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VICTORY! Same-Sex Spouses Nationwide Gain Equal Access to Social Security Survivor's Benefits

Posted On: September 15, 2020

This is a tremendous victory for same sex couples who lost a spouse, only to find they were not married for the required 9 months (although they may have been together for decades before marriage was legal) and were denied social security survival benefits!

While the number of states that allowed same-sex couples to marry gradually increased from 2004 until 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all remaining state bans, that freedom came too late for many couples. Even where same-sex couples married as soon as they could once their state marriage bans were lifted, many were unable to be married for nine months before one spouse died, and SSA denied them benefits for not being married for long enough.

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Lambda Legal.

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7 Black Queer Couples Share Their Best Relationship Advice

Posted On: August 03, 2020

Black lesbians are probably the most marginalized communities in the US.  This is a refreshing article on the positive outlook of black lesbian relationships as well as their best advice on how it works and how to make it last.  For most of us, what we learned in school about history actually reflected only white male history.  Minorities, including women (and especially the lesbian community), as well as the minority communities within the lesbian community, are extremely marginalized and were never part of mainstream education.  It's time for us all to embrace diversity. 

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock.

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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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Trump's Judicial Appointments Will Impact LGBTQ Rights Far Beyond Presidency

Posted On: January 19, 2021

As I have mentioned before, in addition to the Supreme Court, Donald Trump appointed a tremendous number of Federal Court Judges, which most people have not taken note of.

Nearly 40% of the Judges he has appointed have a history of hostility towards the LGBTQ community.  This is truly significant since the Federal Courts are throughout the land and in each of the states and they are the avenue which cases will have to travel to reach the Supreme Court.  Many cases therefore could be cut short by an unfriendly decision in a lower Federal Court case.

Trump's lasting impact on the Federal Judiciary could roll back and reverse much of the progress made by the LGBTQ community over decades.  Unfortunately, he has significantly altered the makeup of the Federal Judiciary, from the Lower Courts, right up to the Supreme Court.  This was also made possible by Senate Republicans and they may also create an obstacle for the new administration. 

In total, over his four years as president, Trump appointed 3 Supreme Court Judges and 230 Lower Court Judges to lifetime positions, many of which are young, white and male Jurists, who have come to the bench with a perspective that LGBTQ people are “less than”.  This had a lot to do with Trump’s administration being able to get confirmation of appointees.  The fact is, Trump has placed about 30% of the active serving Federal Appeals Court Judges.  This is freighting. 

When you think of it in numbers, the Supreme Court has roughly 100 to 150 cases annually but the 13 Federal Appeal Courts around the country hear thousands of the most consequential cases every year that shape the laws and effect the rights of millions of Americans.  This is a dangerous outcome of the current administration that many did not look closely enough at.

This article is a very good read with respect to exactly how the judiciary looks going forward and the damage that Trump may have caused.

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Biden Announces 2 Historic LGBTQ Judicial Nominees; One Could Become First Out Lesbian To Serve On Any Federal Circuit Court

Posted On: August 12, 2021

President Biden announced on Thursday two historic nominations for the federal bench, in his sixth round of names for federal judicial positions.

If confirmed by the Senate, Beth Robinson would be the first out lesbian to serve on any federal circuit court; while Charlotte Sweeney would be the first openly LGBTQ federal judge in Colorado, and also the first out lesbian to serve as a federal district court judge in any state west of the Mississippi.

These choices “continue to fulfill the President’s promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country — both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds,” the White House said Thursday in a press release.

Robinson, who was nominated for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, has served as an Associate Justice on the Vermont Supreme Court since 2011. She’s also the state’s first openly LGBTQ Supreme Court justice.

Prior to her appointment, she served as counsel to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin from 2010 to 2011. As head of Vermont Freedom to Marry, she was a key backer of a 2009 law that made Vermont the first state to offer full marriage to same-sex couples without a court order telling lawmakers to do so.

Robinson is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago Law School.

Charlotte Sweeney, Biden’s other historical judicial pick, is a Denver-based lawyer and a founding partner of Sweeney & Bechtold, LLC, a law firm that specializes in handling employment law matters.

She was nominated to the District Court for the District of Colorado.

The Colorado-native focuses on employment law and has devoted her legal practice to assisting and representing individuals who have faced unfair practices in the workplace.

Sweeney is a graduate of California Lutheran University and University of Denver College of Law. She has been an active supporter of the Matthew Shepard Foundation since 2010 and joined the organization’s board of directors in 2016.

