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Friday, December 31, 2004

Israel Will Not Deport Gay Partners of Citizens 

Judge Uzi Vogelman of the Tel Aviv District Court, in deciding in favor of a gay couple who had filed an emergency petition against deportation, has ruled that Israel's ban on deporting foreign citizens who are married to Israeli citizens should apply to common law marriages as well, and has included same sex relationships in this category.

The couple were represented by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Fines for Druid Hills Golf Club 

There's been a move in the long standoff between the City of Atlanta and the Druid Hills Golf Club over the club's refusal to treat same sex spouses on equal footing as opposite sex couples.

Atlanta has had a human relations ordinance in place since 2000, and at the start of this year the commission that reviews allegations of violations determined that the golf club was indeed operating contrary to the requirements of the ordinance. The club refused to change their policies, and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin attempted to have the two sides (the club and the members requesting the benefit) work out the issue through mediation, but those efforts failed.

Mayor Franklin has now announced that the city solicitor will be fining the golf club $500 per day for a maximum of 180 days ($90,000) unless the benefits are extended to domestic partners of gay club members. The club's board of directors has announced their intention to maintain their current policies and to fight the validity of the fine. Georgia state law bars gay marriage, and some state legislators are attempting to invalidate the Atlanta ordinance. Mayor Franklin is having the ordinance reviewed, and if necessary modified to strengthen it against possible legal challenges.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

HRC Report on GLBT Related Legislation, 2004 

The Human Rights Campaign has published their 2004 report on state legislation with GLBT impacts over the past year. The comprehensive report gives summaries and state-by-state breakdowns of various types of bills introduced in state houses across the country, as well as a thorough appendix in which you can find the text of each bill.

Good light reading for any GLBT law students who are now celebrating a few weeks off between semesters. It's only 62 pages long, and full of colorful graphs!!!!!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Social Security and Marriage Licenses 

Apparently the Social Security Administration has for months now had a policy that it wouldn't recognize marriage licenses as ID for name changes, not only from New Paltz, but also from Asbury Park, NJ, Multnomah County, OR, and Sandoval County, NM - all the hotbeds of contested same sex marriage events this year. The nonrecognition applies to ALL marriage licenses, regardless of the parties involved.

But now the SSA has withdrawn their exclusion of licenses as ID from Multnomah County and New Paltz. Asbury Park and Sandoval County, however, are still on the no-go list.

Apparently it's no problem for Massachusetts couples, but it won't get you anything but a name change since Social Security is a federal benefit, and federal agencies are barred from recognizing same sex couples.

An earlier story revealed that SSA publicly issued a directive regarding not recognizing San Francisco marriage licenses, but this new article doesn't mention what became of that order. A Philadelphia Inquirer article today reports that SSA will accept San Francisco issued licenses that list "Groom" and "Bride" but not those that list "First Applicant" and "Second Applicant."

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Name Changes in New Paltz 

In a move that puzzles pretty much all involved, the Social Security Administration is refusing to accept (link via QueerDay) as proof of identity for name change any marriage license issued in New Paltz, NY, and claims that this policy has been in effect since February 27, the date when Mayor Jason West began conducting marriage ceremonies for same sex couples.

SSA spokeswoman Jane Zanca stated that the policy originated with the state of New York allegedly deciding not to recognize any marriage certificates issued in New Paltz as valid documents. Trouble is, no one else seems to recall this decision, no one from the state has yet corroborated the policy, and no marriage licenses or certificates were ever issued to any of the gay couples.

The NY Dept. of Health oversees marriages, and denies every issuing or having knowledge of this "state policy." Same response from the NY Dept. of State, which handles state records. The Town of New Paltz Clerk denies every receiving any information about such a state or federal policy. The Social Security Administration headquarters in Washington, D.C. did not respond to inquiries about the issue.

According to the Social Security Administration's webpage concerning name changes (the link is conveniently placed in the special "For Women" section of the site - why isn't there a comparable "For Men" section on the site? But that's a rant for another time), there's nary a mention of any exclusion on the use of marriage licenses from New Paltz, NY. In fact, a search of the entire SSA site for the word Paltz turned up nothing.

Is this one overzealous SSA beaurocrat overstepping her authority? A simple miscommunication at some level? Are the citizens of New Paltz being singled out because of their many shows of support for the actions of Mayor West and a number of area ministers who performed the ceremonies?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Civil Rights is Not a Popularity Contest" 

The above statement was made by Candian Prime Minister Paul Martin in response to demands that the issue of same sex marriage be determined by a national referendum.

Justice Minister Irwin Colter put expressed similar sentiments in response to Alberta Premier Ralph Klein's national vote concept:
"He's trying to do an end run around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Cotler said of Klein's position. "And it's not going to work. "You don't subject minority rights to a referendum,'' Cotler told the Toronto Star over the weekend. "That's not what we do in Canada."

If only Justice Scalia could embrace this idea for the United States as well.


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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Texas Steps Up 

The Texas Department of Safety has suspended a DPS Trooper who approached two men sitting on a bench outside the State Capitol and told them they couldn't kiss, as "homosexual conduct is against the law."

