Category Archives: Uncategorized

Same-Sex Canadian Marriages in Jeopardy? Not Yet.

This morning, reports from Canada caused a ripple of anxiety throughout the United States when a Canadian government attorney put forth the position that Canadian marriages of same-sex couples from places where same-sex marriage is not legal would not be considered valid in Canada, either. The issue arose when a lesbian couple sought a divorce in Canada. Neither of them lived in Canada when they married–one was from Britain and the other from Florida–and the government attorney argued that because the marriage would not be legal in either of those places, it is not legal in Canada, either, and therefore the women could not get a divorce.

Anyone who married in Canada and lives in a non-recognition state should take a deep breath, because your marriage is valid and likely to remain so. As stated in a press release issued by a consortium of LGBT legal groups today, “The position taken by one government lawyer in a divorce is not itself precedential. No court has accepted this view and there is no reason to believe that either Canada’s courts or its Parliament would agree with this position, which no one has asserted before or during the eight years that same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Canada.”

Moreover, Prime Minister Steven Harper insists that his government does not wish to reopen the debate over same-sex marriage, and he was apparently unaware of the argument made by the government attorney. However, the government is also intervening in an Ontario case by arguing that two Canadian men who entered into a same-sex civil partnership in the UK, a status which is legally equivalent to marriage, also can’t get a divorce in Canada because they are not legally married there.

Not having marriage equality sure does make things complicated. There will surely be more information forthcoming on this story, but for now, if you have a Canadian marriage, you are still married.

Heartbreaking Will Contest for Widow of Chicago Lesbian

The National Center for Lesbian Rights has a new client, Jennifer Tobits. Jennifer’s case is tragic, symbolic, and legally significant. It’s tragic in its human dimensions–a grieving widow is forced to contend with her late partner’s homophobic and heartless family and their efforts to erase her legal marriage. It’s symbolic in its demonstration of why same-sex couples need legal protections and how DOMA is still being used to challenge our legal relationships–and in a way, of how the more things change, the more they stay the same. (Remember Sharon Kowalski and Karen Thompson, anyone? That was more than 20 years ago.) And it’s legally significant in that it requires a court to decide whether DOMA applies to a private company as well as whether the couple’s Canadian marriage will be recognized in Illinois. Read this great post by Professor Nan Hunter about the legal details, and this blog by Kate Kendell providing some context for the case.

“I” is for Intersex

Today’s post is to let you know about a non-profit organization doing important legal advocacy work on behalf of a group that many people know only as the “I” on the end of “LGBTQI.” Just for the record, that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning—and the “I” is for intersex.

A person born with an intersex condition or DSD (differences of sex development) may have genitals that don’t look like most people’s; the person’s sex chromosomes or reproductive organs may not fit medical expectations. Sometimes, doctors aren’t sure whether an intersex baby is a boy or a girl, leaving the doctor and the parents confused about what to do.

Unfortunately, all too often the response is to perform irreversible “normalizing” surgeries, based on a belief that “correcting” the child’s gender assignment will benefit the child—and sometimes on a belief that the gender assignment will prevent the child from growing up to be gay or lesbian. In fact, these unnecessary and nonconsensual surgeries cause enormous harm to children.

Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is the only organization in the U.S. to undertake a coordinated strategy of legal advocacy for the rights of children with intersex conditions. In the short time AIC has existed, the organization has:

  • · Published extensively on intersex and the law
  • · Established ongoing advisory relationships with treatment teams at leading hospitals and universities.
  • · Facilitated apologies from leading hospitals to an intersex adult for harm resulting from childhood medical care.
  • · Advised parents about their rights on legal issues ranging from medical malpractice to school bullying.
  • · Catalyzed three federal investigations of human research involving intersex children.

I’m sharing this information because I’m appalled by the current standard of care for intersex children and impressed by AIC’s tactics and plans for changing it. I want people to notice, support, and spread the word about this important legal work on behalf of a ridiculously underserved part of our community.