Adoption Groups Could Turn Away L.G.B.T. Families Under Trump Proposed Adoption Rule

divide chores

The Trump administration seeks to roll back an Obama-era adoption rule that classified sexual orientation and gender identity as classes protected from discrimination.

A proposed rule by the Trump administration would allow foster care and adoption agencies to deny their services to L.G.B.T. families on faith-based grounds.Trump adoption

The proposal would have “enormous” effects and touch the lives of a large number of people, Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality, an advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, said on Saturday.

The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday released the proposed rule, which would roll back a 2016 discriminationregulation instituted by the administration of President Barack Obama that included sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

Any organization — including foster care and adoption agencies or other entities that get department funding — is “now free to discriminate” if it wants to, Ms. Brogan-Kator said.

The proposed rule could be published in the Federal Register as early as Monday, followed by a 30-day comment period. After that, the comments will close and it will become final rule.

Critics, such as Ms. Brogan-Kator, said the rule would allow organizations to place their personal religious beliefs above the needs of children in their care, but the administration countered that it was not preventing L.G.B.T. people from adopting.

“The administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule that was proposed in the 12 o’clock hour of the last administration that jeopardizes the ability of faith-based providers to continue serving their communities,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday. “The federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith.”

According to the Adoption Network, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. More than 114,000 cannot be returned to their families and are waiting to be adopted.

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated in a report that 114,000 same-sex couples in 2016 were raising children in the United States. Same-sex couples with children were far more likely than different-sex couples with children to have an adopted child, 21.4 percent versus 3 percent, the report found.

nytimes.com by Derrick Bryson Taylor, November 2, 2019

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‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

gay dads

‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

When Kraig Wiedenfeld and Bill Johnson decided they were ready to start a family and wanted a baby biologically related to one of them, they did what a small but growing number of gay couples with their desire do: They found a surrogate to help them.step parent adoption

As chronicled in The Washington Post last year, the two men, then married for four years, embarked on a journey both complicated and expensive that required: sperm from Weidenfeld, an anonymous egg donor and a young woman to carry the baby.

Christina Fenn had already carried three babies — including a set of twins — for two other same-sex couples, when a surrogacy agency matched her to Wiedenfeld and Johnson.

Before becoming a surrogate, Fenn and her husband, Brian, had two sons of their own. She loved being pregnant and longed to help those who couldn’t conceive children.

Assisted reproduction and surrogacy have been around for years, but these days gay men who can afford the cost are choosing this route to parenthood, experts say.

Sometimes, however, desire and hope — and in Wiedenfeld and Johnson’s case, advanced reproductive science — are not enough to guarantee a baby. A first effort resulted in a miscarriage just a month after the embryo transfer. The second effort had the same outcome, and an even heavier emotional toll for all involved.

But the two men and Fenn had contractually agreed on three embryo transfers, leaving them one final chance. On a crisp day last spring, nearly nine months later, that chance came due.

“Are you ready to be a dad?” Fenn’s eager voice said at the other end of the line.

Weidenfeld and Johnson raced from New York City to the hospital in Connecticut just in time for the birth of a seven-pound, 19.5-inch boy, soon to be known as Teddy.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” Johnson said.

After passing the baby around among Fenn, her husband and the two new dads, Weidenfeld turned to Fenn and said, “Look what you’ve done for us. This is not the end of our story together. This is just the beginning.”

“I will be there for every birthday party and special occasion,” Fenn vowed, smiling. “I hope to always be in their lives,” she said of the family.

The number of children born through surrogacy is unknown, but surrogacy agencies say the demand for surrogates has noticeably risen in recent years. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 738 babies were born via surrogacy in 2004; in 2014, that the number was 2,807.

Victoria Ferrara, founder and legal director at Worldwide Surrogacy, says about 50 percent of the 80 to 100 surrogacy arrangements her organization facilitates involve gay parents. She estimates the number of babies born through surrogacy every year ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 worldwide.

Washingtonpost.com, by Sydney Page, October 26, 2019

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Northern Ireland Set to Legalize Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

marriage equality

The collapse of local government allowed Parliament to step in and bring the Northern Ireland ’s laws in line with Britain’s principles of human rights.

Traditionally conservative Northern Ireland is about to legalize both abortion and same-sex marriage, a head-snapping about-face that was imposed on the territory by the British Parliament.Ireland gay

The changes, bitterly resisted by anti-abortion and church groups, were mandated in an amendment to a routine bill on governance of Northern Ireland that Parliament passed in July amid a power vacuum created by the collapse of the region’s governing assembly nearly three years ago.

The amendment will go into effect at midnight on Monday, weeks after the High Court in Belfast rebuffed a legal challenge, ruling that Northern Ireland’s 158-year-old abortion laws are incompatible with the United Kingdom’s human rights commitments.

