South Dakota Senate advances protections for adoption agencies that turn away gay couples

South Dakota

The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill that would protect religious or faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that deny child placement to same-sex couples and single parents.

PIERRE — On a 22-12 vote, South Dakota legislators approved Senate Bill 149, which would ensure that religious or faith-based adoption and foster care groups could continue to benefit from state funds and that they wouldn’t face retribution if they denied placement to a parent or couple that doesn’t meet their requirements.

The measure’s sponsor Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, said he brought the bill to ensure that groups with “sincerely held” religious views are able to place children with traditional families or with other parents that they deem appropriate. He said the bill would help maintain the status quo in that private adoption groups in the state could continue to utilize certain faith-based requirements when selecting prospective adoption

“I worry that with out these protections that these boards are going to say we’re done doing child placement,” Solano said.

He said other cities and states have brought restrictions on private adoption agencies that require they drop placement standards based on religion or sexual orientation or risk losing state funding for the services or other programs.

Currently, more than a dozen private adoption agencies operate in the state and if they don’t contract with the state, they are able to turn away single parents, LGBTQ people or non-religious people. Six other organizations currently receive state funds and as a result must comply with state and federal standards that bar them from imposing restrictions based on religion, sexual orientation, marital status, race or gender identity.

Opponents of the bill, including civil rights groups and LGBT advocacy organizations have said the bill’s passage would lead to discrimination at the taxpayer’s expense and could land the state in court.

“This bill could prevent LGBT couples, interfaith couples, divorced people and many otherwise qualified, loving families from adopting children under the guise of religious liberty – all on the taxpayer’s dime,” said Libby Skarin, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. “Everyone has the right to their beliefs and to act on them, but that right doesn’t give anyone, including the government, a license to harm others.”

by Dana Ferguson, Argus Leader, 2/22/2017

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Vague anti same-sex marriage bills begin final steps through Virginia GA

Virginia gay

Today, in a Virginia Senate General Laws committee hearing, HB 2025, authored by Del. Freitas (R- 30) by a vote of 8-7.

Before the bill was passed it was amended to match its Virginia Senate counter part, SB 1324. This senate version, submitted by Sen. Carrico, is an exact copy of a bill he submitted last year – that legislation passed the House and Senate and was vetoed by McAuliffe weeks later.

Both bills, known as a solemnization bills,  aim to shield any “person” from punishment from the state, civil or otherwise, if they deny services in a same-sex marriage. It defines a “person” as a “religious organization, organization supervised or controlled by or operated in connection with a religious organization, individual employed by a religious organization while acting in the scope of his paid or volunteer employment, successor, representative, agent, agency, or instrumentality of any of the foregoing or clergy member or minister.”adoption for gay couples

In layman’s terms, it aims to protect pastors and other faith leaders in churches from civil or criminal punishment if they deny services to same-sex couples. However the bill has also been interpreted by some activists to include other faith-based organizations like church- run schools or hospitals, giving them the ability to refuse visitation rights by same-sex couples, or deny the children of same-sex parents in parochial programs.

The bill was amended and passed without comment and the vote was along party lines with no surprises.

Sen. Carrico’s bill now heads to the House General Laws Committee where it is set to similarly be passed with little debate or issue.

Gov. McAuliffe has promised to veto this bill along with any other bill which could negatively impact LGBTQ Virginians.

by Brad Kutner, February 13, 2107

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Artificial insemination parenting bill draws LGBT criticism

artificial insemination

Two Tennessee lawmakers want to do away with a 40-year-old state law granting legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination. Critics say the bill is aimed at gay couples and their children.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The bill would remove a single sentence applying to child custody when artificial insemination is involved, one that’s been interpreted to make no distinction between same-sex and heterosexual couples.

But opponents warn that changing the law could prevent both same-sex parents from appearing on the children’s birth certificates, affecting their ability to make parenting decisions ranging from medical care to education.

