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Can CNY Christian Adoption Agency Exclude Gays, Unmarried Couples? NY Law Faces High-Profile Court Test

Posted On: December 09, 2019

To piggy back off of last week's post, NY now has its own hot profile case on the LGBTQ adoption issue.

A Syracuse Christian adoption agency says it doesn't take gay or unmarried couples as adoptive parents because it's not "in the best interests of children." New York has said New Hope Family Services will face closure if it doesn't comply with the state's anti-discrimination law.

New York in 2013 issued new regulations to adoption agencies, prohibiting them from discriminating against applicants who sought their services. The anti-discrimination rules covered everything from race to religion, sexual orientation to marital status. In the fall of 2018, after New York’s anti-discrimination regulations had been on the books for a few years, New York’s Office of Child and Family Services came to Syracuse for a routine inspection of New Hope. Thereafter OCFS told New Hope it would have to comply with state regulations. It would have to begin placing children with same-sex and unmarried couples. New Hope refused on religious grounds and OCFS made it clear in subsequent emails and letters it was delivering an ultimatum: Change the policy of not accepting certain couples, or shut down. New Hope filed suit and its case is now on appeal. New York says New Hope isn’t forced to do anything. The state insists that New Hope can always stop participating in public adoptions. But if it wants to continue this work, it simply must cooperate and follow the state’s rules.  Here, the law is concerned not only with New Hope’s religious freedom and discrimination against prospective adoptive parents -- but adoption is a heavily regulated process, in which a child’s rights and future is also at stake.

The New York attorney general, defending the state, also argues the case is different because adoption is conduct, not speech.

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Julie McMahon of Syracuse.com

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The LGBTQ Rights We Gained—and Then Lost—This Decade

Posted On: January 05, 2020

As we look at the end of last year and the end of a decade, this article really gives a good perspective and highlights many points with respect to the LGBTQ Community and the rights we have gained and lost over this past decade.  It is definitely a good read and highlights some of the significant things that have happened over this past decade.  It also gives us pause, to know that so many rights have been lost that took so long to obtain.  There is a lot of work ahead of us in the decade to come.

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Lisa Needham of Rewire News & Getty Images

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Nearly Half of LGBTQ Americans Haven't Come Out at Work

Posted On: November 11, 2019

Most people are unaware that discrimination in employment is not protected unless it comes under a clearly defined class protected by law.  Employment in New York as in most states, is “at will”.  Therefore you can be fired at any time for any reason.  Although these issues have recently been argued before the Supreme Court, no decision has been made as to whether the LGBTQ community will be protected.  As this article demonstrates, many people, more than 50%, are not out in their workplace for fear that they may lose their job. Many people also experience discrimination and intolerable treatment from co-workers.

Selected excerpt(s), linked article and/or photo courtesy by Julia Carpenter, CNN Business

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In Landmark Case, Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ Workers Are Protected From Job Discrimination

Posted On: June 23, 2020

The Supreme Court ruled last week that existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status, a major victory for advocates of gay rights and for the nascent transgender rights movement — and a surprising one from an increasingly conservative court.

By a vote of 6-3, the court said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person's sex, among other factors, also covers sexual orientation and transgender status. It upheld rulings from lower courts that said sexual orientation discrimination was a form of sex discrimination.

Click here for more information on this landmark case!

Selected excerpt(s) courtesy of Pete Williams, NBC News.  Photo courtesy of The Atlantic.

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Same sex marriages: Many Issues to Consider before Tying the Knot

Posted On: May 12, 2015

 Same sex couples face many of the same challenges as
mixed-gender couples when planning for marriage.

Same sex marriages are recognized by Federal law and in many states, including New York, but there are still issues to think about before heading to the alter.

