The Latest News April 2021

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The World Is Changing For Same-Sex Parents – And This Week I Made History

Posted On: April 27, 2021

The world is changing for same sex parents as a result of the new surrogacy laws that have come into effect in New York.  In fact, as delineated in this article, history was made last Monday, when a same sex couple was granted a Pre-Birth Parentage Order, under the new statutes that have legalized gestational surrogacy in New York. 

Due to the pandemic, this Court Hearing and Order was issued from the Court as a result of a virtual Court Hearing, through the Court’s preferred platform, Microsoft Teams.

For this lesbian couple, surrogacy was not the issue.  However, parentage, with respect to a non-biological parent in New York, historically has been problematic.  Until very recently, lesbian parents in New York and most gay parents in New York, in order to protect their interests and to secure their parental rights, needed to go through what is termed as a “second parent adoption”.  In order to secure legal recognition for the non-birth mother, or in the case of a gay adoption by a single parent, the second parent adoption in also necessary.  Needless to say, these legal proceedings to secure rights for the LGBTQ community cannot only take time, but are extremely costly. 

With respect to a “second parent adoption”, most do not realize there is a required investigation that is quite invasive and extensive and the adoption process cannot start until the baby is born.  For the non- biological parent, this puts them in limbo until after the child is born and God forbid there is an issue or a medical emergency during child birth, which could have dramatic and tragic results. 

With the new law that came into effect in February, this process can be streamlined and accomplished so that both parents have parental rights with respect to the child before the child is born.  This recognition and ability to accomplish the same in a much more efficient way has been a long time coming.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian
Royalty-free photo courtesy of Unsplash

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Want to Fight Less in Your Marriage? Quit Using Logical Fallacies.

Posted On: April 19, 2021

There are obviously worse things that can happen in a relationship than having a heated argument with your significant other, especially if there is a chance of making things better or learning from each other.  But there should be rules to fighting and arguing, whether spoken or unspoken. 

In 1980, two Dutch scholars developed some simple rules that can help.  This article also focuses on what fallacies to avoid using.  When I looked through these, what struck me is that many of them contain a judgment embedded in them, which is another thing to avoid when having an argument or a discussion with your spouse or significant other.  The last thing you want to do is blame or speak with a statement dripping with judgment.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Stever Calechman, Fatherly.com
Royalty free photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

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“A Hero” Among Us. An article by Concetta G. Spirio About a Special Client

Posted On: April 14, 2021

I do not remember how I originally met this client, but she and her wife became my clients 11 years ago when they asked me to prepare their Wills.  At that time, they were not able to legally marry as a same-sex couple.

When we met, I did not know that my client had a history in the military.  I only learned more of her story when they decided to update their Wills and came to my offices for their execution.

Unfortunately, my client was injured and for the last ten years has been in a wheelchair.  I didn’t know that she had the opportunity as a female veteran to work with a company that had created “Rewalk”, an exoskeleton suit that would help and enable a paralyzed person to walk.  She worked with the manufacturer and the government on the first prototype, and as a result, she traveled the world educating and demonstrating this device.  Being in a wheelchair has not stopped her service to her country.  In fact, this is what was so touching to me that I felt the need to write this article.  I found out that what I and many people do not know is that there are military traditions that include awards of certain coins.  One of the highest honors a retired military person can receive is a service coin given by a higher ranked military person to that retired service person in recognition of their continued service to their country.

My client received a very special Presidential coin from President Obama.  It was one of only two President Obama ever gave out.  I was so touched by her story which was shared with me, not to show off the coin or brag that she was in possession of it, but merely relaying the story which I found so significant and so moving.

Although this coin has not left her person since it was given to her by the President, she does not often show it.  I felt very privileged and honored that she chose to share her experience and offered to let me see and hold this valued coin.

Article written by Concetta G. Spirio

Concetta Spirio.  A Compassionate Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Mediator & Peacemaker Providing The Highest Level of Legal Representation For Over 32 Years.

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20 Years Ago, These Brides Made LGBTQ History. Where Are They Now?

Posted On: April 07, 2021

I cannot believe it's 20 years ago that the first same sex marriage occurred.  It has taken so long everywhere for same sex marriages to be recognized. 

The first lesbian couple to be married took place in the Netherlands.  This couple originally met on a blind date 20 years before they actually reconnected and started their courtship that resulted in the first lesbian marriage 3 years thereafter.  However, their path to a true legal marriage took some time and like other countries, was not offered immediately.  Their first ceremony was technically a registered partnership, which was the best they could do at the time, while one of them was pregnant with their first child.  However, the partnership registry did not give parental rights to the non-biological parent, notwithstanding the “union”.  In fact, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to this version of marriage as “a skim milk marriage”. 

When this first couple’s child was born, the non-biological mother had no legal connection, claim or rights to this child.  It wasn’t until the Netherlands enacted a new law, which came into effect on April 1, 2001.  This couple was the only lesbian couple to be married on the first day of the law’s enactment with a ceremony performed by the mayor of Amsterdam. 

Based upon the couple’s own recollections, they were thrust into the forefront of a media frenzy and actually saw a video of themselves on CNN. 

In 1999 most countries did not even offer a registered partnership, which obviously falls very short of full martial rights.  In the United States, Vermont became the first state to offer “civil unions”.  However, most people did not understand the significance that to undo that “civil union”, they would need to reside in Vermont, prior to the dissolution for at least one year.  This became very problematic for many who rushed to Vermont to get married. 

The Netherlands passed its law in 2001.  Belgium followed in 2003 and Massachusetts became the first in the United States to legalize marriage for same sex couples in 2004.  However, it wasn’t until June 26, 2015, that the United States allowed and recognized same sex marriages as a result and Order of the United States Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v Hodges.  At that time the United States was one of only 17 countries to change their national laws. 

Today same sex couples can marry in only 29 countries.  This is a stark contrast to the fact that nearly triple that number criminalized consensual same sexual behavior.  I remember as a law student, interning in the early 80’s, with then “Lambda Legal Defense”, on their project to help overturn existing sodomy laws in Texas and many other states. But change is slow!  Sodomy was only officially decriminalized in the United States in 2003.  It still carries the death penalty in some countries.  I find that incomprehensible when so many other heinous crimes have such minimal sentences!  Although many nations are moving towards decriminalizing same sex acts, and a few more countries have come on board in accepting legalizing same sex marriage, there is still a lot of progress that must be made. 

Even for the first married lesbian couple living in what is considered to be a very progressive country as the Netherlands, they have expressed that they feel that there is more aggression on the streets towards same sex couples today than 20 years ago.  The fact that hate and misinformation has been able to grow rather than decline is still very frightening.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Sarah Prager, The Lily.  Photo courtesy of Unsplash (Royalty Free Photos).

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