Trooper Michael Carlson received a 6 month suspension and a written reprimand, and is to receive more training on Texas law. He has been a trooper for three years. Perhaps the Texas DPS should also give Trooper Carlson some additional training on the DPS motto:

Courtesy - Service - Protection

The announcement was made Friday. The incident occurred on September 16th.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Military Appeals Court Upholds Sexual Privacy 

The Washington Post reports that last week the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction of Army specialist Kenneth Bullock, who had been charged with having oral sex with a civilian woman, a violation of UCMJ Article 125, the sodomy article. While this case involved heterosexual activity, it is the same article used to uphold the military ban on any same sex activity.

The decision adds to Lawrence v. Texas, which declared unconstitutional any laws criminalizing consensual sexual activities.

FYI - Article 125 falls right in between Maiming and Arson in the list of UCMJ Punitive Articles. Just in case you were wondering.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Utah Judge Recognizes Parental Rights for Gay Ex-Partner 

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that last week a trial level judge awarded visitation rights to the ex-partner of a woman who now claims to be straight and to have religious objections to exposing her child to her previous lifestyle.

Kerri Lynne Jones and Cheryl Pike Barlow took part in a Vermont civil union when Barlow was pregnant, in 2001. The couple broke up in 2003, after having spent the intervening years taking equal part in parenting the now 3-year-old girl, whose birth certificate shows a joint last name.

The judge in the case, Third District Judge Timothy Hanson, described the case as not being about gay parents vs. straight parents, but:

''What this case is about, is whether or not a child is better off in this rather uncertain world, with as many people as possible taking an interest in the child, both financially and emotionally,'' the judge said in an October court hearing.

Last week, Hanson granted supervised visitation to Keri Lynne Jones, of Taylorsville, on two days a month and on Christmas Day. After six months, visitation will increase to alternating overnight weekends, and Jones will be required to support the child financially.

Barlow has filed an appeal, and is asking that the visitation not begin until the case is resolved, citing in part that Jones has not had significant contact with the girl in the last year.

What a great strategy! Bar the ex from seeing the child, then use the person's absence as a reason to bar further visitation!!! I'll have to remember that one...

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Suit Filed in Boston to End Don't Ask, Don't Tell 

A dozen former servicemembers whose military careers were terminated under Don't Ask, Don't Tell have filed suit today in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeking to have the policy declared unconstitutional. The group is hoping that their challenge will succeed where others have failed, since the previous suits were prior to the Supreme Court's 2004 finding in Lawrence v. Texas.

The group is represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has more detailed information on the case, titled Cook v. Rumsfeld, posted on their website. You can also link to the text of the complaint. Also representing the plaintiffs is Boston law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

Among the requests made to the court are that the policy and related statutes be declared unconstitutional and that the military be enjoined from enforcing them, and that each of the plaintiffs be reinstated at their previous rank, pay and specialty if they are still able to meet all requirements of their last held position.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Mixed Message From Naval Academy 

The Naval Academy Alumni Association governing board has once more rejected the affiliation application from the chapter formed for gay, lesbian and straight ally alums. The chapter is the only applicant ever denied affiliation status from the Alumni Association, and now it's been denied twice.

After last year's denial, the group took steps to address several of the previously given reasons for rejection. The Association expressed concern that the group was narrowly focused on a special interest group and would be exclusive. The chapter rewrote their bylaws to specify that straight alums were welcome, and indeed one of their 68 current members is straight. The Association stated last year that new chapters must be "geographic in nature," so the chapter established a headquarters in the Castro. The Association in this year's rejection cited an existing chapter that already serves the San Francisco area.

In their news release announcing the decision, the Alumni Association praised their own decision as "reaffirm[ing their] commitment to diversity and inclusiveness." The Association also stated and directed that existing chapters "should not and did not discriminate against gay and lesbian alumni." Because it would be so unusual to discover any instances of discrimination against gays in the military. And it's not like alums who are still active in the military would suffer any career repercussions by coming out in their mainstream alumni chapter.

On a related note, congratulations to Harvard Law School for responding so quickly to the 3rd Circuit's injunction (3rd Circuit opinion link here, but it seems to be down right now) barring enforcement of the Solomon Amendment.

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NESL OUTLaws Blog Mentioned in ABA's Student Lawyer Magazine 

In the current edition of Student Lawyer magazine (Vol. 33, No. 4) is an article by Todd Chatman (a George Washington Law School 2L and author of Ambivalent Imbroglio) on blawgs (law related blogs). Included is a selection of blawgs, one of which is this very one. I'm familiar with most of the other blogs listed, and we should be quite proud to be included in such outstanding company! The article has also been published online at ABA.net [link via Notes from the (Legal) Underground].

My fellow OUTLaws and I have been a little sporadic in posting this month, but perhaps this will be just the spark we need to renew our diligence.

Thanks Todd! And congrats to Denise at Michigan for being interviewed. You didn't get a link for your blog in the article, so here's one instead.

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