LGBTQ rights advocates applauded the historic nominations.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Muri Assuncao, NY Daily News

Royalty-free photo courtesy of UnSplash

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‘You Don’t Belong Here’: In Poland’s ‘LGBT-Free Zones,’ Existing Is An Act of Defiance

Posted On: October 27, 2020

How far have we come, as citizens of the world, when we cannot live our lives in peace and love who we love? I was absolutely stunned, mortified, and actually felt ill when I read this article! I cannot believe what is going on in the world. We had come so far in this country on LGBTQ rights.  While in college I had the good fortune of running the gay and lesbian student union.  I never thought I would see the day that marriage would be legalized for lesbians and gays.  Reading this article, I cannot imagine living in a country or having my own town and neighbors enforcing an LGBTQ Free Zone and constantly have to hide who I am.  I thought those days were over for all of us, but apparently not in some places in the world.

This demonstrates an absolutely backward shift in human rights.  I also fear that LGBTQ rights are being eroded in this country and there is a trend to reverse the strides forward that have been made.  We would ALL be better served with love and understanding, regardless of our personal opinions and choices.

This article shows the rhetoric that has been used in the past to demonize Lesbians and Gays.  Promotion of fear generating falsehoods that lesbians and gays promote pedophilia, child molestation and are the destroyers of families.  The truth and statistics show that these crimes are perpetrated by white straight men more than anyone else!

We cannot let the world revert to the times when people were killed for their religious beliefs or for who they are. We are not back in the Roman times when people were literally thrown to the lions and we should not revisit Nazi Germany. There has been too much hate!  The human race really needs to learn from our past history.  We need to be better people and love one another and move forward with inclusion, diversity and understanding.  Even if you do not agree with somebody then at least have the human dignity and respect to show some tolerance so that we may all coexist and live together in peace.

Story by Rob Picheta and Ivana Kottasová, CNN.  Photographs by Sarah Tilotta, CNN

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‘Righting a Wrong’: Nevada Becomes First State To Protect Same-Sex Marriage

Posted On: November 24, 2020

It’s nice to share a bit of good news. This article was a welcome sight amongst everything that has gone on in the recent past and the fear of reversing rights for the LGBT community as well as a possible attempt to undo the Supreme Court case permitting lawful marriage nationally between same sex couples. 

I think everybody recognizes Las Vegas as the wedding capital of the world, in that it has been not only a place that people can get married quickly, but is known for its exuberant nuptials and themed weddings.  People have streamed into Nevada from all over the world to get married or “hitched” since the 1930s.  Nevada can now say that it is one of the first states to officially protect same sex marriage in its constitution. 

For years legal marriages were banned for same sex couples.  Nevada had voted a ban on same sex marriage in 2002.  In 2015, the nation recognized same sex marriage by the Supreme Court case of Obergefell v Hodges.  However, there is a looming question whether the two conservative Justices (Alito and Thomas), who have spoken out against this decision, might try to undo and seek to reverse that decision and leave it totally up to the states whether or not to discriminate against same sex couples who wish to marry. 

It is also heartening that the vote in Nevada was passed by a 60% margin.  Getting it to be part of a state’s constitution is not easy.  In fact, in Nevada, it had to go through the state legislature twice, in 2017 and 2019 before it was able to be put on the ballot.  Nevada has long been a swing state with the electorate ranging from cowboys to casino workers and people transplanted from many other states.  It is apparent that Nevada has now been trending more democratic in recent years and the fact that it was called for Biden and Harris shows it is presently a more democratic state. 

At present about 30 states still have same sex marriage bans on the books, though they have been blocked by the courts.  Notwithstanding the Supreme Court decision, these bans still exist, although they cannot be enforced.  Only a few states have actually repealed their bans and some efforts, like in Indiana and Florida, to repeal a ban have failed. 

Another note of interest, Nevada is also a place that people have flocked to undo their marriage in an easier fashion than their own states:  by setting up short residency they are able to get a non-contested divorce.  This has changed in many states, but most states, like New York, have a requirement of residency prior to being able to file for a divorce. 

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Victory! Court Rules State Department Violated Law in Denying Passport to Married Same-Sex Couple’s Daughter

Posted On: September 08, 2020

A federal court in Georgia recently ordered the Trump Administration to recognize the U.S. citizenship since birth of Simone Mize-Gregg, the two-year-old daughter of a married same-sex couple, and to issue her a U.S. passport. The U.S. State Department had refused to recognize Simone as a U.S. citizen, even though both of her parents, Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg, are U.S. citizens and children born abroad to heterosexual married U.S. citizens are automatically considered U.S. citizens themselves.

Click here to read more about this landmark victory!

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Lambda Legal.


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