The judgment was a major victory for women’s rights activists, who had felt left behind after the Republic of Ireland voted to legalize abortion last year. Although Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, and the majority of its people say they would like abortion to be made available, the regional power-sharing government had blocked abortion reform before collapsing in 2017 over sectarian divides.

British lawmakers saw the political paralysis as an opportunity, and, during a Parliamentary sitting in July, overwhelmingly voted to legalize same-sex marriage and abortion. While both have been hot-button issues in the United States and other countries, same-sex marriage has not stirred the intense reaction in Northern Ireland that the lifting of the abortion ban has.

At the Northern Ireland Assembly’s mammoth building in Stormont on Monday, lawmakers reconvened for the first time in nearly three years in a last-ditch and almost certainly futile attempt to prevent the new abortion law from going into effect.

As they met, groups of activists from both sides of the issue faced off on the grounds outside. “Pro-life, that’s a lie — you don’t care if women die,” one group chanted as opposing protesters held up pictures of fetuses emblazoned across signs that read “Save me, be my voice, please let me live.”

NYTimes.com by Ceylan Yeginsu, October 21, 2019

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France moves to make reproductive technology legal for all

Egg Donor Prices

France moves to make reproductive technology legal for all

Isabelle Laurans and her boyfriend tried for years to have a baby. When nothing else worked, they decided to try France reproductive technology in the form of in vitro fertilization, or IVF. France reproductive technology

But halfway through the process, Laurans’ boyfriend changed his mind. He dumped her the day they were supposed to make the embryo in the lab.

Laurans says she doesn’t remember most of what went through her mind that day. What she does recall is the overwhelming fear that she’d never get to be a mom.

“I was 38. I knew it would be perhaps too late for me if I waited for a new relationship,” she said.

That same day, Laurans says she was on the internet, looking for a Plan B.

“I didn’t want to risk missing out on becoming a mother altogether,” she explained.

So, Laurans decided to get IVF on her own.

One problem, though: In France, single women aren’t allowed to get IVF. They’re also not allowed to freeze their eggs or get artificial insemination. Lesbian couples are also denied access to assisted reproductive technologies. French law only permits these treatments to women in long-term, heterosexual relationships, putting France at odds with most of its European neighbors (though Germany has similar restrictions).

And so in 2015, Laurans traveled to Belgium to get the treatment. She gave birth to a baby girl, Charlotte, later that year. Laurans says she was lucky to be able to do it.

“It was expensive … and it wasn’t easy,” she said. She had to go through two rounds of IVF. It cost her about $5,500 in all. That might seem cheap to Americans who can pay between $10,000-$15,000 per IVF cycle, depending on insurance coverage. But in France, if Laurans had still been with her boyfriend, the treatment would have been free.  

www.PRI.org – October 18, 2019, by Sarah Birnbaum

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The French Court of Final Appeal recognises parents of surrogate twins after 19 years

French court of final appeal

The French Court of Final Appeal has officially acknowledged the sole parenthood of a couple who raised twins borne by a surrogate mother in the United States, ending 19 years of judicial battles for Dominique and Sylvie Mennesson.

The French Court fo Final Appeal decision came after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, and a day after French MPs vote to recognise filiation for surrogacy children born abroad and a day after French MPs voted to recognise parenthood of children born through surrogacy abroad.French court of final appeal

“Victory and relief…our children are no longer ghosts,” said Dominque Mennesson, father of the twins in a reaction to the verdict. “They are now our children legally.”

In 2000, Mennesson and his wife Sylvie, who is infertile, had a successful surrogacy (GPA, or “gestation pour autrui” in French) treatment in the United States. Mennesson’s sperm was implanted in the uterus of an anonymous woman, who bore twins, named Valentina and Fiorella by their parents. 

At the time, judges in California, where the procedure took place, ruled that Dominique Mennesson was the “genetic father” and his wife the “legal mother,” and issued birth certificates and US passports.

 

Punishable

But in France, recourse to surrogacy is illegal to prevent the human body from becoming a “commercial instrument”, with the risk that the child may become an object of a contract.

French law stipulates that surrogacy is punishable by one year prison and a 15,000-euro fine. The French Consulate in Los Angeles, suspecting surrogacy arrangements, therefore refused to enter the certificates of the Mennessons in the French civil register.

By RFI, October 4, 2019

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Trump administration halts visas for same-sex partners of diplomats, UN employees

Unmarried, same-sex partners of diplomats and U.N. employees have until the end the year to get married or leave the U.S.

President Donald Trump’s administration began denying visas to the unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and officials and employees of the United Nations this week — making marriage a requirement to be eligible for a visa. same-sex partners of diplomats

The policy was made effective Monday.

