Tag: Michigan

Michigan Appeals Court Recognizes Parental Rights of Same-Sex Parents-and Points the Way Forward

Michigan Appeals Court Recognizes Parental Rights of Same-Sex Parents-and Points

Last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals recognized that both women in an unmarried same-sex couple, one the genetic mother and one the gestational mother, have parental rights. This is a clear victory—but the ruling also indicates what is still needed for even fuller protection of all families, no matter who’s in them or how they are formed.

Michigan - LeFever v. Matthews

LaNesha Matthews and Kyresha LeFever started dating in 2011 and created their family via reciprocal in vitro fertilization (RIVF), using LeFever’s eggs and Matthews’s womb, plus sperm from an anonymous donor. They planned for Matthews to give birth in Ohio, but their twins came two months early, when the two were still in Michigan. That was a problem because at the time, Ohio would allow both moms to be on the birth certificates, but Michigan wouldn’t. Only Matthews was listed, therefore, but the twins were given LeFever’s last name.

The couple broke up in 2014 and shared custody for several years before going to court after a custody dispute. The trial court ruled last year that Matthews was effectively a surrogate, not a parent; removed her from the birth certificates and from any parental decision-making; and gave her only limited visitation as an unrelated “third party.”

The Court of Appeals unanimously disagreed, stating in its ruling (PDF) that “The trial court erred when it concluded that defendant is not a ‘natural parent’ [under the law] because she lacks a genetic link to the twins that she carried through gestation and birthed.” They said the trial court must reconsider the custody case, treating both women as legal parents.

Good news, yes? But Elizabeth L. Gleicher, a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals, went even further than her colleagues by issuing a separate opinion (PDF) arguing that while the court was right to recognize both women on the basis that each was a “natural parent” to their child, there are also constitutional arguments to support recognition of all parents, regardless of marital status or genetic connection to the children. (Let’s face it, not all same-sex couples who use assisted reproduction use RIVF (though my spouse and I did); many if not most use IVF with the same parent’s egg and womb, leaving one parent with neither a genetic nor gestational connection.) Gleicher wrote (my bold):

LeFever and Matthews had a constitutional right to create the twins in the manner they chose, and it follows that both women have constitutionally protected due process rights to parent the twins despite their nonmarital status. That Matthews lacks a genetic relationship to the twins is constitutionally irrelevant to her liberty interest in their custody. And even had she not personally gestated and born the children (or had an ovum from a donor other than LeFever been implanted in Matthews’ womb), I suggest that both women would nonetheless be entitled to be considered parents of the twins.

The majority opinion of the court, while it didn’t go this far, did indicate the need for a broader view of what constitutes a parent, adding this observation in a footnote (my bold):

We conclude that the term “natural parent” is elastic enough to include both parents in this case, where the parties divided the female reproductive roles of conceiving a child so that each has assumed a function traditionally used to evidence a legal maternal relationship. However, we note that the advent of assisted reproductive technology has complicated an area of law that traditionally was fairly straightforward…. Our current statutory schemes are poor vehicles for modern-made families to seek relief, and we question whether they are robust enough in their current form to provide equitable outcomes to such families…. Accordingly, we anticipate that the Legislature will need to modernize the law to keep pace with technological advancements and appropriately balance various public policy concerns.

Same-sex couples aren’t the only ones who will benefit from updated parentage laws. A different-sex couple in the state, Jordan and Tammy Myers, recently used surrogacy to have a child after Tammy was diagnosed with cancer. They were then told they had to go through the adoption process to become legal parents, since gestational surrogacy is not permitted in the state. “Being forced to prove they are fit to adopt their own children is ‘offensive,’ said Mr. Myers,” the New York Times reported.

Many of us LGBTQ parents will say, “Yeah, welcome to the club,” about that, since we’re still advised to go through the financial and emotional hassle of second-parent (confirmatory) adoptions even when both parents are on the birth certificate. Yet cases like this show the potential for forming a real alliance across all kinds of families in order to make positive change. (Ellen Trachman at Above the Law has more about Michigan’s outdated surrogacy laws.)

