Tag: legal

New York’s New Law on Gestational Surrogacy and Legal Recognition for Nonbiological Parents Goes Into Effect

New York's New Law on Gestational Surrogacy and Legal Recognition

A new law is now in effect in the state of New York that not only legalizes gestational surrogacy but also simplifies and strengthens the legal recognition of nonbiological parents and single parents in families formed through assisted reproduction. Easy forms? No home study? Yes, please!

New York Flag

The Child-Parent Security Act, which was sponsored by New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (D) and Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D), was signed into law last year and is now in effect, as Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced yesterday.

The new law:

  • Legalizes gestational surrogacy (where the surrogate is not genetically connected to the child because she did not contribute her egg), provided that the arrangement follows “best practices” that protect the interests of the surrogate, intended parents, and child. Gov. Cuomo’s office called these “the strongest protections in the nation for parents and surrogates, ensuring all parties provide informed consent at every step of the process.” The legislation is also notable for using gender-inclusive language to refer to surrogates.
  • Establishes a Surrogate’s Bill of Rights, “to ensure the unfettered right of surrogates to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy, and that surrogates have access to comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of their choosing, all paid for by the intended parents,” as Gov. Cuomo’s office describes it.
  • Streamlines the process for legally recognizing a nonbiological parent, allowing intended parents who use a sperm or egg donor to have a secure legal relationship with the child from the moment of birth. The new law will also help end legal uncertainty for single parents who use a sperm donor.

Let’s dig into that last point a little more. In cases where there are two intended same-sex parents, as I hope you all know by now, having both parents’ names on the birth certificate is not enough. That’s why LGBTQ legal experts still recommend that non-gestational parents do second-parent adoptions. Such adoptions, however, are often expensive, take several months to happen after the child’s birth (leaving the child legally vulnerable, should something happen to the gestational parent), and involve lots of paperwork and an intrusive home study.

The new law, however, offers nonbiological parents two new options:

  1. A free Acknowledgment of Parentage (AoP) form that may be filed at the hospital right after the child’s birth, with no home study needed. This is “a voluntary document to add parental rights to the non-birthing parent,” per the state Department of Health.
  2. A court-issued Order of Parentage that requires a single court visit, which can be completed before the child is born, and no home study.

As I’ve explained before, AoPs (or VAPs, Voluntary Acknowledgements of Parentage, as they are called in some states), are an exciting new option in a few states that offer an exceptionally easy way to legal parenthood for nonbiological parents. The New York form (PDF) states specifically that it “will establish parentage of our child with the same force and effect as an Order of Parentage entered after a court hearing.” At the same time, however, as GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Patience Crozier told me last year, while AoPs/VAPs should be equivalent to a court decree of parentage, they are as yet untested in courts and not broadly available in many states. Court decrees of parentage, like New York’s Order of Parentage (or second-parent adoptions) may therefore still be the more secure option for the time being. Nevertheless, as she said, “I think it’s really important for people to be able to have access to both. Every family situation is different. You want everybody to feel that they have the level of protection appropriate for them.”

Outside of New York, coalitions in both Massachusetts and Connecticut are pushing for similar updates to those states’ parentage laws that would also offer simpler and more secure paths to legal parenthood for nonbiological parents. Follow those links to learn more and see how you can get involved.

Have questions? The New York Department of Health has posted guidelines about Gestational Surrogacy Agreements, Acknowledgments of Parentage, and Orders of Parentage, and has more on gestational surrogacy here. Beyond that, I recommend talking with a lawyer (I’m not one) to see how the law might apply to your situation and what your personal best path forward is.

Need a lawyer? The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York (LeGaL) has an online platform where you can have their team connect you with attorneys in their Lawyer Referral Network, and the LGBT Family Law Institute offers a Family Law Attorney Directory. Or try the brand-new “connecting rainbows” service to find a lawyer in their directory.

