Disappointed Gay Dad Asks Supreme Court to Overturn Key New York LGBT Family Law Precedent, Brooke S.B.

overturn Brooke S.B.

Disappointed Gay Dad Asks Supreme Court to Overturn Brooke S.B., aKey New York LGBT Family Law Precedent

In Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C., 61 N.E.3d 488 (2016), the New York Court of Appeals overruled a 25-year-old precedent and held that when there is clear and convincing evidence that a same-sex couple agreed to have a child and raise the child together, where only one of them will be the child’s biological parent, and both of the parties performed parental duties and bonded with the children, the other parent would have the same rights as the biological parent in a later custody dispute.overturn Brooke S.B.

Now a gay biological dad who lost custody of twins to his former same-sex partner by application of the Brooke S.B. precedent asked the U.S. Supreme Court on May 10 to rule that his 14th Amendment Due Process rights have been violated. Frank G. v. Joseph P. & Renee P.F., No. 18–1431 (Filed May 10, 2019); Renee P.F. v. Frank G., 79 N.Y.S.3d 45 (App. Div., 2nd Dep’t, May 30, 2018), leave to appeal denied, 32 N.Y.3d 910 (N.Y.C.A., Dec. 11, 2018).

Frank G. and Joseph P. lived together in a same-sex relationship in New York and made a joint decision to have a child. Joseph P.’s sister, Renee, had previously volunteered to be a surrogate for her gay brother, both donating her eggs and bearing the resulting child or children. Renee became pregnant through assisted reproductive technology using Frank’s sperm. The three entered into a written agreement under which Renee would surrender parental rights but would be involved with the resulting child or children as their aunt.

After the twins were born, both men participated in parenting duties. Joseph sought to adopt the twins under New York’s second-parent adoption rules, and he remembered completing paperwork that Frank was supposed to complete and submit, but that never happened. The men were not sexually exclusive and eventually arguments about Frank’s sexual activities led to Joseph moving out. He continued to have regular contact with the children until Frank suddenly cut off contact after another argument. Frank subsequently moved with the children to Florida in December 2014. Frank did not notify Joseph or Renee of that move. When they found out, Joseph filed a guardianship petition. (Under New York precedents at the time, he did not have standing to file a custody petition.)

As lower court rulings were questioning the old New York precedent, Joseph withdrew his guardianship petition and both he and Renee filed custody petitions. Renee clearly had standing to seek custody as the biological mother who had remained in contact with the children.

Frank moved to dismiss the custody lawsuit, but the trial judge, Orange County Family Court Judge Lori Currier Woods, rejected the motion, holding that both Joseph and Renee had standing to seek custody and ordering temporary visitation rights for Joseph and Renee while the case was proceeding. Frank appealed to the Appellate Division, 2nd Department. While his appeal was pending, the Court of Appeals decided Brooke S.B.. Applying that case, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s standing decision in favor of Joseph and Renee and returned the case to Judge Woods.

After a lengthy trial, which the trial court’s unpublished opinion (reprinted in the Appendix to the cert petition) summarizes in detail, the trial court awarded custody to Joseph, with visitation rights for Frank. Frank appealed again. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s order. Frank unsuccessfully sought review by the New York Court of Appeals.

Frank is represented on the Supreme Court petition by Gene C. Schaerr of the Washington, D.C. firm of Schaerr/Jaffe LLP. Schaerr, a Federalist Society stalwart and a Mormon from Utah, where he graduated from Brigham Young University’s Law School, was prominently involved in the marriage equality battle, representing the state of Utah in defending its ban on same-sex in federal court, and he submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges on behalf of conservative legal scholars who argued that allowing same-sex marriage would be harmful to the institution of marriage, presenting social statistics from Europe purporting to show that the adoption of same-sex marriage in some countries caused rates of heterosexual marriage to fall. Social scientists have contended that the downward trend in marriage rates in Europe was well under way long before the countries in question extended legal recognition to same-sex relationships, and causation was not shown. In other words, Schaerr is an anti-LGBT cause lawyer, and the slanting of facts recited in the Petition for Frank as compared to the detailed fact findings summarized in the trial court’s unpublished opinion, which is appended to the cert Petition, is striking.