Same sex couples face many of the same challenges as mixed-gender couples when planning for marriage. As laws continue to change and more and more same sex couples decide to legally tie the knot, there are several things they must consider. This is especially true for future spouses established in their careers and financial lives. Like any couple planning to marry, the more assets and possessions you bring to the marriage the more you have at risk. Before taking the marital plunge, discuss with your partner the following:

Same sex marriages: Finances
Most experts agree it is important for same-sex couples to truly take initiative when it comes to financial matters. This is especially the case if they will live in a state that does not yet recognize same-sex marriage. A few of the most important financial questions to ask include:

  • What is our current financial situation and what are our mutual financial goals? Make sure you each understand one another’s debt situation, as well as your general attitudes toward money.
  • What are our retirement plans and what can be done to prepare for retirement? At the moment, social security benefits are available only in states where same-sex marriage is legally recognized, so you should create an alternate plan for income if there is a risk you will not qualify to receive benefits under your spouse. Alternative retirement savings is a smart decision regardless of your state’s specific laws, but even more so when there are no guarantees. Laws are likely to change, but for now it is best to prepare for the worst case scenario.
  • Is marriage the best practical decision? Marriage changes how taxes are filed and might not be the smartest financial option depending on your circumstances. Speak with a tax attorney about how marriage will change your tax situation. Marriage could cause ineligibility for certain benefits, such as financial aid for education.

A prenuptial agreement can be a good tool for avoiding conflicts should your marriage end. Consider the same questions same-sex couples consider when determining if a pre-nup is right for you:

  • Do either of you own substantial property?
  • Is there a significant wealth discrepancy between you and your partner?
  • Do you or your partner own a business?
  • Do you or your partner have children from a previous marriage?

Same sex marriages: Estate Planning
Some of the issues addressed in a pre-nuptial agreement could also be addressed in a will. It is important to create a clear legal plan for your estate that will govern what happens to your assets once you die. You should create a will that states your intentions, regardless how much your estate is worth. Planning your estate also gives you an opportunity to assign power of attorney to your partner and share information about medical directives. Also make sure you have listed the correct beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Same sex marriages: Children
If you or your partner has children from a previous relationship, you need to know who will be responsible for the children if something happens to either of you. Some choose to legally adopt their partner’s children to eliminate any questions. If your state does not allow co-parent adoption, consider co-guardianship or co-parenting arrangements.

Same sex marriages: Practical Matters
Whether or not same-sex marriage is legal in your state has little bearing if you are otherwise not eligible to legally marry. In order to marry, you must meet certain age, family relations, and mental capacity criteria. Laws vary from state to state, but in general, you must be of sound mind, legally an adult or emancipated from parents or have parent permission, and not be closely related to your spouse. Individuals must also end previous marriages before they can enter into a new one.

Choosing to marry your partner is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. As tempting as it is to be swept up in romance and the new opportunities unfolding throughout the country, it is important to take smart, well-planned steps on your way to the alter.

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Gov. Cuomo Signs Legislation Conforming Law to Marriage Equality Act

Posted On: November 04, 2019

The Marriage Equality Act was signed into Law in New York which has now given the LGBTQ Community the Marriage Equality and Dignity and Respect it deserves by recognizing same sex couples in all areas of Law in the State of New York.  The Estates, Powers and Trust Laws and the Surrogate Court Procedure now must comply and recognize same sex couples.  This is wonderful news for our community!

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Olivia Jaquith WENY News.

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How New York Almost Didn’t Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Posted On: August 13, 2019

The threats. The fights. The sacrifices. The behind-the-scenes story of the landmark 2011 law.

This article gives a very interesting insight to the behind the scenes efforts and complications of getting the bill to legalize same sex marriages in New York.  As in many political matters, what sometimes appears to be easily achieved, can be much more complicated and precarious in actually having it accomplished.  There are so many factors that come into play.  It's amazing that the legislature ever gets anything passed.

