This page contains news for the period March 14, 2002 through
March 2002 >>
Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Civil rights group not to pursue same-sex adoption case in Nebraska
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the American
Civil Liberties Union said Monday it will not challenge a court ruling that
thwarted an attempt by a same-sex couple to adopt a child.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled March 8 in the case of a Lincoln woman
who wants her female partner to adopt her son.
The court ruled that the boy cannot be adopted because the mother has not
relinquished her parental rights. However, the court avoided deciding if
same-sex couples are prohibited from adopting in Nebraska.
ACLU officials, after meeting with the women, decided over the weekend
against asking the court to reconsider the ruling.
''They just want to get on with their lives,'' said Tim Butz, executive
director of ACLU in Nebraska. ''They are going to relocate to a state that
will allow them to form the family that they want.''
Deputy Attorney General Steve Grasz said the ruling does not necessarily
preclude a couple from adopting a child whose parent or parents already have
relinquished parental rights.
Grasz argued that the mother's lover has no legal rights to adopt the
child, even though she has helped raise him.
While Nebraska law contains no specific provision prohibiting adoptions
by same-sex couples, Grasz said that does not mean it is legal.
Monday, March 18, 2002
Connecticut unlikely to tackle civil unions this legislative session
A story published today by the Hartford Courant reports that same-sex
couples won’t probably be granted a license to marry this year, but they
could gain a host of legal rights and responsibilities long associated with
Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the legislature's judiciary
committee, predicted there would be broad support for a measure to expand
the rights of same-sex couples without delving into the more contentious
question of gay marriage.
"I think there's a willingness to acknowledge that a variety of state
laws could be adjusted," said Lawlor, a Democrat from East Haven. "If that's
where everyone is right now, why not go ahead and do it?"
Gay and lesbian activists say there are about 588 state statutes that
mention marital status. Most of them concern relatively esoteric matters,
"paperwork stuff," Lawlor said.
The bill is still being crafted. But Lawlor said it may include
provisions that would allow gays and lesbians hospital access to ailing
partners, the right to be treated as a crime victim if one's partner is
murdered and control of a dead partner's bank safety deposit box, among
Not all of the items under consideration are benefits. The bill would
also likely require the same-sex partners of legislators to comply with the
same ethics rules that govern their married colleagues, Lawlor said.
Opponents say they object to any legislation that would extend the rights
and responsibilities of marriage to gay couples, even if the measure stops
well short of marriage.
If approved, Connecticut would follow California, which last year enacted
a law that dramatically expanded the rights of same-sex partners. Vermont
has gone one step further by permitting gays and lesbians to enter into
civil unions, marriage-like partnerships recognized by the state.
Activists in Connecticut said they had hoped the General Assembly would
become the first legislature in the nation to approve full and equal
marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Given the briefness of the legislative session, and a budget crisis that
has dominated the agenda, it seems unlikely there will be time for a lengthy
debate on the marriage issue. "We recognize in a short session we're not
going to get what we were hoping to get," said Anne Stanback, president of
Love Makes a Family, a coalition of organizations and individuals working to
expand Connecticut's marriage laws.
Planning ahead your future
A story published today by the Times reports that thanks to the high rate
of divorce and the number of women from the baby-boom generation who chose
careers over marriage, many are starting in their 50s, while they're still
healthy planning for their retiring years. Some are buying homes in
retirement communities that have plenty of health-care services. Others are
fostering networks of younger family members and neighbors willing to help
out if they become ill. Many are designating friends or siblings who will
eventually dispose of their homes and treasured possessions. Some are even
planning their funeral, right down to the number of limousines and the type
of food served at the postburial reception.
One of the first things anyone without kids should learn before planning
an estate is the difference between a will and a trust, says David Lockwood,
partner in the Greenwood Village, Colo., law firm Engel Reiman & Lockwood.
So-called revocable trusts have many advantages over traditional wills
for people whose most important relationships are likely to change over
time. Revocable trusts allow you to place most of your assets-such as bank
accounts, stocks and real estate-into a fund you control for the benefit of
whomever you designate. You must indicate when you set up the trust who will
receive each of those assets, but you can change the terms at any time.
A trust, unlike a traditional will, is not subject to probate expenses
should there be any disputes among beneficiaries. For married couples, any
assets left to a surviving spouse are not taxed under current federal law.