New Service Offers Legal and Fertility Resources for LGBTQ Parents and Parents-to-Be

New Service Offers Legal and Fertility Resources for LGBTQ Parents

A new service, founded by a queer mom and attorney, aims to provide LGBTQ parents and prospective parents with family building resources and a personally vetted directory of family lawyers.

Gena Jaffe (L), wife Jordana (R) and their two children. Used with permission.

Gena Jaffe (L), wife Jordana (R) and their two children. Used with permission.

Gena Jaffe, a Philadelphia-based lawyer and mom, founded connecting rainbows after posting on social media about her and her spouse’s own journey to parenthood and receiving lots of questions. She told me via e-mail, “My wife and I have openly shared our fertility journeys on Instagram, as well as the second parent adoption process we had to go through. As a result, I have received a ton of questions over the years. While I am a practicing attorney, I do not specialize in estate planning or adoption, so I could never help anyone who came to me. Further, fertility is near and dear to my heart, and I feel a special connection to all those going through the treatments.”

After Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court last October, too, Jaffe said, “I started to talk more on my Instagram about the things same sex families should consider putting into place, God forbid same sex marriage was overturned.” She realized many prospective LGBTQ parents were encountering both a lack of information and misinformation. “I cannot even tell you how many people told me that lawyers either (1) would not work with them because they were a same sex couple or (2) gave them completely false information,” such as telling them that being on the birth certificate is enough to grant full legal rights to both same-sex parents. (As I’ve said myself many times, it’s not.) Jaffe then got the idea “to create a directory of attorneys across the US and Canada who specialize in working with LGBTQ+ couples on fertility law, adoption and estate planning.”

The LGBTQ Law Association already maintains a Family Law Attorney Directory and Family Equality has an LGBTQ+ Family Building Directory of fertility clinics, cryobanks, midwives, doulas, surrogacy clinics, and more who have completed one or more of the organization’s Open Door Professional Training Courses, but Jaffe says her directory will be different in having both legal and fertility resources in one place. In addition, she said, “My database will be unique in that it will be personal. I am limiting how many attorneys I recommend so that I can ensure that the people listed are (1) well-versed in working with the LGBTQ+ community and (2) it’s not overwhelming for people to decide who to call. I have garnered trust with my audience over the years, so they can feel confident in whom I am recommending.”

She explained further:

I will be capping it around five lawyers per state (in the larger states)—closer to three in the smaller states. I want to take the stress, overwhelm + research out of the equation for the individuals who are coming to the site. I am personally speaking to every lawyer who is listed on the site. I want to get a good sense of who they are, how they operate and how they will care for my community. I don’t need someone who has the most experience. I want someone who is not only competent but also compassionate. Someone who gets the younger generation.

The new website will include not only a directory of lawyers and fertility resources, but also expert interviews and a blog where “families can share their own fertility or adoption journeys, coming out stories and transition experiences.” She asserted, “I believe education is empowering, and I want to help people understand the journey and what to expect. My vision is that this space will help people feel less alone in whatever it is they are going through; a space where they can find comfort and hope.”

Informative and trustworthy resources are vital for us LGBTQ parents and parents-to-be. That’s why for years I’ve also maintained my own Mombian Resource Directory—which is in some ways a meta-directory of resources like connecting rainbows and the other directories mentioned above—on LGBTQ family building, legal issues, raising kids, caring for ourselves, and more. I appreciate that Jaffe is bringing her professional expertise to bear in offering LGBTQ folks a more focused approach to finding legal and family creation help, and I look forward to seeing how her site evolves.

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses Case Challenging Right of Same-Sex Parents to Both Be Recognized as Legal Parents

Indiana Continues Pressure on U.S. Supreme Court to Deny Same-Sex

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take a case in which Indiana was trying to deny the right of married nonbiological mothers in same-sex couples to be recognized as legal parents by being put on their children’s birth certificates. An appeals court had ruled in January that both mothers must be allowed on the birth certificates; because the Supreme Court has refused to take the case, that decision stands.

