstone Policy Research and the Iowa Family Policy Council, who are quite literally pushing scientifically-discredited “gays can change” rhetoric. You can call that many things. We certainly consider it an “eliminationist” campaign, targeted towards our very cores of existence.

(E) It’s extremely rich for someone like Brian to say that gay activists talk “mostly with folks who agree with them.” Because we are the ones who always go in and doggedly take on any and every thing that the opposition puts forth. They’re the ones who so frequently ignore what we’re actually saying in favor of their own spin!!! or they just ban/delete our comments outright.

(F) Brian says of gays: “too many have concluded that our words must simply be cover for some dark desire to make other people’s lives miserable.” Uhm, no, Brian: We don’t have to form calculated conclusions on this subject — WE LIVE IT! For example, the day after the Prop 8 vote? We were miserable! Hell, this writer had his planned California wedding forcibly cancelled (though ultimately only moved to CT) because of that vote! I didn’t sit around and think about the most tactical way I could question basic decency on this and other NOM-crafted days: I experienced it! Organically!

(G) No Brian, when you say “The ideal for a child is a mom and a dad,” we don’t hear hate. Instead we hear your personal opinion on the subject of parenting. The only reason — THE ONLY REASON — why this personal opinion exits your own head and gets on our nerves is because you are trying to (a) base an entire civil marriage campaign around this legally ancillary notion of child-rearing, and (b) codify that personal parental opinion into law!

(H) If even one prominent gay activist was truly seeking to alter the lives of even one person of faith, then there would be a little more merit to the “gays are the aggressors” claims. But this is not the case. In this contrived, two-sided conversation, there is only one group that is tangibly stifling the rights of their neighbors. That’s a fact that remains true, no matter how much code-wording NOM crafts.

(I) What do you do about our reactions to your work, Brian? YOU FIND ANOTHER FRIGGIN’ CAREER PATH! Because frankly, we’re pretty sick of you using our backs to write your annual tax return.

Good As You

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NM Atty. Gen. Issues Legal Opinion on Marriage Recognition

Yesterday, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King issued a sound legal opinion [pdf] analyzing New Mexico’s marriage comity laws and concluding that the state can recognize marriages between two people of the same sex performed outside of the state.  The opinion was a response to an inquiry by New Mexico State Representative Al Park (D-Albuquerque) that asked whether same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions are valid in New Mexico.  A key portion of the opinion explains,  “While we cannot predict how a New Mexico court would rule on this issue, after review of the law in this area, it is our opinion that a same-sex marriage that is valid under the laws of the country or state where it was consummated would likewise be found valid in New Mexico.”

This opinion does not  address the ability of same-sex couples to marry in New Mexico, and at this point it is unclear the weight which the opinion will be given by the state government and courts.  New Mexico state law neither specifically prohibits nor permits same-sex couples to legally marry.

Both Maryland and New York  provide marriage rights to same-sex couples married out of jurisdiction while not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples within the state. In February 2007, the Rhode Island Attorney General issued an advisory opinion declaring that the state could recognize out of jurisdiction marriages. However, the following December, the  Rhode Island Supreme Court refused to grant a divorce to a same-sex couple legally married in Massachusetts.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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NCLR Legal Analysis Of The Ninth Circuit Prop 8 Ruling

BLEND EXCLUSIVE: Trial analysis by the National Center For Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Attorney Shannon Minter.

By Shannon Minter, Esq.

National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director

Today brings a new development in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to strip same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  Thumbnail Link: NCLR's Legal Director Shannon MinterPerry is currently on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court that covers California. In a ruling issued this morning, the Ninth Circuit denied Imperial County’s attempt to intervene in the case. The Ninth Circuit also asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether, under California law, the group that placed Prop 8 on the ballot has a legal right to appeal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

To understand what today’s ruling means, it is helpful to look back on the history of the Perry case. In May 2009, two same-sex couples filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Judge Walker permitted Prop 8’s official supporters to intervene in the case as defendants, and also permitted the City and County of San Francisco to intervene as a plaintiff to represent its unique governmental interest in marriage equality. On the eve of trial, Imperial County also filed a motion asking to intervene in the case as a defendant.

After a three-week trial in January 2010, Judge Walker ruled in August 2010 that Prop 8 violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. Judge Walker also ruled that Imperial County did not have the right to intervene as a defendant.