Family law is primarily a matter of state law, but the U.S. Supreme Court occasionally gets involved in family law disputes that raise constitutional issues. Since early in the 20th century, the Supreme Court has ruled that a legal parent of a child has constitutional rights, derived from the Due Process Clause, relating to custody and childrearing. The Petition argues that the rule adopted by the New York Court of Appeals and the appellate courts of some other states, recognizing parental status for purposes of custody disputes between unmarried same-sex partners, improperly abridges the Due Process rights of the biological parents.

Some state courts have issued decisions similar to Brooke S.B., while others have refused to recognize standing for unmarried same-sex partners to seek custody. There is definitely a split of authority on the issue, but it is not necessarily the kind of split that would induce the Supreme Court to take a case. The Supreme Court is most concerned with variant interpretations of federal statutes or of the U.S. Constitution, but the state court cases addressing the issue of same-sex partner standing have generally not discussed constitutional issues and have reached their conclusions as an interpretation of their state custody statutes. Although it is true that same-sex partner parental rights vary as between different states, this does not necessary create the kind of patchwork as to federal rights upon which the Court would focus.

TheMedium.com, by Art Leonard, July 12, 2019

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A gay Catholic school teacher was fired for his same-sex marriage. Now, he’s suing the archdiocese.

Joshua Payne-Elliott was chaperoning a trip last month when he heard that his husband’s school had been stripped of its Catholic status for refusing to fire him at the demands of the local archdiocese.

Payne-Elliott, who worked at a different Catholic high school in Indianapolis, knew his institution’s president would soon face a similar decision.catholic school

Two days later, on June 23, Cathedral High School fired Payne-Elliott, who had been a world language and social studies teacher for nearly 13 years.

The school’s president “stated that sole reason for Payne-Elliott’s termination was, ‘the Archbishop directed that we [Cathedral] can’t have someone with a public same-sex marriage here and remain Catholic,’” according to a complaint.

Now, Payne-Elliott is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, accusing the Catholic Church of discrimination and interfering with his teaching contract. Payne-Elliott is seeking compensation for lost earnings and benefits, as well as emotional distress, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Marion Superior Court.

In the years since same-sex marriage has become legal, religious schools have grappled with how to handle faculty and staff who enter into unions recognized by the state but condemned by their institutions, with many opting to fire the LGBTQ teachers, leading to litigation and outrage.

“We hope that this case will put a stop to the targeting of LGBTQ employees and their families,” Payne-Elliott said in a news release, the Associated Press reported.

The archdiocese has remained steadfast, telling the Indianapolis Star that it has the right to determine appropriate conduct for teachers.

Two years ago, the archdiocese began requiring all Catholic schools to write into contracts that teachers must uphold church teachings. There are almost 70 Catholic schools, including 11 high schools, in the archdiocese, which enrolled more than 23,000 students during the 2018-2019 academic year, The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss reported.

Washingtonpost.com, July 12, 2019 by Timothy Bella
 
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Indian high court dismisses plea for gay marriage

marriage equality

The Indian High Court in Dehli has turned down a plea urging it recognize equal marriage, or gay marriage, and other LGBT+ rights in India.

The court had been asked to amend the Hindu Marriage Act and other family laws in order to usher in Indian gay marriage and adoption rights, The Statesman reported on Monday (July 8).Dutee Chand

Tajinder Singh, the petitioner, argued “the constitution treats everyone equally without any discrimination. It is the duty of the state to ensure that no one should be discriminated.”

Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Harishankar turned down the request, arguing that the court was not in the business of drafting laws.

Singh had also asked that the court form a committee to look into LGBT+ rights.

In its ruling, the court said that while it would not do this, the government is free to form such a body.

“It is incumbent upon the legislature and not the court to recognise the familial relations of LGBTQ community,” the court said, according to Live Law correspondent Karan Tripathi.