But if your estate is worth more than $1 million, whatever your spouse
leaves to a survivor is then subject to estate tax, which can be as high as
55%, says Sally Merrell, partner with the Milwaukee law firm Quarles & Brady
Merrell points out that people without children have one big advantage
when it comes to estate planning: they get to leave whatever they want to
whomever they choose. "If you have two children, you may feel compelled to
leave equal amounts of money to each one-even if you are a lot closer with
one kid," says Merrell. "But if you have a nephew who is a dear and a niece
who isn't, you probably wouldn't be too concerned about leaving more money
to that nephew."
Another critical ingredient in estate planning is granting a power of
attorney, says David Tysk, senior financial adviser with American Express
Financial Advisors in Bloomington, Minn. The person you designate--a
relative, friend or neighbor--will be able to pay your bills and handle
related matters if you become ill. In conjunction with a power of attorney,
you should have a health-care proxy that states your medical wishes.
Planning for health care, in fact, is just as important as planning your
estate. People without kids need to prepare for that major, life-altering
illness long before it happens or before they start to see changes in their
health, says Rose Glamoclija, registered nurse and owner of Boca Nursing
Services, a Boca Raton, Fla., geriatric-care agency. "If you get to the
point where you're alone and suffer a stroke, it's too late," says
One option is to move into a retirement community that offers health-care
support services. "Your dream may be to retire to the country, but you don't
want to live in the middle of nowhere and have your only friend and neighbor
be a squirrel," says Barbara Flom of the Chicago law firm Goldberg, Kohn,
Bell, Black, Rosenbloom & Moritz Ltd., most of whose clients are childless.
A geriatric-care agency can place weekly or twice-weekly calls and visit
you monthly if you have health concerns. These organizations can also help
you find alternative housing, such as assisted living, should you need it.
Sunday, March 17, 2002
Delaware commissioner paints broad interpretation on child support
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the state of
Delaware has joined a handful of states breaking legal ground in child
support with a court ruling that two women should both be considered parents
of a 4-year-old boy to whom one gave birth after in-vitro fertilization.
The women, who have separated, are identified in court papers by the
pseudonyms of Karen Chambers, the birth mother, and Carol Chambers.
Karen sought mandatory child support after Carol was awarded permanent
Carol, who says she helped pay for the fertility treatments and pays
voluntary child support, argued that the state should not force her to pay
because she has no biological or adoptive connection to the child and
because Delaware does not recognize same-sex couples.
Family Court Commissioner John Carrow rejected Carol's arguments and
ordered both sides to attend a child support hearing Monday.
"This is a very new area of law," said Tiffany Palmer, legal director at
the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia. "These are
important cases because they reinforce that rights and responsibilities go
Karen's attorney, Michael Corrigan, said Carrow's ruling is a broad
interpretation of the Delaware Parentage Act.
"It takes a very liberal reading of the statute, there's no question, to
say it can apply to something other than a biological or adoptive mother or
father," Corrigan said.
Friday, March 15, 2002
Kansas high court upholds original definition of marriage in state
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Kansas
Supreme Court has ruled that the state doesn't consider a marriage between a
man and a transsexual woman valid.
The ruling came in the case of J'Noel Gardiner, whose right to inherit
half of her late husband's estate was challenged because she was born a man.
The Kansas Supreme Court's ruling means Gardiner can't inherit the
Kansas law declares same-sex marriages invalid, but doesn't specify
whether the same applies to marriages involving transsexuals.
In a unanimous opinion, the justices say state lawmakers made it clear
they recognize only traditional marriages between "two parties who are of
the opposite sex."
Renewed optimism seen in UK's domestic partner adoption bill
A story released today by the Guardian reports that British Ministers in
favor of giving unmarried and same-sex couples the right to adopt appear
poised to win the argument. A final decision will be taken after MPs return
from their Easter break, but last night there was renewed optimism that all
obstacles to adoption would be removed.
A cross-party group of backbenchers is to table amendments to a
government bill, opening up adoption to all couples in "stable and
committed" relationships. More than 130 parliament members are backing the
Yesterday, representatives of 18 child welfare agencies argued that, with
15% of couples now living together rather than marrying, the government's
plan to increase the number of children in adopted care by 40% would be
impossible to achieve unless the ban on unmarried couples was lifted.