It comes despite the fact that the majority of countries do not recognize same-sex marriage and many same-sex couples face prosecution in their own countries. 

The shift was detailed in a memo circulated at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York last month but unveiled in July, according to the State Department. 

The policy shift gives the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. workers until the end of the year to get married or leave the country.

The State Department said in a briefing Tuesday that the policy will affect about 105 families in the USA, 55 of which have links to various international organizations. It was not clear how many foreign diplomats and U.N. employees with pending U.S. posts will be affected by the policy change.

 

Twelve percent of the 193 U.N. member states represented in New York allow same-sex marriage, according to Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who served under President Barack Obama. 

The Trump administration said the new policy is more consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage. The heterosexual partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. employees are also not eligible for U.S. visas.

Critics of the move argued the policy would create hardship for gay couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or offer only civil unions. Those who marry in the USA to secure their visa status could face criminal proceedings once they return to their home nations. 

“Those not yet in the country will need to show they’re married to secure a visa, potentially forcing those living in countries without marriage equality to choose between a posting at UN headquarters or family separation,” Akshaya Kumar, deputy U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, wrote in a blog post.

USAToday.com by Kim Hjelmagaard, October 5, 2019

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Judge Allows Religious-Based Michigan Adoption Agencies to Turn Away LGBT Couples

Michigan adoption LGBT

Religious-based adoption agencies that contract with the state of Michigan will be allowed to refuse to place children in LGBT homes under a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge Thursday.

District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids Michigan blocked Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan’s first openly gay statewide officeholder, from barring the faith-based agencies from excluding LGBT couples from adoption services.Michigan adoption LGBT

He said her action conflicted with state law, existing contracts and established practice. Nessel had, through a legal settlement between same-sex couples and the state Department of Health and Human Services, reversed the state’s stance earlier this year.

Michigan, like most states, contracts with private agencies to place children from troubled homes with new families.

Jonker, in issuing a preliminary injunction, said Lansing-based St. Vincent Catholic Charities’ longstanding practice of adhering to its religious beliefs and referring same-sex and unmarried couples to other agencies is not discriminatory.

Wanting to cancel the contract “strongly suggests the State’s real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent’s religious belief and replace it with the State’s own. … It would disrupt a carefully balanced and established practice that ensures non-discrimination in child placements while still accommodating traditional Catholic religious beliefs on marriage,” he wrote.

A spokeswoman for Nessel said her office was reviewing the decision to determine next steps.

Nessel in March announced an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union to resolve a 2017 lawsuit filed by two lesbian couples. The settlement said a 2015 Republican-backed law that lets child-placement agencies not provide any services that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs does not apply if they are under contract with the state.

Time.com by David Eggert, September 27, 2019

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Employment Discrimination – Can Someone Be Fired for Being Gay? The Supreme Court Will Decide

employment discrimination

The Supreme Court has delivered a remarkable series of victories to the gay rights movement over the last two decades, culminating in a ruling that established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  Is Employment Discrimination nest?

But in more than half the states, employment discrimination exists and someone can still be fired for being gay.employment discrimination

Early in its new term, on Oct. 8, the court will consider whether an existing federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, guarantees nationwide protection from workplace discrimination to gay and transgender people, even in states that offer no protections right now.

It will be the court’s first case on L.G.B.T. rights since the retirement last year of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinions in all four of the court’s major gay rights decisions. And without Justice Kennedy, who joined four liberals in the 5-to-4 ruling in the marriage case, the workers who sued their employers in the three cases before the court may face an uphill fight.

“Now that we don’t have Kennedy on the court, it would be a stretch to find a fifth vote in favor of any of these claims that are coming to the court,” said Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia and the author of “Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality.”

She added that lawyers working to expand gay rights might have focused too narrowly on the right to marry. “The gay rights movement became the marriage rights movement,” she said, “and we lost sight of the larger dynamics and structures of homophobia.”

Other experts said the court should have little trouble ruling for the plaintiffs.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans continue to face widespread job discrimination because of their same-sex attraction or sex identities,” said William N. Eskridge Jr., a law professor at Yale and the author of an article in The Yale Law Journal on Title VII’s statutory history. “If the justices take seriously the text of Title VII and their own precedents, L.G.B.T. Americans will enjoy the same job protections as other groups.”

The Supreme Court’s earlier gay rights rulings were grounded in constitutional law. Romer v. Evans, in 1996, struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment that had banned laws protecting gay men and lesbians. Lawrence v. Texas, in 2003, struck down laws making gay sex a crime. United States v. Windsor, in 2013, overturned a ban on federal benefits for married same-sex couples.

And Obergefell v. Hodges, in 2015, struck down state bans on same-sex marriage, ruling that the Constitution guarantees a right to such unions.