California’s Governor and Attorney General decided not to appeal that ruling because they agreed that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. The supporters of Prop 8 and Imperial County both filed appeals with the Ninth Circuit.

At oral argument on December 6, 2010, the Ninth Circuit panel asked all sides questions about whether the official supporters of Prop 8 have the legal right to appeal Judge Walker’s decision. The parties also addressed whether Imperial County should have been allowed to intervene in the case as a defendant.

Today, the Ninth Circuit panel upheld Judge Walker’s decision not to allow Imperial County or its Deputy Clerk to intervene in the case. In order to intervene, Imperial County would have needed to show that it had a significant interest at stake. The Ninth Circuit explained in today’s opinion that Imperial County did not have any interests that would be sufficiently affected by the outcome of this lawsuit.

In addition, the Ninth Circuit made clear in today’s ruling that if the supporters of Prop 8 do not have the legal right to appeal Judge Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, the appeal is over. In order to answer that question, the Ninth Circuit has asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether California law gives Prop 8’s supporters the right to pursue an appeal when the state’s official representatives, after carefully evaluating the interests of the entire state, have made a considered decision not to appeal.

Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit must decide whether the Prop 8 supporters have a right to appeal under federal law – that is, whether they have “standing” to appeal.  The California Supreme Court may hold that California law does not give initiative sponsors the right to override the litigation decisions of the state’s official representatives.  If so, then the Ninth Circuit likely will hold that the Prop 8 supporters do not have standing.  That would mean that the Ninth Circuit would dismiss the appeal, Judge Walker’s ruling would stand, and same-sex couples would once again be able to marry in California.  

Alternatively, if the California Supreme Court were to hold that California law gives initiative sponsors the extraordinary power to bring an appeal over the objections of the Attorney General and the Governor, the Ninth Circuit would still have to decide whether Prop 8’s supporters meet all of the other criteria to have standing under federal law.  If it ultimately holds that the Prop 8 supporters have standing, then the Ninth Circuit could reach the merits of Judge Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.      

The next step after today’s ruling is for the California Supreme Court to decide whether it will accept the Ninth Circuit’s request. If it does so, it will then get briefs from both sides, and might hear oral argument as well before ruling. There is no set timeline for the California Supreme Court to rule.  In previous cases, it has taken the California Supreme Court up to two years to answer a question sent to it by the Ninth Circuit. Given the importance of this case and the real harm that inequality causes to LGBT people every day, however, we are hopeful that the Court will act quickly to restore fairness and equality for same-sex couples in California.



* Visit the Blend for exclusive legal analysis of Federal Prop 8 trial by NCLR

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 1

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 2

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 3

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 4

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 5

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 6

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 7

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 8

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 9

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 10

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 11

* Shannon Minter: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proceedings, Day 12

* Key commentary from the PHB Shannon Minter live blog on the fed Prop 8 trial

* NCLR Analysis: Closing Arguments For Perry v. Schwarzenegger

* NCLR Analysis: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Ruling

* NCLR Analysis: Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals Hearing On Perry v. Schwarzenegger
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Lambda Legal slams Obama administration for appealing Witt’s DADT ruling

Via press release, here’s the very strong statement from the Legal Director of Lambda Legal, Jon Davidson (with my emphasis added):

“We congratulate Major Witt on her return to service and our colleagues at the ACLU of Washington who represented her. However, the decision to appeal by the Department of Justice leaves us wondering just what part of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue’ does the Obama Administration not get? Notwithstanding President Obama’s concession that the military’s current anti-gay policies are hurting national security, his administration is continuing to pursue the discharge of a decorated officer who did not ‘tell,’ who would not have even been investigated under the military’s current guidelines, and whose discharge has been found not to promote unit cohesion or morale. While it is good that the administration decided not to seek a stay of Major Witt’s reinstatement, there was no necessity for an appeal to be filed, contrary to suggestions of Obama Administration representatives. After a trial, Major Witt was found to be ‘an exemplary officer,’ ‘an effective leader,’ ‘a caring mentor’ and ‘an integral member of an effective team,’ whose ‘loss within [her] squadron resulted in a diminution of the unit’s ability to carry out its mission.’ Filing this appeal and refusing to suspend discharges pending the repeal of the military’s current anti-gay policy is a significant failure on the part of our nation’s Commander in Chief.