Gay sex decriminalised in India

Gay sex was decriminalised by India’s Supreme Court in September 2018.

Under a colonial-era law, men, women or non-binary people who had same-sex relations faced up to life in prison.

PinkNews.co,uk bu Reiss Smith, July 8, 2019

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New York Almost Joined The 21st Century On Gestational Surrogacy, No Thanks To Gloria Steinem

new york surrogacy

New York continues to be one of the few surprising gestational surrogacy holdouts, with an outdated law based on outdated notions and outdated technology.

The New York bill in support of regulated compensated gestational surrogacy — the Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA) — had the vocal support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, passed the State Senate, and likely had the votes in the House. But it never made it to the floor before the legislative session ended last week. What the heck happened?!new york surrogacy

Some Background.

New York is one of the few states in the country that legally prevents a woman from carrying a hopeful parent’s or couple’s embryo to birth, and receiving compensation for her nine months of intense effort and … labor. Other jurisdictions that had previously banned the practice have since changed course in the last few years — including New Jersey, Washington State, and D.C. In the meantime, New York continues to be one of the few surprising holdouts, with an outdated law based on outdated notions and outdated technology.

As previously discussed in my column, while gestational surrogacy is a big part of the New York bill, the CPSA includes other key protections for parents hoping to conceive using assisted reproductive technology. For example, it fixes the state’s legal loophole that allows sperm donors who donated to a single parent to seek legal rights to the resulting child! And vice-versa, it closes the loophole that currently allows single parents to seek child support from a donor. So these were improvements all around.

 

New York’s ban stems from the disastrous Baby M case in the 1980s. That case occurred in next door New Jersey, where a woman agreed to be inseminated and carry the resulting child for another couple. This type of arrangement is generally referred to as “traditional,” or “genetic surrogacy.” In the Baby M Case, the genetic surrogate changed her mind about giving up the baby, and fled the state with child. Both New Jersey and New York quickly over-corrected and outlawed all compensated surrogacy. Since then, genetic surrogacy has largely been abandoned across the U.S., while gestational surrogacy — where the surrogate is not genetically related to the child she carries — has flourished. Note that the CPSA only aims to legalize gestational surrogacy, not genetic surrogacy, the type found in the Baby M Case. Last year, New Jersey (ground zero for Baby M) recognized that the times and medical practices have changed, and reversed its position by passing supportive gestational surrogacy legislation.

So Close! 

The momentum for the bill was building, and supporters believed that the CPSA had a good shot at becoming law this year. So, what pulled the brakes? I spoke with Denise Seidelman, a prominent New York adoption and surrogacy attorney, and part of a coalition in support of the CPSA. Seidelman shared her experience advocating for the bill. “It was one the most profoundly inspiring, and also intensely disappointing experiences. Emotions were running high on both sides of the issue.”

Seidelman explained her view on some of the factors that led to this not being the CPSA’s year. For one, she noted that the author of the original New York surrogacy ban (from 30 years ago), Helene Weinstein, is still a current member of the Assembly, and she is outspoken in her position, perhaps colored by her experiences of a generation ago.

Seidelman felt another factor in this year’s failure was the timing of a letter by Gloria Steinem, famed author and feminist, against the CPSA. Steinem’s letter was disappointing, and really a bit shocking for those familiar with how surrogacy works. Her letter referred to a 1998 NY Task Force report that came out against surrogacy, with no mention of a more recent and more relevant 2017 NY Task Force report in support of gestational surrogacy, with measured regulation. Unfortunately, Steinem spoke not from firsthand knowledge of the recent experiences of women who choose to be gestational carriers for others, but from a perspective that has long since gone by the wayside.

The letter described how the bill would risk the well-being of the marginalized women in the state — those in conditions of poverty. However, as pointed out in the rebuttal letter written by RESOLVE, the national infertility association, of the women who raise their hands to be surrogates, only about 5 percent are determined to be medically qualified, and are able to move forward. And one of the requirements is that they are financially stable. Additionally, the 2017 Task Force report found that the women who are acting as surrogates are not the marginalized of society, but those not reliant on compensation that may be received from acting as a gestational surrogate. Steinem’s letter is an imagination of the Handmaid’s Tale, but ignores the current reality of what surrogacy is, and how it works.