U.S. Supreme Court

Indiana had been appealing a January 2020 ruling of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Box v. Henderson that said Indiana must put both same-sex spouses on the birth certificate of a child born to one of them. This right is crucial for giving children with same-sex parents the legal protection of both parents from the moment of birth. In an order (PDF) posted this morning, the Supreme Court “denied certiorari,” meaning they will not hear the case.

I wrote at length about the case in June, when Indiana asked the Supreme Court to take it, and just a few weeks ago, when it filed an additional brief. Please go read those posts if you want to try and understand the convoluted logic by which Indiana was trying to say that only biology, not marital status, matters for birth certificates and that while it does allow a husband’s name to go on a child’s birth certificate even if another man is really the biological father (say, if he and his wife have fertility issues and use a sperm donor), it can treat same-sex couples differently.

Not buying it? Neither, apparently, was the U.S. Supreme Court. The court may also have been reluctant to issue a ruling in opposition to its 2017 decision in Pavan v. Smith, which said that married same-sex couples in Arkansas have the right to both be on their children’s birth certificates. That decision itself rested on the landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which said same- and different-sex couples must be treated equally. This case thus threatened not only the rights of same-sex parents, but also the solidity of Obergefell to protect all same-sex couples. The Supreme Court’s refusal to take it is a very good thing.

Congratulations to all of the eight plaintiff couples and their families, to the attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Ropes & Gray who worked on the case, and all of the families in Indiana and elsewhere who will benefit.

Watch: LGBTQ Legal Experts Talk 2nd-Parent Adoption and Other Ways to Protect Your Family

Watch: LGBTQ Legal Experts Talk 2nd-Parent Adoption and Other Ways

Two LGBTQ legal experts recently spoke on a GLAD panel about second-parent (co-parent) adoptions, Voluntary Acknowledgments of Parentage, and other ways LGBTQ parents can secure our legal relationships with our children. Regardless of who is in the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court remains conservative, and these actions are an important way of protecting our families. Watch the video now.

Patience Crozier, GLAD senior staff attorney, and Joyce Kauffman, GLAD board chair and lead attorney at Kauffman Law & Mediation, are not only attorneys, but also queer parents themselves. They understand both the legal and the emotional side of all this. They speak about why second-parent adoptions are necessary (even if you’re married!) and what to expect during the process; how Voluntary Acknowledgements of Parentage offer some LGBTQ parents another path to legal recognition; how likely they think it is that marriage equality could be overturned and what might happen to existing same-sex spouses in that case, and more.

The summary? “The good news is that there are ways to make sure your family is legally protected, and if you’ve already taken those steps they can’t be undone,” GLAD says.

Their focus is somewhat on New England, which is GLAD’s ambit—but even if you live elsewhere, I think you may also find much of this useful, if only to help you then ask better questions of lawyers and policymakers in your state.

Watch the video here—but please also visit the GLAD website for links to all the resources mentioned during the panel, along with additional legal information on parenting and other topics.

Republican governor just made it legal to discriminate against LGBT people

Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the state capital on May 24, 2018 in Austin, Texas.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the state capital on May 24, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Drew Anthony Smith/Getty)

Social workers can freely discriminate against LGBT+, as well as people with disabilities, thanks to the administration of Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott as of Monday (12 October).

The lawmaker, who once signed a bill banning discrimination against businesses with anti-LGBT+ views amid boycotts against Chick-fil-A, pressured the state’s regulatory board, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners, to make the change to its code of conduct.

Flipping 2010 and 2012 LGBT+ protections, Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton pressured board leaders to vote to rejig the rules in favour of homophobes, the Texas Tribune reported.

The move was hailed by the country’s top social worker organisation, the National Association of Social Workers, as “incredibly disheartening”.

It comes after Abbott signed legislation in 2019 to bar businesses from being discriminated against for their anti-LGBT+ views. “Discrimination is not tolerated in Texas,” he said, somehow devoid of all irony.