The new cases, by contrast, concern statutory interpretation, not constitutional law.

The question for the justices is whether the landmark 1964 law’s prohibition of sex discrimination encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Lawyers for the gay and transgender plaintiffs say it does. Lawyers for the defendants and the Trump administration, which has filed briefs supporting the employers, say it does not.

NYTimes.com by Adam Liptak, September 23, 2019

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New NY legislation prevents courts from denying child adoptions to petitioners that are already legally-recognized parents

same-sex parents

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he signed legislation (S.3999/A.460) prohibiting New York State courts from denying child adoptions to petitioners who are already a legally-recognized parent solely on that basis.

The bill, signed by Cuomo, protects parents whose names were not on the birth certificate, same-sex couples, and parents who had a child through surrogacy from being denied adoptions when the parent petitioning is already recognized as the child’s parent.parent adoption

“All parents deserve the same rights and the same recognition under the law – period – and it’s unconscionable that this isn’t the case in every corner of this nation,” Governor Cuomo said. “These new protections will help ensure that all families are treated with fairness and equality and that no parent encounters unreasonable barriers in a court of law.”

“We are thankful to the countless same-sex couples who provide loving homes for children across New York,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “Today’s action will protect the rights of these couples and furthers our commitment to ensure equality for the LGBTQ community.”

Senator Brad Hoylman said, “While New York’s laws provide strong legal protections for LGBTQ families like my own, sadly that’s not the case everywhere. With the passage of this law, we are reaffirming that non-biological parents have access to adoption proceedings in every New York court, regardless of whether state law already recognizes them as the legal parent of their children. By allowing these adoptions, we give parents traveling or moving outside New York State the opportunity to keep their families legally secure. I thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Assembly Member Amy Paulin for their work in passing this vital legislation, and Governor Cuomo for his continued support of the LGBTQ community.”

Assembly Member Amy Paulin said, “Despite the fact that judges already have the ability to grant adoption petitions and routinely have done so, there have been times where these petitions have been denied, causing surprise and stressful uncertainty for same-sex couples. With this law, we provide a guarantee and security that parents’ rights are recognized, both in New York and in other jurisdictions.”

While the spouse of a woman who gives birth to a child is presumed to be the child’s parent, same-sex couples find themselves in a legally precarious position when traveling beyond New York State, in places that do not fully respect the rights of non-biological parents. Under the new law, a New York adoption would be honored in another jurisdiction. This gives children the security that both their parents will be legally recognized wherever family members may be.

This new law takes effect immediately.

Click here to read the language of the Bill.

whcuradio.com, September 17, 2019

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Phoenix Business Can Refuse to Make Invitations for Same-Sex Couples

Phoenix Business Can Refuse to Make Invitations for Same-Sex Couples

With these fundamental principles in mind, today we hold that the City of Phoenix … cannot apply its Human Relations Ordinance … to force Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, LC (“Brush & Nib”), to create custom wedding invitations celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs. Duka, Koski, and Brush & Nib (“Plaintiffs”) have the right to refuse to express such messages under article 2, section 6 of the Arizona Constitution, as well as Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act (“FERA”), A.R.S. § 41-1493.01.”Phoenix same sex

The case pitted the business owners against the city of Phoenix, with key elements including the concepts of artistic freedom, religious rights, and anti-discrimination laws.

The case began in May 2016, after Brush & Nib and its owners claimed that a Phoenix anti-discrimination law violated their artistic and religious freedom. They filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Artist Breanna Koski and calligrapher Joanna Duka founded Brush & Nib Studio in 2015. The company specializes in hand-painting and hand-lettering for weddings, special events, and home decor. They also sell ready-made products such as signs and thank-you cards.

“The rights of free speech and free exercise, so precious to this nation since its founding, are not limited to soft murmurings behind the doors of a person’s home or church, or private conversations with like-minded friends and family,” wrote Justice Andrew Gould for the majority. “These guarantees protect the right of every American to express their beliefs in public. This includes the right to create and sell words, paintings, and art that express a person’s sincere religious beliefs.

The business owners said that Phoenix City Code 18-4(B)(1)-(3) prevented them from exercising artistic and religious freedom by requiring that they create wedding invitations for same-sex couples.

Adopted in 2013, the ordinance prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability. It applies to businesses offering services to the general public.

Brush & Nib Studio is represented by Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy and training group founded in 1994 to promote what it calls religious freedom, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which condemns the alliance for its “anti-LGBT ideology.”

The alliance’s clients include Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. That case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. In June 2018, the court ruled in Phillips’ favor in a 7-2 decision.

The Alliance Defending Freedom announced that it intends to hold a press conference with the Brush & Nib owners this afternoon.

phoenixnewstimes.com by Lynn Trimble, September 16, 2019

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