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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Summer Greetings from OUTLaws 

Hello, members, potential members, and friends of our organization! I wanted to take a moment and wish you all a restful summer. By now, grades should have been received, and I hope you all had great success academically and otherwise. A few housecleaning items for the summer:

1. Law Review: If you have not already done so, check out the Law Review Summer Writing Competition posted on the front page of the Nesl.edu website. The link will take you to all the places you need to go to register and participate in the writing competition. It would be great to see several members of our organization on the journals for the upcoming year!

2. NESL OUTLaws website: If you have checked our "homepage" lately, you'll notice that the link directs people to our blog. This is unintentional, and we are working to correct it, but until such time as it IS corrected, we will try to post relevant information such as dates, events, etc. on the Blog site.

3. Membership for next year: In order to keep our contact lists up-to-date, please send a message to outlaws@nesl.edu if your status has changed. (i.e., if you no longer wish to be included in the NESL distribution list, if you wish to be added, etc.) I will send out this reminder again through other channels as we get closer to school.

4. Ideas for next year: It's never too early to start formulating ideas about how we can best serve our community during the upcoming academic year. We will be having our first meeting approximately one month after school starts, and would love to hear ideas, input and otherwise!

Have a safe and productive summer, and I'll see you in the fall!


Spencer Jenkins

Co-Chair, OUTLaws

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Convention Speakers 

Both parties have now announced (or leaked) some of the speakers for their respective conventions, and there's been much discussion in the news about the choices (USA Today, Town Hall, Newsday, LA Times) particularly about the Republicans. SFGate.com seems to think the line-ups reveal very different strategies for the two parties, but to me it seems that both parties are simply reaching a little more to the left than at recent conventions.

For the Democrats (limited announcements thus far): Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, whoever ends up being the VP nominee, and of course John Kerry.

For the Republicans: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Laura Bush, Rod Paige, Michael Bloomberg, Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney (but not Mary, apparently), Zell Miller (representing Democrats for Bush), and of course George Bush.

As to the motivations behind the decidedly more gay-friendly faces to be featured at the podium for the Republicans, The Advocate reports that the Log Cabin Republicans are praising the move as a step forward for the Republican party, while the Stonewall Democrats interpret the move as an attempt to put a friendly public face on the party in order to hide an antigay agenda from middle of the road voters.

The official blog of the DNC (which also has a great list of the best convention speeches of all time) has this to say:

"The Republican's prime time schedule will be highlighted by Senator John McCain, who has stood against Bush on everything from campaign finance to a campaign, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who not only can support many women with his massive biceps but also supports their right to choose.

I have to give Karl Rove credit. What’s the best way to appeal to as many Americans as possible? By finding Republican speakers who disagree with President Bush in as many ways as possible.

Genius.

Who’s going to deliver the nominating speech? Michael Moore?
"

It all appears to be making for some must-see-tv.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

No Injunction Against Goodridge 

I just posted over on my own blog that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected Liberty Counsel's request for an injunction against enforcement of Goodridge. The Supreme Court previously declined to hear an appeal of the Appeals Court's earlier denial of a temporary restraining order in the case. You can find links to related documents at my other post.

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State of the Nation 

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has released its 2004 State of the States report on Safe Schools. The states and DC were evaluated on various criteria relating to GLBT students, some of which would give points and some of which would deduct points:

"All 50 states and the District of Columbia were given letter grades based on points granted in six categories, including existence of statewide safe schools laws, statewide non-discrimination laws, support for education on sexual health and sexuality, local safe schools policies, general education issues (e.g. student/teacher ratios, graduation rates) and existence of laws that stigmatize LGBT people."

Based on total points, 42 states received failing grades, with Mississippi actually receiving a negative score. New Jersey received the top grade, with a 95. Massachusetts received a C, with 70 points.

You can read the full report or the report for a particular state from the GLSEN page linked above.

For an interesting look into other interpretations and presentations of the data and report, see CSN News.com's article on the report. This site presents itself as a site dedicated to balancing the "liberal bias" of "many news outlets" by providing:

"...an alternative news source that would cover stories that are subject to the bias of omission and report on other news subject to bias by commission.