“It would affect lesbian couples in particular, because if you have two women who are married and one is the birth mother, the other one is presumed to be parent in Tennessee,” said Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project.anonymous sperm donors

Ever since the 2015 same-sex marriage ruling, Tennessee laws with gender-specific terms have been interpreted as applying to either gender of married couples. But that would change under another Republican bill that is seeking to eliminate gender-neutral interpretations of “mother,” ”father,” ”husband,” and “wife.” 

“Clearly, the legislative intention behind both these bills is to stop lesbian couples from having the same automatic recognition of their parent-child relationships that opposite-sex couples have,” Julia Tate-Keith, a Murfreesboro attorney specializing in adoption and surrogacy issues, said in a legal memo.

State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, the sponsor of the artificial insemination bill, in a Facebook post denied that her bill is aimed at same-sex marriage, and argued it would not de-legitimize children because another state law addresses parentage without asking about the method of conception.

“The remaining law that will now govern the situation does not have the government inquiring into the means by which the couple’s child came into existence or whose sperm, the husband’s or a donor’s, was used,” Weaver wrote in the post.

Weaver said there would be no change under her legislation for heterosexual couples. “A child born to a married woman will be considered the child of her husband,” she said in a statement.

But that part of the code refers to circumstances when “a man is rebuttably presumed to be the father of a child.” Tate-Keith said that that language does not carry the same gender-neutral interpretation as other parts of state law.

Sanders said that heterosexual couples would have to go through more legal steps if the bill becomes law.

“Straight couples will lose the presumption of paternity,” Sanders said. “It will require them to go to court.”

“What if you didn’t tell your family and friends you were getting fertility treatment?” he said. “It just creates more hardship, more hoops to jump through.”

By ERIK SCHELZIG Associated Press, February 13, 2017

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The LGBT Trump Disconnect

LGBT Trump, GLBT families,. LGBT families, LGBT Trump disconnect

The LGBT Trump disconnect is real and attention must be paid to what appears to be the beginning of a not so veiled assault on LGBT rights in America.

First, I must say that there is an LGBT Trump disconnect.  Since I wrote my first piece about LGBT family rights in the Trump presidency, a lot has changed.  I have heard from many people, and I myself wanted to believe, that Trump wouldn’t touch the LGBT gains that we have made during the Obama years.  But his actions have proven different.  His appointments, activity in state courts and the often unintelligible rhetoric we have become accustomed, all suggest that we may not be as safe as some thought we were.

The Appointment Problem – My greatest fears about Trump’s appointments center around the Department of Justice (DOJ), and more specifically, around the civil rights division of the that agency.  First, the long and telling history of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the Republican Senator from Alabama who President Trump has tapped to lead the DOJ, is troubling for many more that just LGBT Americans.  According to The Washington Post, Jeff Sessions has claimed to be a civil rights champion, yet he has overstated his experience and, in some cases, lied altogether about his involvement.  Sessions has spent the majority of his career attempting to undermine LGBT equality, the details of which are numerous and troubling.

But the worst of this story is that President Trump has chosen John M. Gore to head the DOJ’s Civil Right s division.  Mr. Gore, prior to this nomination, was in the process of defending North Carolina’s odious trans-bathroom bill.  Prior to that, he defended Republican efforts to gerrymander congressional districts in violation of the civil rights of minority Americans.       This is not only putting the fox in charge of the hen house, but the hens in this analogy are real people who have had their civil rights violated in what should be the most fundamental right this country possesses – the right to vote.  How can they now trust that their best interests will be defended by an agency whose sole purpose is supposed to be that defense.

The Visibility Problem – One of the first signs that there might be a distance between Trump’s “accepting” rhetoric toward the LGBT community during the campaign and what he plans to do as president appeared, or rather disappeared, within the first hour after he was sworn in.  The official White House website,, removed the LGBT rights page which had been there throughout Obama’s last term, and before.  No explanation was given, however, the pro-Trump Twittersphere rejoiced.LGBT Trump

In an equally expedient manner, all data regarding climate change was removed as well from the site.  As most LGBT Americans are not one issue voters, this deletion concerned me as much as the LGBT page being removed.  “Out of sight, out of mind,” seems to be the rule of law now.