AboveTheLaw.com, June 26, 2019 by Ellen Trachman

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Ecuador’s Highest Court Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Ecuador flag rainbow

Ecuador’s highest court authorized same-sex marriage Wednesday in a landmark case seeking to expand LGBT rights in the small South American nation.

The decision by Ecuador’s highest Court came after a lengthy legal battle waged by several couples and gay rights advocates.Ecuador's highest court

With the 5-to-4 ruling, Ecuador joins a handful of Latin American nations — Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Uruguay — that have legalized same-sex marriage either through judicial rulings, or less frequently, legislative action.

Plaintiff Efraín Soria told The Associated Press that he would immediately begin planning a wedding with his partner, Xavier Benalcázar, whom he met years ago and has been in a civil union since 2012.

Same-sex unions have been legal in Ecuador for a decade but civil partners enjoy fewer rights than married couples when it comes to inheritance and estate laws. In the ruling, the justices instructed congress to pass legislation ensuring equal treatment for all under the country’s marriage law.

The ruling is “a joy for our entire community and Ecuador,” said Soria, who is also president of the Ecuadorian Equality Foundation, an LGBT rights group.

A decision by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights affirming that countries should allow same-sex couples the right to marry paved the way for the case.

NYTimes.com by Associated Press, June 12, 2019

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Botswana’s High Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex

Botswana's high court

Botswana’s High Court ruled on Tuesday to overturn colonial-era laws that criminalized homosexuality, a decision hailed by activists as a significant step for gay rights on the African continent.

“Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized,” Botswana’s High Court Judge Michael Leburu said as he delivered the judgment, adding that laws that banned gay sex were “discriminatory.”Botswana's high court

Three judges voted unanimously to revoke the laws, which they said conflicted with Botswana’s Constitution.

“Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement,” Judge Leburu added. “It is an important attribute of one’s personality.”

The small courtroom in Gaborone, the capital, was packed with activists on Tuesday, some draped in the rainbow flag of the L.G.B.T. movement.

“It is a historical moment for us,” said Matlhogonolo Samsam, a spokeswoman for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana, a gay rights group. “We are proud of our justice system for seeing the need to safeguard the rights of the L.G.B.T. community.”

“We still can’t believe what has happened,” Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, the chief executive of the gay rights group, said as celebrations began outside the courtroom. “We’ve been fighting for so long, and within three hours your life changes.”

The laws had been challenged by an anonymous gay applicant, identified in court papers only as L.M. In a written statement, read by lawyers in the courtroom, the applicant said: “We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality but to be tolerant.”

Homosexuality has been illegal in Botswana since the late 1800s, when the territory, then known as Bechuanaland, was under British rule. Section 164 of the country’s penal code outlaws “unnatural offenses,” defined as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.”

NYTimes.com by Kimon de Greef, June 11, 2019

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Americans’ views flipped on the gay rights movement. How did minds change so quickly?

gay rights movement

Fifty years after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Manhattan, spurring days of riots thatwould become a catalyst for the gay rights movement, the leap in public opinion has been followed by leaps on the ground, even as work remains.

A record number of LGBT candidates have been elected to Congress, Colorado elected the country’s first openly gay governor, Chicago has a lesbian mayor and the first openly gay Democratic candidate is running for president.  The gay rights movement has come a long way.gay rights movement

But while it’s clear that the gay rights movement managed to change people’s minds faster than any other civil rights movement in memory, it’s less clear why. How, in 15 years, did Americans’ views flip on such a charged social issue? And why haven’t other groups that have also publicly fought discrimination managed to change public opinion as quickly? The answer lies in human behavior and demographic realities, as well as a winning strategy by gay rights activists that capitalized on both.