CNSNews.com endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story and debunk popular, albeit incorrect, myths about cultural and policy issues.
"

Here's CSNNews' introduction to GLSEN's report:

"The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network took a swipe at 42 states Monday in a report that advocates for so-called "safe schools" laws that include legal protection for sexual orientation and gender identity.

The homosexual advocacy group gave passing grades to only eight states and the District of Columbia for having policies that cater to homosexual, bisexual or transgender students. GLSEN's report criticizes the other 42 states for not doing enough.
"

They do a good job of not being blatantly inflammatory in their stories, but they clearly have a bias of their very own, starting with the views they have determined are "incorrect myths," and continuing with their word choices. At any rate, it's a good site to look over to see what "the other side" is presenting to its audience.

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State of the World 

Hindustan Times (via QueerDay) reports Amnesty International's announcement that 70 countries still prosecute or otherwise punish individuals for being gay. Nine of these countries punish by execution, including Saudi Arabia, which executed four people for homosexuality in 2002.

Amnesty International's online library on sexual orientation issues can be found here.

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Friday, June 25, 2004

ACLU Brief Filed in Matthew Limon Case 

The ACLU has filed a brief with the Kansas Supreme Court in support of reducing the prison term of Matthew Limon, who is serving a 206-month sentence after his conviction for having consensual sex with another male resident of his school for the developmentally disabled. Limon had just turned 18 at the time, while his partner was not quite 15. Under Kansas' Romeo and Juliet Law, had the pair been opposite sex, Limon's sentence would have been capped at 15 months.

The conviction and sentence was upheld by the Kansas Appellate Court in January, after the case had been sent back from the U.S. Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of Lawrence v. Texas.

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Grades 

For any NESL students who aren't yet aware, grades have been released. The Registrar's Office has a link which provides information about GPA Groups and Transcripts. You can only get your exact class rank if you're in the top 10% and fill out and submit a form to the Registrar's Office, but other than that you can see which other group you're in, based on GPA. The groupings are top 10%, next 15%, next 15%, next 20%, next 20% and next 20%.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Araujo Update 

The Oakland Tribune Online reports that a prosecution poll of the jury revealed that they had ruled out both acquittal and the panic-based manslaughter defense, and the deadlock was on deciding between first degree (premeditated and deliberate) or second degree (not premeditated) murder.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Araujo Mistrial 

365Gay.com reports that the trial of three men for the murder of Gwen Araujo has ended in a mistrial. The jury apparently agreed that the men were builty, but could not come to agreement on whether the men should be convicted of first degree murder or manslaughter. The defense relied on a variant of the gay panic defense, claiming that they lost control due to the shock of discovering the woman with whom they had had sex was biologically male.

Los Angeles Times reports that the DA will be seeking a new trial. A hearing to set a new trial date has been scheduled for July 30.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

The Williams Project 

I've added a new link to the listings, for The Williams Project, an academic think tank dedicated to sexual orientation law and public policy, located at the UCLA School of Law.

This week's LA Weekly has an informative article on the project, established in 2001 with a $2.5 million dollar pledge from former Sperry Corp. vice-president Chuck Williams.

The Williams Project organizes various speaking events, conferences and workshops at UCLA, holds a student writing competition, publishes the Dukeminier Awards Journal, publishes the results of the various studies and research they conduct, and much more. Their website also has a thorough list of web resources.

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Defensive Measures 

The Washington Post reports that Tuesday the Senate passed (65-33) a measure that would modify the federal hate crimes law to add protections against attacks based on sexual orientation, gender and disability. The proposal was added to the defense authorization bill. The proposed rule change still must be approved by the House, which has defeated similar measures in the past.

The full text of the proposed change can be found here. Scroll down to the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act section. More procedural information can be found here.

The passage of this measure comes a month before the Senate is expected to take up debate and a vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which would write into the US Constitution a ban against gay and lesbians marrying. One of the sponsors of the hate crimes change, Oregon Republican Gordon Smith, stated:

"I cannot think of a more decent and Christian thing to do. . . . When people are being stoned in the public square, we ought to come to their rescue." and also "Before you get to marriage, get over hate."

Senator Smith is in favor of the FMA. Perhaps his motivation could be more accurately paraphrased as "before you vote to limit the rights of a particular group, go on record as being foresquare against physical attacks on individual members of that group."

