Saturday, May 15, 2010

Legal news this month

Domestic partnerships

On May 13th, "the Minnesota Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill amending the state’s end of life statutes to add domestic partners to the list of individuals who may purse a wrongful death claim and who may make decisions about the disposition of remains."(HRC Back Story) Governor Tim Pawlenty has said that he would veto the legislation. ( Project 515 has advocated for the legislation. The group takes its name from the number of state laws that discriminate against same-sex couples and their families.

Religious liberty exemption

May marriage commissioners in Canada's province of Saskatchewan claim a religious liberty exemption from performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples? The Court of Appeal heard oral arguments this week on the constitutionality of legislation that would confer this exemption, either for all marriage commissioners, or for just those who were commissioners in 2004 (or rather 2005?), when the country's marriage-equality was adopted. (Religion Clause / Regina Leader-Post / CBC News) Law professor John Culhane is among many who object to letting public officials use their offices to carve out exceptions to marriage equality. Culhane has recommended one means of accommodating American marriage license officials who say it violates their religious faith to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Prop. 8 and the Right to Marry)

The Court's heard a suggestion of a different form of accommodation, suited to the circumstances of the province's marriage commissioners, who perform marriage ceremonies. It involves a "system where couples would submit a form requesting a marriage commissioner and one would be sent to perform their ceremony ... Egale Canada, which advocates for gays and lesbians, said same-sex couples wouldn't face rejection in such a system and marriage commissioners could also be accommodated." ( Apparently the proposal would not apply to all couples seeking to marry. If limited to same-sex couples, doesn't the separate method still give state sanction to an administrative quarantine for these couples, and to associated stigma? "Nathan Seckinger of the GBLUR Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity [said that] 'in the end, it doesn't address the deeper concern for us, which is why these people want the right to discriminate against us in the first place.'" (Vancouver Sun)

Perry v. Schwarzenneger

"The Courage Campaign has launched Testimony: Equality On Trial, in which stars reenact the testimony given by the plaintiffs in California's Prop 8 trial ... The Courage Campaign invites supporters of marriage equality to download trial scripts and upload their own reenactments to the Equality On Trial site." (, cross-posted by Freedom to Marry. See also the Prop. 8 Trial Tracker and Wall Street Journal law blog.) "Academy Award-winning actor Marisa Tomei helped the Courage Campaign kick off 'Testimony: Equality on Trial'." (Prop. 8 Trial Tracker)

"ADF attorney Jordan Lorence appeared on Freedom’s Ring with Alan J. Reinach to discuss the Cal. marriage trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. | MP3 Audio -13:32 mins" (ADF Alliance Alert)

Marriage equality - Iowa - Gartner v. Newton

"A lesbian couple married in Des Moines last year has filed a lawsuit against two state health department officials, after the department refused to name both women on their daughter’s birth certificate. Heather Lynn Martin Gartner, 38, and Melissa McCoy Gartner, 39, filed the Polk County claim on behalf of their second child, who was born in September ... The Iowa Department of Public Health rejected the couple’s request in March, according to the lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court, on grounds that Melissa had not legally adopted Mackenzie and was not biologically related." (Des Moines Register) "Camilla B. Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal ... who was one of three attorneys to file the lawsuit on behalf of the Gartners and their daughter. [She said,] 'I think this is just an error that will be cleared up shortly. Every other state that has allowed same-sex couples to marry or enter into civil unions has applied the spousal presumption of parentage equally to the children of same-sex couples. So, to my knowledge, this has never happened before'... 'Varnum makes it clear that children of same-sex couples are entitled to birth certificates naming both spouses as their parents — just as children of different-sex couples are entitled to those birth certificates,' Taylor said in reference to the landmark Iowa Supreme Court decision from April 2009." (Iowa Independent. See also for press statements by a Department of Public Health official.)

Divorce - Rhode Island

On May 4th, the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 7990, which would allow the state to divorce same-sex couples, even though it bars them from marrying. (The Provost Journal)


On May 5th, reported on the legal obstacles same-sex couples may face if they seek divorce in a state that does not recognize marriage equality.

Greene v. County of Sonoma

Greene v. County of Sonoma et al., complaint, No. SPR-81815 (Cal. Sonoma County Super. Ct. filed Mar. 22, 2010)

The New York Times reports on the horrors the aging plaintiff in this case suffered when a California county agency separated him from his partner following his partner's injury from an accident.

Marriage of transgender partner - Texas

"Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been asked to weigh-in on whether or not a marriage license can be issued to a couple when one of the partners is transgendered." (Texas Capitol Annex) The El Paso Times links to a request for the opinion by El Paso County Jo Anne Bernal. The Dallas Voice also reports on the request.


"The Advocate reports on an immigration reform proposal that is being circulated by the Democratic leadership in Congress. Under the proposal, which could form the basis of an immigration reform bill, U.S. citizens and legal residents would be allowed to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency, ending long-standing discrimination against same-sex couples." (Marriage Equality New York)

super-DOMA - North Carolina

"Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, has filed a bill [SB 1156] to change the N.C. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages. The bill would provide for a referendum to ratify the constitutional amendment should lawmakers approve it. The bill would recognize 'marriage between a man and a woman' as the only domestic legal union in North Carolina." (05/15/10

Developments abroad - Argentina and England

Earlier this month, "Argentina’s lower house passed a marriage equality bill, paving the way for the nation to become the first in Latin America to legalize marriage for same-sex couples ... If the bill passes in the Senate, Argentina would become the first nation in Latin America and would join Canada as the second nation in the Americas to legalize marriage." (05/06/10

A gay couple in England is suing the owner of a bed-and-breakfast inn for refusing service on the basis of their sexual orientation. (Mail Online)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update! You always do such a great job.

DC Divorce Lawyer said...

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