Steve and Teri Augustine met, fell in love and got married in a conservative evangelical Christian community. They grew up believing homosexuality was a sin, and that the “gay agenda” was an attack on their values.

Then, six years ago, their son Peter — their youngest child who loved theater and his church youth group — returned home to Ellicott City, Md., from his freshman year of college and came out to his family as gay.

Teri asked her son not to tell anyone else, and drove herself to a mall parking lot to cry. Steve questioned his son’s faith, reciting Bible passages from Corinthians. The Augustines decided to put their son through a year of conversion therapy, determined to “set him straight.”

But after the therapy failed, something changed. Steve and Teri Augustine started meeting Peter’s friends and inviting other gay Christians to dinner. Two summers after Peter came out, the family stood on the sidelines of the Capital Pride parade wearing rainbow beads and shirts with the words “I’m sorry.” Teri now hosts a support group for Christian moms of LGBTQ children.

“I knew that if I was going to get a handle on who my son was,” Teri said, “I really needed to step into that world.”

The transformation in the Augustine family parallels a shift in public opinion that social scientists say is unlike any other of our time.

As recently as 2004, polls showed that the majority of Americans — 60 percent — opposed same-sex marriage, while only 31 percent were in favor, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, those numbers are reversed : 61 percent support same-sex marriage, while 31 percent oppose it.

“You can’t find another issue where attitudes have shifted so rapidly,” said Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas who has studied public opinion of LGBT rights over the years.

What’s perhaps most surprising is that support for same-sex marriage has increased among nearly all demographic groups, across different generations, partisan lines and religious faiths. Even among the most resistant religious group, white evangelical Protestants like the Augustine family, support for same-sex marriage has grown from 11 percent in 2004 to 29 percent in 2019, according to Pew.

WashingtonPost.com, by Samantha Schmidt, June 7, 2019

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Washington State Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Against Florist Who Refused a Same-Sex Couple

Washington State Supreme Court

The nine-member Washington State Supreme Court refused on June 6 to back down from its earlier decision that Barronelle Stutzman and her business, Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., violated the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws on February 28, 2013, when she told Robert Ingersoll that she would not provide floral arrangements for his wedding to Curt Freed. 

The Washington State Supreme Court also ruled that Stutzman had no constitutional privilege to violate the state’s anti-discrimination law based on her religious beliefs.  State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., 2019 Wash. LEXIS 333, 2019 WL 2382063.Washington State Supreme Court

The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations, and the people of Washington voted in a referendum in 2012 to overrule a 5-4 adverse decision by their state supreme court and allow same-sex couples to marry.

Stutzman quickly announced that she would attempt to appeal the new ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which for several months has been pondering whether to grant review in another “gay wedding cake” case, from Oregon. She rejects the court’s opinion that that the Washington courts had “resolved this dispute with tolerance,” according to Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud’s opinion for the unanimous court.

The Washington court originally ruled on this case on February 16, 2017,see 167 Wash. 2d 804, but Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the anti-gay litigation group representing Arlene’s Flowers, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, arguing that the state was violating Stutzman’s First Amendment rights of free exercise of religion and freedom of speech.  That petition reached the Supreme Court while it was considering the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the “gay wedding cake” case.

The U.S. Supreme Court had been asked in Masterpiece to reverse rulings by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which had ruled that baker Jack Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  Phillips argued on appeal that his 1st Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech were unconstitutionally violated by the state proceedings.  The Supreme Court ruled, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not provided Phillips with a respectful, neutral forum to consider his religious freedom claim.  See 138 S. Ct. 1719 (2018).  The Court reversed the Colorado court and commission rulings on that basis, focusing particularly on comments made by Commission members during the public hearing in the case, as well as the fact that at the time Phillips rejected the business, Colorado did not allow same-sex weddings so Phillips could have thought that he was not obligated to provide a wedding cake for such an event.  The Court did not rule directly on Phillip’s constitutional claims of privilege to violate the anti-discrimination statute, although it observed that in the past it had not accepted religious free exercise defenses to discrimination charges.

artleonardobservations.com by Art Leonard, June 7, 2019

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Parents can use sperm harvested from their dead son to make grandchildren, judge rules

harvested sperm

West Point cadet Peter Zhu, who was unmarried, died after a skiing accident on February 23, Judge allows parent to use harvested sperm.