Transgender leaders have expressed concern that gender expression, identity or inclusion is not included in the proposed hate crimes change. Human Rights Campaign President Cheryl Jacques has expressed her belief that based on Justice Department documentation, the language of the bill would cover all GLBT citizens.

A spokesperson for President Bush, in response to the hate crimes change, stated that President Bush feels that all violent crime is hate crime, and that "The president believes all individuals should be treated fairly and equally under the law."

So, the lesson here is that gay men and lesbians should not be stoned in the town square, and that all individuals should be treated "fairly and equally." But not all couples.

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Two 1913 Statute Cases 

Boston.com reports that two cases will be filed in Suffolk Superior Court tomorrow, challenging the 1913 law being used to prevent issuance of marriage licenses to out of state gay couples.

One case will be brought by a number of out of state couples, while the other is brought by clerks from 12 Massachusetts cities and towns. Both cases will argue that the 1913 law had not been enforced until it was pulled out to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, and that such discrimination has already been declared unconstitutional by the Goodridge decision.

The town and city clerks involved are from Acton, Burlington, Cambridge, Marblehead, Nantucket, Northampton, Plymouth, Provincetown, Sherborn, Somerville, Westford and Worcester. The couples are being represented by GLAD attorneys.

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UPDATE: GLAD has posted the plaintiff's complaint in the couples' case, Cote-Whitacre v. Dept. of Public Health.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Expanding Horizons 

Paula Martinac's current opinion column on PlanetOut is titled "Building a Bigger Platform" and addresses the historical internal divide within the gay activist community. One side chooses to align with other groups while the other side focuses on gay-specific issues, most recently marriage and the military. Martinac feels the gay-specific side has been dominant in recent years, and that it's time for outreach and cross-pollination to come to the fore.

I've tried to address a variety of issues and news items in my posts, and will continue to do so. At the end of the semester there were hopeful signs that the OUTLaws will be able to work together with some other groups on campus on joint interest projects. Hopefully some of the ideas we tossed around will come to fruition, for the benefit of all groups involved.

In other news, the NESL registrar's office has stated that grades will be mailed "next week." This extended waiting is killing me...

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Frozen Parental Rights 

Last month I posted about a California appellate decision denying parental rights to the biological mother of twins born to her partner after egg harvesting and implantation. The decision was based largely on the genetic mother having signed a waiver form that is standard before egg harvesting.

Today I read (by way of the SoCalLawBlog) that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided an Arizona case involving 7-year-old twins conceived after their father's death, utilizing frozen sperm harvested prior to his undergoing chemotherapy, are entitled to Social Security survivor benefits. The opinion in Gillett-Netting v. Barnhart was written by Judge Betty B. Fletcher.

While these two cases involve different issues (parental rights of the lesbian egg donor vs. survivor's rights of a heterosexual sperm donor) and are in different states (although the 9th Circuit does cover California), they do make an interesting comparison. In both situations, the parents were in committed relationships and both parents desired to have children and actively participated in reaching that goal. In both cases the donation procedure was prompted by medical concerns. In the frozen sperm case, part of the determination of the court was based on the father's having declared his desire that his sperm be used by his wife and that any resulting children would be his children, even if conceived after his death. In the egg donor case, not only did the donor express her desire that she was undergoing the harvesting procedure in order to have a family with her partner, she raised the children for several years. Yet this was not enough to override a boilerplate form she was required to sign in order to undergo the very procedure that enabled the children to come into being.

Are the different outcomes the result of procedural differences in the two locations? Would the egg donor have been required to sign a similar waiver in Arizona? Are women undergoing egg harvesting procedures in California required to sign the waiver if the eggs are going to be reimplanted in the donor? Are married, heterosexual sperm donors in California required to sign waivers whether or not the material is to be used to fertilize his wife's eggs? Is the genetic claim from sperm viewed as less waivable than that of an egg? If the two women were legally married, would the donor have been required to waive her rights? In the Arizona case, the sperm donor would have been considered the parent for purposes of Social Security benefits even if not married to the mother, if he had acknowledged his parentage by words or deeds.

So many questions. Time will tell.