The Marriage Issue – I referred earlier to things having changed since I wrote LGBT Family Rights in a Trump Presidency.  At that time, the Supreme Court of Texas had declined to re-hear a case which would abolish benefits that the City of Houston provides to same-sex married couples. On the inauguration day, the Supreme Court of Texas changed its mind, under GOP pressure.  The Republican Governor of Texas himself wrote a brief to the court asking them to reconsider essentially arguing that the Obergefell Supreme Court marriage decision does not apply to Texas.  In that brief, the Governor wrote of the “Federal Tyranny” of the courts and that Obergefell does not require that same-sex married couples and different-sex married couples deserve equal treatment under the law.

In my previous article, I was originally at a loss for identifying a case with a fact pattern that would make it to the Supreme Court which would have the effect of etching away at the Obergefell marriage decision.  This Texas case may be just that.  While it would undoubtedly take time to make it to the Supreme Court, who knows what its makeup will be then.  The anti-marriage movement’s argument is in development as well and may take the same amount of time to get its legs.  The Arkansas Supreme Court issued a decision based on this logic denying same-sex couples that right to be listed on their children’s birth certificates.  The issue is now before us and we cannot afford to stop paying attention.

After attending the Women’s March in Washington this last weekend, I left with a renewed sense of hope and possibility.  Hundreds of thousands of people made the impossible seem possible.  The greatest lesson that I took form my experience there was that no matter how generous I may have felt before in giving President Trump a chance to govern, I cannot forget, nor should any of us, that he won the election by dividing the country and making it clear that some people were simply not welcome.  This is the LGBT Trump disconnect.  I fear now that my beloved LGBT community has taken its place among the female, black, brown, Muslim and immigrant communities that were so vilified during the election and may have no voice in the Trump administration.  I hope that the LGBT Trump disconnect is a myth, but if past is prologue, we have no option other than to pay attention, remain engaged and share our feelings with everyone we can. 

For more information, visit, or email me at [email protected].  

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Under Trump, Approach to Civil Rights Law Is Likely to Change Definitively

civil rights

Washington — In the final weeks of the Obama administration, the Justice Department won the first hate-crime case involving a transgender victim and sued two cities for blocking mosques from opening.

Prosecutors settled lending-discrimination charges with two banks, then sued a third. They filed legal briefs on behalf of New York teenagers being held in solitary confinement, and accused Louisiana of forcing mentally ill patients into nursing homes.

And then, with days remaining, prosecutors announced a deal to overhaul Baltimore’s Police Department and accused Chicago of unconstitutional police hate

The moves capped a historic and sometimes controversial eight-year span in which the Justice Department pushed the frontiers of civil rights laws, inserting itself into private lawsuits and siding with transgender students, juvenile prisoners, the homeless, the blind, and people who videotape police officers. On issues of gay rights, policing, criminal justice, voting and more, government lawyers argued for a broad interpretation of civil rights laws, a view that they consistently said would put them on the right side of history.

Few areas of federal policy are likely to change so definitively. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, opposes not only the Justice Department’s specific policies on civil rights but its entire approach. While liberal Democrats have criticized Mr. Sessions’s views on specific issues like gay marriage and voting, the larger difference is how differently the Trump administration will view the government’s role in those areas.

by Matt Apuzzo, New York Times, January 19, 2017

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LGBT Family Rights in a Trump Presidency

LGBT family rights in a Trump presidency

Many are asking, “Will there be LGBT family rights in a Trump presidency?” While there certainly is cause for concern about the direction of our country, there are also certain realities that are reassuring.

I never thought I would be writing about LGBT family rights in a Trump presidency. But I also never received as many concerned calls from previous and prospective clients asking whether their marriages would be invalidated, or whether their second or step parent adoptions would be overturned.  These serious questions have led me to write about what I see as LGBT family rights in a Trump Presidency.