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Rebecca C. Lewis of City & State New York and Louis Lanzano/AP/Shutterstock

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Same Sex Marriage – Soon to be the Law of the Land? But Issues still Exist

Posted On: February 25, 2015

Same sex marriage has been a frequent topic in the news recently. Statistics show views on the subject are changing. Pew Research reports that a very noticeable shift occurred around 2011, when more people polled in American supported rather than opposed same sex marriage for the first time in recent history. According to Wikipedia, In the United States, same-sex marriage is recognized by the federal government and has been legalized in 37 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 21 Native American tribal jurisdictions. More than 70% of the USA populations live in jurisdictions where same-sex couples can legally marry.

The opportunity for same sex couples to legally marry has been compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Many experts are predicting that within a short period of time, same sex marriage will be the law of the land throughout the entire United States. More and more judges are ruling that marriage is a fundamental right and soon, this right could be protected by federal law.

Advocates Moving Legal Approval Forward
The issue has recently received support from Theodor Olson, a former US solicitor general appointed under President George W. Bush, and Democrat activist David Boise. The pair’s goal is to advance the issue and argue that marriage discrimination is unconstitutional. They consider same sex marriage to be the defining civil rights issue of our current generation. Just recently in October 2014, the Supreme Court denied petitions to review several federal appeals cases that had ruled in favor of same sex couples in several states, including Utah. The decision resulted in the federal court ruling that same sex couples were constitutionally guaranteed a right to marriage.

Changes throughout the Country
Most recently on February 9, 2015, Alabama was in the spotlight concerning its same sex marriage laws. Same sex marriage had been banned by executive order in the state in 1996, which was later followed up by a law two years later. A state Constitutional amendment was approved by 81% of voters in the state in 2006. All of the bans were repealed in January 2015 by US District Judge Callie Granade. She ordered the state to recognize same sex marriages, placing a stay on her ruling until February 9 to allow the state to prepare. State Attorney General Luther Strange petitioned for an extension of the stay, but the Supreme Court declined to intervene. The incident allowed Alabama to become the 37th state to allow same sex marriage. State judges began issuing marriage licenses within hours of the decision and there were couples lined up outside of court houses throughout the state.

Future of Same Sex Marriage
Same sex marriages are still banned in Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee, and bans are under review in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, and Texas. The Supreme Court is preparing to hear additional cases on same sex marriage throughout the year, but most experts agree the trend will continue and it won’t be long until equal marriage rights are granted throughout the country.

Important Issues Still Exist
Although there are definite benefits and legal protections afforded by same sex marriage today, by no means, is same sex marriage afforded the total equalities of the existing protections for other marriages. Contrary to some thoughts, same sex marriage does not necessarily costs savings for same sex couples. It is important that you consult with an account to understand the dynamics of the impact of a same sex marriage because in actuality it could cost same sex couples more than they anticipated to be married. One example is with employee holding based upon health care deductions for health insurance could create a situation where as a result of the marriage, the person receiving the benefit could actually have to now pay back certain portions of benefits. In addition, many people have not contemplated what happens once couples decide to retire and possibly relocate. If you are in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, what happens if you decide to move to a state that does not recognize same sex marriage. If you are not in pay status for your retirement and social security benefits, this could impact whether the benefit afforded by legalized marriages flows to your partner in a state that does not recognize same, especially if you do not retire prior to moving there. In addition, it also creates questions and consequences with respect to children of a same sex marriage, whether they are born into the marriage after the marriage or adopted and whether a second parent adoption has been done. For states that do not recognize same sex marriage, if there is no second adoption, the non-named parent of the marriage may have no legal rights with respect to the children. These are just a few of the many questions that could arise from same sex marriages since it is not legalized and recognized nationwide. Sources: http://www.pewresearch.org/data-trend/domestic-issues/attitudes-on-gay-marriage/ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/supreme-court-refuses-stay-alabama-sex-marriage-ban/ http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/10/06/3576337/the-supreme-court-just-quietly-made-marriage-equality-the-law-of-the-land-in-many-states/ http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/28/us/same-sex-marriage-fast-facts/index.html

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