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Koebke Golf Update 

The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear B. Birgit Koebke's appeal in her case against Bernardo Heights Golf Club. Details of the case can be found in this post from Monday.

No hearing date has been released.

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Goodridge, Politics and Principles 

The current (May/June 2004)issue of Yale Law School's magazine Legal Affairs includes senior editor Emily Bazelon's article A Bold Stroke, which on its face is a piece on SJC Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and her role as author of the Goodridge opinion. Marshall is also an alum of Yale Law School, and on June 3 was announced as an Alumni Fellow of the Yale Corporation (the university's governing board).

In addition to the biographical information and some of Marshall's statements from a two-hour interview, Bazelon provides insight into the politics of Beacon Hill and the ever-changing relationship between the judicial and legislative branches of Massachusetts government, as well as some relevant history on the SJC itself and a glimpse into the odd budgetary arrangments under which the Massachusetts courts function.

I found the article very helpful in placing this landmark case in the larger, tumultuous landscape that is politics in Massachusetts, and in providing a closer analysis of some of the key points of the decision itself.

The issue also contains the winning entry in the magazine's first annual writing competition. In addition to publication of the article, the winner also received $2000. Next year's competition will be announced in the fall.

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Gay Couples and Golfing Privileges 

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports on B. Birgit Koebke's hopes that the California Supreme Court will hear her case against the Bernardo Heights Country Club, in which she argues that under California's civil rights laws, her registered domestic partner should be eligible for the same privileges the club extends to legally married spouses of club members. While the club claims that they are simply attempting to distinguish between married and nonmarried couples, and that the rules have nothing to do with sexual orientation, the club's board and member actions seem to indicate that orientation has everything to do with it.

During earlier discussions with the board about the situation, Koebke suggested creating a significant other category which would apply not only to same sex couples but also to opposite sex couples who for one reason or another chose not to marry. The board considered the idea, but only after specifying that it would apply to opposite sex couples only. The modified proposal was also rejected.

Since filing her suit, Koebke has faced hostility from some of the other members. She no longer brings clients to golf, as her guests expressed discomfort. At least one opposite sex couple terminated their own membership in response to threats they received after playing a round of golf with Koebke.

Lambda Legal is representing Koebke, and the California Supreme Court is expected to announce soon whether they will hear the case. An interesting amicus brief was submitted jointly by the Women's Sports Foundation, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the California Women's Law Center.

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Friday, June 04, 2004

Democracy and Pluralism 

Via this post at the Legal Theory Blog, I found that over the last couple of days The Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem held a "Democracy and Pluralism Conference." The conference agenda page links to several PDF documents which were the base for many of the presentations and panels. Among the documents available: Is Toleration a Political Virtue?, The Public: Its Moral Value and Its Competitors, Authority, Equality and Democracy, Hinduism, Christianity and Liberal Religious Toleration, and the not-so-briefly titled Universal Justice, Local Norms: The (Sometimes Pseudo-Debate of Human Rights Violations Within Minority Cultures.

It's not light reading by any means, but certainly worth delving into.

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Justice Marshall on Yale Board 

Boston.com reports that Massachusetts SJC Chief Justice Margaret Marshall has been elected to the Yale University governing board, with her six-year term starting July 1 of this year.

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Thursday, June 03, 2004

"Gay" = Label, Not Libel 

I've been offline for the last week, so today I've been sifting through the various news items of the last week to see if there was anything noteworthy going on.

For anyone trying to access the NESL website: computer services is in the midst of upgrading the server firewalls, with work scheduled for June 1-4. The website will be intermittently available during that time.

The US District Court in Boston has been in the news. Judge Nancy Gertner dismissed a libel suit against a Madonna biographer and his publisher, among others. Her former bodyguard was upset by a photo caption in the biography. The caption identified the man with Madonna in the photo as the plaintiff, James Albright, when in fact the man in the photo was a gay man named Jose Gutierez. Judge Gertner rejected the idea that the mislabeling was indeed a statement that Albright is gay, then continued that even if that could be construed, a statement that someone is gay can no longer be considered a defamatory statement. She stated that earlier opinions declaring that labelling someone as gay was defamatory were based on then-existing statutes criminalizing homosexuality - statutes which are now unconstitutional under Lawrence v. Texas.

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