The government is concerned that the move would have wider implications
for the rights of unmarried couples, and some ministers argue that any
change should wait until a review of registration is completed.
Thursday, March 14, 2002
Florida same-sex couples adoption law challenged
A story released today by ABC News reports that a generation ago, former
beauty queen Anita Bryant put the national spotlight on Florida and gay
Bryant led a successful crusade to overturn a Miami ordinance banning
discrimination against gays. Then, with public support firmly behind Bryant,
the Florida legislature passed a law that barred homosexuals from adopting
children in 1977.
Today, that law and Florida's posture toward gays are back in the
spotlight, as another famous woman, Rosie O'Donnell, is helping to champion
gay rights. Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau, whose case got O'Donnell's
attention, are challenging Florida's gay adoption ban.
The vast majority of states do not specifically prohibit gays and
lesbians from adopting children. In fact, only three states prohibit the
practice. Some states are considering similar legislation while others have
made adoption easier for homosexuals.
Florida's law is considered the nation's toughest, because it prohibits
adoptions not only by same-sex couples, but also by gay individuals. Several
legislators who signed the original legislation have now signed a statement
saying the legislation was a mistake passed in a climate of prejudice and
Rep. Randy Ball, a state legislator from Cape Canaveral, says he still
has concerns about gay adoption.
"Homosexual couples do not provide the kind of stable, wholesome
environment that would justify the state having a law that allows them to
adopt children," he says.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to weigh in on the law's
Civil rights group wants Florida’s adoption law repealed
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that opponents of
Florida's ban on adoption by gays and lesbians are urging lawmakers to
repeal the measure, citing the support of thousands of state residents.
"People need to be judged on their individual fitness as to whether or
not they can be adoptive parents," said Matt Coles, national director of the
ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "This law is going to come down."
Florida is the only state that prohibits gay people, both couples and
individuals, from adopting. It doesn't bar gays from being foster parents.
Two other states, Mississippi and Utah, bar same-sex couples from adopting.
A federal judge upheld the ban on gay adoption last year, but civil
liberties groups are appealing to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
As part of its effort to overturn the ban, the ACLU has begun an e-mail
campaign directed at Gov. Jeb Bush and the state's adoption agency urging
the law's repeal. Coles says it has generated 80,000 messages, including
about 10,000 from Florida.
Lisa Gates, a spokeswoman for Bush, disputed those figures, saying that
as of Thursday the governor's office had received 3,821 e-mails from Florida
residents in support of repealing the law. Another 39,997 non-Floridians
also wrote in, Gates said.
Bush's office wouldn't disclose his view on the law, referring all
questions to the Department of Children and Families. Department spokeswoman
LaNedra Carroll said the agency is simply doing its job when it refuses to
let same-sex couples adopt.
"We have to follow the law, we must comply with the law, which has been
upheld by the federal courts and is now on appeal," Carroll said.
British Prime Minister sets aside controversial adoption bill
A story released today by This is London reports that British Prime
Minister Tony Blair has dealt a blow to same-sex and unmarried heterosexual
couples by shelving plans to allow them to adopt.
He appears to be avoiding a damaging showdown over same-sex adoption by
setting aside the controversial issue until after the next general election.
When the Government's adoption Bill comes before the House of Commons on
Wednesday, Labour party lawmakers plan to oppose an amendment that would
give unmarried couples the same rights as married couples or a single parent
to adopt or foster a child.
The amendment, backed by a cross-party group of MPs, is being blocked
amid fears in Downing Street that political opponents would accuse them of
helping homosexual couples to have a child.
Instead, Prime Minister Blair has decided to pass the issue to his
political secretary Sally Morgan, one of his most trusted aides.
Baroness Morgan, who heads Downing Street's Equality Unit, will look at
the subject as part of her review into the registration of same-sex
The decision has infuriated MPs and children's charities who believe that
unmarried couples should be given the same adoption rights as married
couples. They say it would greatly improve the lives of many children by
widening the pool of potential parents.
One of the adoption bill's aims is to place 40 percent more children with
families, but that will not happen unless more couples come forward. The
move will reinforce the belief that the Prime Minister is deliberately
avoiding making big lifestyle decisions which could provoke hostility from
voters, even though the next general election is not due until 2006.
The controversy is also an embarrassment for Health Secretary Alan
Milburn, who is not married to his long-term partner, and whose department
has championed the proposal.