First, there is strong precedent holding that when a marriage is validly performed, it will be respected and honored under the law. This means that those LGBT Americans who are already married should not have to worry about a new Supreme Court taking their marriages away from them.LGBT family rights in a Trump presidency

For those who are not married but may wish to in the future, the question is a bit more nuanced. Shannon Minter, the legal director of NCLR, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and one of the smartest legal minds in our community, said in a recent press release, “it is also highly unlikely that the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry will be challenged or that the Supreme Court would revisit its 2015 holding that same-sex couples have that fundamental right.”  Mr. Minter is basing this belief on the long held tradition of the court to honor its previous decisions, a term called stare decisis.

The question many legal scholars are asking is whether a newly conservative Supreme Court will ultimately hear a case challenging the right of LGBT couples to marry and overturn the Obergefell marriage decision. While unlikely, it is possible. We can only wait to see who Trump appoints to the Supreme Court.

The most moving calls that I have received in the past days have been from people either in the process of having their families or plan to have families in the near future. They are deeply concerned about the security of their families.  I recently wrote about New York’s changing family law and how second and step parent adoption are now critical to create unassailable family protections, particularly for non-genetically related parents.  These specific forms of adoption are state based and largely shielded from Federal meddling.  That said, if you have a child and have not gone through the adoption process, it is strongly recommended that you do so now rather than later, when our Federal judicial system may be less friendly to LGBT families.

Among LGBT lawyers, one issue of great concern regards transgender Americans and obtaining accurate gender markers on federally issued identification, such as passports. While there is a transgender rights case which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear, we do not yet know whether a ninth more conservative justice will be appointed in time to hear it.

My husband reminded me that politics is cyclical. We have bounced between conservative and liberal presidents and congresses many time before, however, we have never before been faced with a president who based his entire campaign on dividing America by fearful and bigoted rhetoric.  We have never before had a President who, during his campaign, threatened to ban all Muslims from the country, or “lock up” his presidential opponent or degrade women as objects of his own control and pleasure.

Now more than ever it is time to be proactive. Many of us have experienced the shock and sadness associated with the loss of what we had hoped would be a liberal president in the White House.  We are entering uncharted territory.  LGBT family rights in a Trump Presidency will undoubtedly take some hits, but we are a strong, resilient and loving community.  And we have the tools to protect our families.   Don’t fail to use them!

By Anthony m. Brown, Esq.  November 11, 2016 – For more information, visit or email Anthony at [email protected].

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Taiwan Set to Legalize Same-Sex Marriages, a First in Asia


Su Shan and her partner are raising 5-month-old twins together, but only one of the women is their legal parent. That could soon change as Taiwan appears set to become the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Now, if something happens to the child, the other partner is nothing but a stranger,” said Su, a 35-year-old software engineer in Taipei in Taiwan. By contrast, either partner in a legally recognized marriage could make legal, medical and educational decisions, she says.

Taiwanese lawmakers are currently working on three bills in support of marriage equality, one of which is already listed for review and could be passed within months. Same-sex marriage also has the prominent support of President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female head of state.marriage equality

About 80 percent of Taiwanese between ages 20 and 29 support same-sex marriage, said Tseng Yen-jung, spokeswoman for the group Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy , citing local university studies. Taiwan’s United Daily News found in a survey taken four years ago that 55 percent of the public supported same-sex marriage, with 37 percent opposed.

That’s seen as a reflection of Taiwan’s ready acceptance of multi-party democracy and other inclusive attitudes, as well as the fact that Taiwan’s 23 million people largely follow Buddhismand traditional Chinese religions that take no strong positions on sexual orientation or gay marriage.

Gay and lesbian relationships began to find wide acceptance in the 1990s, aided by the already well-established feminist movement, said Jens Damm, associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies at Chang Jung University in Taiwan.

“The elite became in favor of a kind of gender equality,” Damm said.