We’re seeing this same need for updated parentage laws play out in other states, as I wrote last fall. New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire are among the states that have recently updated their parentage laws to better protect all families and all ways of family formation; an inclusive Connecticut parentage bill passed out of committee last month and now moves to the full House. Clearly, though, there’s still lots of work to do.

Nevertheless, one family has benefitted immediately from the Michigan ruling, and for that we should be happy. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), along with trial counsel Regina Jemison, represented Matthews. NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura said in a statement, “We are grateful that our client and her children are once again recognized as a family. We know that families are formed in many ways. Recognizing genetics as the only basis for parent-child relationships leaves out many families and harms children by separating them from their parents.”

Amen—and onward.

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan

“Joanna’s the perfect mix of beautiful, funny, charismatic, sweet and sassy,” says fiancée Amanda.

Joanna proposed to Amanda on the shores of Lake Michigan while the couple was on a trip to Chicago.

“A few of our closest friends tagged along, but I thought nothing of it,” Amanda says. “We travel often. We walked along Lake Michigan and Joanna asked me,  ‘Can you take your coat off so we can get an awesome photograph?’ I replied, ‘It’s cold out!’ I proceeded to take of my jacket off though. As her sister and her sister’s boyfriend snapped a gorgeous picture, Joanna got down on one knee. I immediately said yes. Spending the rest of my life with this woman will always and forever be my greatest adventure.”

Amanda and Joanna will marry on April 2, 2022, at Renault Winery in New Jersey.

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

A gorgeous proposal on the shores of Lake Michigan | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine

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Michigan voter fraud hearing derails as Rudy Giuliani can’t control loony “witness” / Queerty

Michigan voter fraud hearing derails as Rudy Giuliani can’t control

Melissa Carone. Twitter Screenshot.

The denial that is the Trump Administration’s response to their election loss last month continues. As more and more states move to certify their election results, Michigan continued to hold hearings regarding allegations of voter fraud. Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani also visibly struggled to control one witness.

The House Oversight Committee in the Michigan state legislature attempted to question Melissa Carone, a sometime contractor for Dominion Voting Systems. Rather than answer the questions of state officials, Carone attacked them individually, delivered sarcastic answers and even struggled to explain her job duties with Dominion Voting.

Related: Twitter responds to Rudy Giuliani’s melting face with collective horror

Carone’s star-making moment–her response that caused her to become a viral celebrity–came on Tuesday, as Rep. Steve Johnson, a Republican, tried to pose a question to her.

“We’re not seeing the poll book off by 30,000 votes,” Johnson noted.

“What’d you guys do, take it and do something crazy to it?” Carone yelled back, incredulous.

“I’m just saying the numbers are not off by 30,000 votes,” Johnson replied.

“I’d say that poll book is off by over 100,000 [votes],” Carone snapped, citing no evidence to support her claim.

The exchange continued, as Carone alleged that the state saw “120 percent” in the election, despite her having no evidence to support the claim. At that point, Guiliani audibly “shushed” Carone, who ignored his prompt. When Johnson noted again that poll book numbers were not off by 30,000 votes, Carone interrupted him, asking “What’d you guys do, take it and do something crazy to it?” She also claimed that the state’s poll books contained “zero registered voters.”

Carone went on to claim that she saw poll workers running ballots through machines “thousands of times,” though did not explain how that was possible. Throughout her testimony, Carone’s body seemed oddly loose and wiggly. The Daily Beast also notes that Carone slurred her words, implying that she may have been drunk during the hearing.

It’s important to note that Carone was not under oath during the hearing. She further accused Democrats of conspiring to ruin her life, caused her to lose her job, forced her to move and to delete all her social media accounts. Reporters, however, discovered that her social media accounts are still active.

She had previously attempted to block certification of the election in Wayne County, Michigan last month by submitting a signed affidavit to the courts alleging she’d witnessed voter fraud, and that Dominion Voting Systems had somehow electronically rigged ballots to vote for Joe Biden. A judge in the state found her allegations “simply not credible.”