We agree with Lambda Legal. Robert Gibbs was wrong. There was no necessity for this appeal to be filed. It’s is a significant failure.

Sign our letter to the President, urging him to become actively involved in the effort to pass the Defense bill with the DADT language. We’re running out of time — and we don’t need another significant failure. The letter is here.


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To Avoid $1 Million Legal Bill, Philadelphia Short Sells City-Owned Building to Boy Scouts of America

After failing to evict the Boy Scouts of America from a city-owned building it had been leasing to the anti-gay group for per year, the City of Philadelphia has reached an alternative agreement with the Scouts: Sell 'em the damn building they want so bad.


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DOMA facing new legal challenges from GLAD and ACLU

Two lawsuits will be filed against DOMA today from two of the best organizations fighting for basic civil rights: The ACLU and GLAD. Given the lack of promised action from the Obama administration and Congress, the courts are probably our best route to equality for the time being. And, these new cases give the Obama administration’s Department of Justice two more opportunities to defend DOMA:

Ms. Pedersen and Ms. Meitzen plan to file a lawsuit Tuesday against the government in an effort to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples.

They are plaintiffs in one of two lawsuits being filed by the legal group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a gay rights legal organization based in Boston, and by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A similar challenge by the gay rights legal group resulted in a ruling in July from a federal judge in Boston that the act is unconstitutional. The Obama administration is appealing that decision.

The two new lawsuits, which involve plaintiffs from New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, expand the attack geographically and also encompass more of the 1,138 federal laws and regulations that the Defense of Marriage Act potentially affects — including the insurance costs amounting to several hundred dollars a month in the case of Ms. Pedersen and Ms. Meitzen, and a 0,0000 estate tax payment in the A.C.L.U. case.

Both cases will be announced via separate press conferences today at 11 AM ET.


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How to Have Two Dads, Two Moms, and Be Legal Too

I like to watch Modern Family. Sure, it has your traditional mom-dad-and-the-kids family. But it also has a family with two gay men and their adopted asian girl as well as one with an old man and his (much) younger Colombian wife with her son from a previous marriage.

Those are modern families. But could the show already be out of date?

The Modern, Modern Family

For the new modern family, the defining question of parents is not who, but how many. With more LGBT familes, courts are coming to terms with the notion that a child could have multiple legal parents, and in some cases multiple biological ones.

Michelle O’Neil, a Dallas divorce lawyer, explained her thoughts yesterday:

Increasingly, the spotlight is shining on same-sex parenting units as a family. . . In California, a three-party adoption has been recognized. When asked why that was important, the parents replied that there is a perceived difference between being a “parent” under the law versus a friend or “uncle”. Third-parent adoptions remain extremely rare, and only a handful have been done, mostly in Massachusetts and California. But some legal scholars see in them the seeds of a larger shift in how the law defines parenthood. These advocates point to a few recent court decisions that suggest a willingness to recognize more than two parents.

Why is it changing?

The cause of this larger shift is due to courts basing parental status more on relationship than biology. Legal parental status, courts are starting to reason, should be based more on who cares for a child (relationship) than on who’s genetics they have (biology).

It is LGBT couples specifically that are causing the choice between relationship and biology to have different results. Before, most children were raised by their biological parents or parent. But same sex couples can never be both biologically related to their child, and usually neither of them are. As a result, they often form “blended families” with the biological parents of their adopted children.

So what’s a multiple-parent family actually look like?

Let’s take a look at the California three-parent family that Michelle mentioned. Drake Bennett, a writer from the Boston Globe, interviewed the family about their story:

When Sharon Tanenbaum and Matty Person, a married lesbian couple in San Francisco, decided to have a child together, it wasn’t hard to figure out who they wanted the sperm donor to be. Bill Hirsh was one of Sharon’s oldest friends, they had known each other, Sharon says, “since we were born, more or less.” Their fathers had been best friends in college, and Sharon and Bill had grown up spending summers together and calling each other’s parents aunts and uncles.

Sharon, Matty, and Bill agreed that Bill would be more than just a source of genetic material — they wanted him to be a father. When Sharon had a son, Jesse, in 1994, the boy lived with Sharon and Matty, but growing up he spent one day a week with Bill and Bill’s same-sex partner, Thompson. In addition, the whole family would gather once a week for dinner.