Republican governor pressured board to make social workers discriminating LGBT+ people perfectly legal.

Abbott, the board members claimed, lobbied for the change because the code of law offered service users protections beyond what is provided by state law.

“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” said Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze.

The vote itself happened during a joint meeting between the board and the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council, which managed mental health regulatory agencies.

Yet, for social workers themselves, a sense of unease. Steven Parks, who works with child trauma victims at a private practise in Houston, called the change “both a professional and a personal gut-punch”.

“There’s now a grey area between what’s legally allowed and ethically responsible.

“The law should never allow a social worker to legally do unethical things.”

He stressed that the policy change will undoubtedly crater LGBT+ mental health even further: “There’s research to show that members of the queer community are at higher risk for trauma, higher risk for all sorts of mental health conditions.”

Trans prisoner receives gender surgery after legal battle

Transgender inmate Adree Edmo is being housed in a men's prison in Idaho

A transgender woman serving a prison sentence for sexual abuse in Idaho has undergone gender affirmation surgery, after a years-long legal battle and two attempts to castrate herself behind bars.

Adree Edmo had pursued a successful legal challenge against Idaho and Corizon Health Inc, the provider of healthcare for the state prison system, over the refusal to permit her surgery.

She underwent surgery on July 10, according to the Idaho Press, after successfully arguing that depriving her of treatment violates the constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment”.

The surgery is estimated to cost between $20,000 and $30,000 — far less than the state is believed to have poured into legal battles to prevent it from taking place.

Edmo was sentenced to ten years behind bars in 2011 for sexual abuse of a minor after performing a sex act on a male 15-year-old. She was 22 at the time.

Surgery: Governor Brad Little has repeatedly denied transgender inmate Adree Edmo's request for surgery
Governor Brad Little has repeatedly denied transgender inmate Adree Edmo’s request for surgery

The inmate was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by prison doctors in 2012, but was denied access to gender affirmation surgery, leading her to attempt self-castration while in prison on two occasions.

She sued for the right to undergo surgery in 2017, and was ultimately victorious in federal district and appellate courts.

Idaho’s Republican governor Brad Little had sought to appeal the ruling even further, to the US Supreme Court, but it declined to take up the case and permitted the lower court ruling to stand.

Despite burning through taxpayer dollars fighting the legal action, Little had argued: “The hardworking taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a convicted sex offender’s gender reassignment surgery when it is contrary to the medical opinions of the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals.”

Appeals court found that denying treatment causes ‘ongoing harm’.

The ninth circuit court of appeals found that prison doctors “knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to Edmo’s health by rejecting her request”, causing “ongoing harm” to her.

The ruling doesn’t mean that all trans inmates in Idaho will be eligible for state-funded gender-confirmation surgery, but it could set a standard for providing surgery to certain inmates with severe gender dysphoria like Edmo.

Edmo is is scheduled for release in 2021.

A trans woman serving a sentence for murder in California became the first inmate to be permitted gender affirmation surgery in 2017. As of 2019, a total of seven inmates in California have undergone gender affirmation surgery, according to public records.

Trump asks Supreme Court to make it legal to ban same-sex couples from adopting

Trump asks Supreme Court to make it legal to ban

Photo via Proud Parenting Family Photo Gallery

The Trump Administration has filed a new law brief with the Supreme Court. In it, the administration argues that adoption agencies should have a right to refuse to home children with same-sex couples based on religious beliefs.

The debate rose out of the City of Philadelphia, where the city itself had a contract with Catholic Social Services to help place needy children in foster and adoptive care. The city terminated its contract with CSS in 2018 when the agency refused to place any of its children with same-sex couples, citing a city law that requires nondiscrimination by all agencies contracting with the city government. CSS claimed it would not abide by the regulation, citing religious exemption.

The Trump administration continues to claim that Donald Trump is the most pro-LGBTQ president in historyAn assessment of actions by the administration, however, reveals that Trump is actually the most anti-LGBTQ president in American history.

via Queerty