He had been found unresponsive on a ski slope on the grounds of the military academy in upstate New York.  Zhu was then taken to a hospital, where he was declared brain dead days later.  Judge now rules that parents may use their son’s harvested sperm.harvested sperm

In March, his parents petitioned the court to allow the hospital to have their son’s  harvested sperm retrieved and frozen at the same time harvest his organs for donation.

The petition was granted and the sperm was preserved at a sperm bank after the retrieval.  His organs were also harvested to help those waiting for a lifesaving transplant before he was buried in the West Point Cemetery.

According to CNN, the Supreme Court Justice John Colangelo’s ruling gave Zhu’s parents the ability to attempt conception with a surrogate mother using their late son’s sperm.  “At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes,” Colangelo wrote.  “They shall possess and control the disposition and potential use of their son Peter’s genetic material.” 

Zhu’s case isn’t the first incident of this type, according to AP.In 2007, a court in Iowa authorized recovery of a man’s sperm by his parents to donate to his fiance for future procreative use.  In 2009, a Texas woman got a judge’s permission to have her 21-year-old son’s sperm extracted after his death, with the intention of hiring a surrogate mother to bear her a grandchild.

StandardMedia.com, May 30, 2019, by Charles Odero

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Which Box Do You Check? Some States Are Offering a Nonbinary Option

nonbinary

As nonbinary teenagers push for driver’s licenses that reflect their identity, a fraught debate over the nature of gender has arrived in the nation’s statehouses.

Ever since El Martinez started asking to be called by the gender-neutral pronouns “they/them” in the ninth grade, they have fielded skepticism in a variety of forms and from a multitude of sources about what it means to identify as nonbinary.nonbinary

There are faculty advisers on El’s theater crew who balk at using “they” for one person; classmates at El’s public school on the outskirts of Boston who insist El can’t be “multiple people”; and commenters on El’s social media feeds who dismiss nonbinary gender identities like androgyne (a combination of masculine and feminine), agender (the absence of gender) and gender-fluid (moving between genders) as lacking a basis in biology.

Even for El’s supportive parents, conceiving of gender as a multidimensional sprawl has not been so easy to grasp. Nor has El’s suggestion that everyone state their pronouns gained much traction.

So last summer, when the Massachusetts State Legislature became one of the first in the nation to consider a bill to add an “X” option for nonbinary genders to the “M” and “F” on the state driver’s license, El, 17, was less surprised than some at the maneuver that effectively killed it.

Beyond the catchall “X,” Representative James J. Lyons Jr. (he/him), a Republican, had proposed that the bill should be amended to offer drivers 29 other gender options, including “pangender,” “two-spirit” and “genderqueer.” Rather than open the requisite debate on each term, leaders of the Democratic-controlled House shelved the measure.

“He articulated an anxiety that many people, even folks from the left, have: that there’s this slippery slope of identity, and ‘Where will it stop?’” said Ev Evnen (they/them), director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, which is championing a new version of the bill.

As the first sizable group of Americans to openly identify as neither only male nor only female has emerged in recent years, their requests for recognition have been met with reservations that often cross partisan lines. For their part, some nonbinary people suggest that concerns about authenticity and grammar sidestep thornier questions about the culture’s longstanding limits on how gender is supposed to be felt and expressed.

“Nonbinary gender identity can be complicated,” said Mx. Evnen, 31, who uses a gender-neutral courtesy title. “It’s also threatening to an order a lot of people have learned how to navigate.”

And with bills to add a nonbinary marker to driver’s licenses moving through at least six legislatures this session, the expansive conception of gender that many teenagers can trace to middle-school lunch tables is being scrutinized on a new scale.

NYTimes.com, May 29, 2018 by Amy Harmon

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