But because Bill and Sharon were Jesse’s biological parents, Matty (Sharon’s partner) had no legal rights:

“Let’s say I died in some terrible car crash or whatever and Matty had no legal rights, and let’s say she and Billy had a falling out or one of my parents or brother wanted to take care of Jesse,” Sharon says. In that case, Matty could have had Jesse taken away from her altogether.

At the same time, no one in the family wanted to force Bill to give up his parental status. So, when Jesse was 4, their lawyer persuaded the San Francisco Superior Court to allow Matty to do a third-parent adoption. The move, which had little precedent, gave Jesse three parents, three people who, in the event of a split, could demand custody or visitation rights and would be responsible for paying child support.

Still, I don’t think you’ll see a widespread judicial shift towards recognizing multiple-parent families anytime soon. That won’t happen until gay marriage becomes legal, and more importantly, common.

[Cross-posted at the Gay Law Report, where I discuss LGBT laws and related news.]

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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4 Legal Issues to Consider Before Moving In With Your Partner

When a relationship starts getting serious, people think about living together. For some couples, this happens after just a few months. Others might wait a year or more before deciding to move in together.

Often, especially for younger couples, this means moving into one person’s apartment or other rented home. Here are 4 legal issues you should consider:

1. Telling Your Landlord

Your lease may say that you have to tell your landlord if you want to add a roommate. It may even limit how many people can live in your unit. Even if it doesn’t specify any of these things, you should still tell them so that everyone is on the same page. You don’t want to give your landlord any reason to evict you or charge you some penalty for not revealing a change in occupancy.

You certainly don’t have to tell your landlord your relationship status with your partner. You can just call yourselves “roommates” and be done with it.

Most couples probably don’t bother telling their landlord, and think that the landlord probably won’t notice or find out anyway. They will. Go ahead and tell them so that you avoid problems later.

2. Will You Have to Pay More?

Probably. The landlord can increase the rent and usually the security deposit based on an additional person living in the apartment. Go ahead and pay it—it’s not worth it to hide the fact that you and your partner are now living together there.

3. Rights and Responsibilities of the New Person

If you move into your partner’s apartment, can the landlord make you pay rent or charge you for damaging property? Can you live there if your partner moves out?

No, unless you decide to become a cotenant. Let’s say Amy moves into Jannelle’s apartment, and Janelle tells that to her landlord. This could develop in four ways:

They don’t do anything else. The lease will still only be a contract between the landlord and Janelle, so the landlord can’t make Amy pay rent, and the landlord doesn’t owe Amy anything.

Amy and Janelle sign a new lease that makes them both cotenants. Now, they each have obligations to pay rent and other things and each have a right to live in the apartment.

Without signing a new lease, they tell the landlord that Amy is going to be a cotenant. Depending on state laws, this might create an oral contract that has the same effect as #2

Without signing a new lease or telling the landlord that she’s now a cotenant, Amy starts acting like one. She pays rent directly to the landlord. Also depending on state laws, this might create an implied contract, again having the same effect as #2.

4. Subtenants

Sometimes the person moving in will contribute to the rent, but will pay the money directly to his partner, not to the landlord. This is a subtenant relationship.

The key difference between being cotenants and one person being a subtenant is in who can legally kick someone out:

Cotenants: The landlord, but not the original tenant, can end the lease for either person.

Subtenant: The original tenant can legally tell the new person to move out.

A lot of couples like this relationship better at first. If the couple breaks up, the original tenant can legally tell his ex to move out. But watch out—your landlord may not let you do a sub-tenancy. If they don’t—and it’s what you want—it’s much better to find an apartment complex that will than to hide it from your landlord.

[Cross-posted at the Gay Law Report, where I discuss LGBT laws and related news.]

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Court: Professor Calling You A ‘Fascist Bastard’ For a Pro-Prop 8 Speech Is Not a Legal Matter


Jonathan Lopez is the Los Angeles City College student whose professor John Matteson cut short, in the days after 2008's Prop 8 decision, Lopez's classroom speech on the definition of marriage and what the Bible thinks of homogays. Lopez sued for financial damages, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated after Mattseon berated him and called him (and anyone who voted for Prop 8) a "fascist bastard." And while a lower court approved Lopez's suit, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just told him to get the F out of their stack of paperwork in a unanimous decision to dismiss the case, saying Lopez, represented by the gasbags at the Alliance Defense Fund, failed to show he was harmed by Mattseon, uh, speaking the truth.


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—  John Wright