Still, same-sex marriage still had to overcome traditional perceptions of gender roles and the strong pressure on children to marry and have kids. The self-ruled island also lacks many openly gay and lesbian celebrities to lead the way; the writer and television talk show host Kevin Tsai is among the few exceptions.


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Nov 10, 2016

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Arkansas court hears case over same-sex birth certificates

gay parents adopting, same sex paretners

Arkansas Supreme Court justices questioned Thursday whether it’s up to them or the Legislature to change the state’s birth certificate law after gay marriage was legalized nationwide, as they weighed a lawsuit brought by three same-sex couples who wanted both spouses listed as parents.

 LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — State Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky told justices that a Pulaski County judge went too far last year by striking down part of the state’s birth certificate law as unconstitutional, and said a narrower change to the state’s artificial insemination law would address most of the concerns. Judge Tim Fox’s ruling last year struck down portions of the birth certificate law that limits references to spouses as husband or wife.

Fox’s ruling, Rudofsky said, “upends centuries of family law and flies in the face of clear legislative intent.”lesbian family law

Justices in December agreed to temporarily halt Fox’s ruling regarding the birth certificate law while they considered the appeal. The court did not halt a separate order from Fox allowing the three same-sex couples who brought the lawsuit to amend their children’s birth certificates. Rudofsky said changing the state law regarding artificial insemination would allow both same-sex spouses to be listed as parents if they were married at the time of the child’s birth. Under that change, same-sex couples who weren’t married at the time of the child’s birth would still need a court order to both be listed.

Interim Chief Justice Howard Brill asked Cheryl Maples, the attorney for the couples, whether it was the court’s role to rewrite the birth certificate law.

“Shouldn’t we direct the Legislature to revise the statutes to comply with the Constitution in a gender neutral way instead of a trial judge or this court trying to rewrite major statutes with all the implications that are involved?,” Brill asked. “Isn’t this a question for the Legislature to correct constitutional flaws in this?”

“If we wait for the Legislature to take necessary steps to comply with the Obergefell decision, we may never see those changes,” Maples said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that legalized gay marriage.

Justice Rhonda Wood questioned the argument that lawmakers should have the first crack at making a change, noting that the Legislature hasn’t taken up the issue since gay marriage was legalized last year.

“I feel it’s a little disingenuous to say wait on the Legislature because the Legislature has had special sessions since the case came down and it hasn’t been a priority,” Wood said. Lawmakers have convened for three special sessions and an abbreviated session on the budget since that ruling.

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Cambodian Ministry of Health Bans Surrogate Pregnancy


The health minister has banned surrogate pregnancy arrangements in the country, putting the brakes on what appeared to be a quickly expanding—if controversial—industry. The move comes just days after the justice minister called for the practice to be outlawed.

Addressing representatives of Cambodia’s medical community during a meeting at the Health Ministry on Monday, Health Minister Mam Bunheng announced a ban on surrogacy, according to staff from a Phnom Penh fertility clinic who were present.

The ban is among other measures outlined in a new prakas on the management of blood, ovum, marrow and human cells that Mr. Bunheng approved last surrogacy

“Surrogacy, one of a set of services to have a baby by assisted reproductive technology, is completely banned,” says the proclamation, dated October 24.

It also bans commercial sperm donation and requires clinics and specialist doctors providing in vitro fertilization services to receive permission from the ministry.

Experts estimate up to 50 surrogacy providers and brokers are operating in Cambodia, many of which moved their businesses here in response to other countries in Asia—including India, Nepal and Thailand—either tightening regulations around the practice or banning it outright.

It remained unclear if surrogacy providers would be granted a grace period to make alternate arrangements, what measures would be taken to enforce compliance, and the implications for women who are currently pregnant—and would-be parents on the other side of the transaction.

Spokesmen for the Health Ministry and Justice Ministry could not be reached on Wednesday.

In August, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs met with members of government and health organizations to discuss its response to reports that surrogacy agents were flocking to the country. Late last month, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana called for a ban on surrogacy, describing it as a form of human “trading.”

by  November 3, 2016

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