DOJ files anti-DOMA brief
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a brief in support of federal court employee Karen Golinski’s lawsuit seeking access to equal health benefits for her wife. In the brief, the DOJ unequivocally argues in Golinski’s favor that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
The brief contains the strongest argument President Barack Obama’s administration has made against DOMA to date, acknowledging the government’s “significant and regrettable role” contributing to LGBT discrimination. The DOJ advised the Obama administration to cease its defense of DOMA in court in February 2011, but the decision to affirmatively make the case against DOMA represents “a significant and transformative moment in the struggle against this discriminatory legislation” notes a statement from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Republican leaders in the U.S. House have retained outside counsel to defend DOMA in the case.
Historic Presby changes take effect
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Sunday, July 10, changes to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution went into effect, allowing the ordination of openly LGBT ministers, elders and deacons. Ratification of the policy change was assured on May 10, when a majority of the nation’s 173 presbyteries voted in favor of the amendment. Voting continued through July and in the end, 97 presbyteries approved the change.
Presbyterian groups and churches across America celebrated by opening worship services on the 10th with a special invocation and prayer. To assist, More Light Presbyterians created a special common liturgy and prayer for the occasion.
High court petitioned in adoption
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lambda Legal has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of a same-sex couple seeking an accurate birth certificate for their Louisiana-born son whom they adopted in New York. The state of Louisiana has refused to recognize the adoption and issue a birth certificate listing both fathers as the boy’s parents.
Lambda Legal represents adoptive parents Oren Adar and Mickey Smith in their case against Louisiana State Registrar Darlene Smith. When the couple attempted to get a new birth certificate for their child, in part so Smith could add his son to his health insurance, the registrar’s office told him that Louisiana does not recognize adoption by unmarried parents so they could not issue it.
“We have long since abandoned the notion that the government can punish children to express disapproval of their parents or their families. The state of Louisiana cannot withhold a birth certificate for this child simply because it doesn’t like who his parents are,” said Kenneth D. Upton, a Supervising Senior Staff Attorney with Lambda Legal.
Gays nominated to tax court
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barak Obama has nominated two openly-gay individuals to the U.S. Tax Court: Judge Joseph Gale — who just completed his first term with the Tax Court, the principal court for resolution of tax disputes between taxpayers and the Federal government — and Albert Lauber, currently the Director of the Graduate Tax and Securities Programs and a Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School. In a statement following the nomination of Gale and Lauber, President Obama remarked that he was proud to nominate both men and praised their “unwavering integrity and a firm commitment to public service throughout their careers.”
Lesbian custody case ruling
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against Michelle Hobbs, a lesbian mother who sought custody of her child in a case disputed since December 2007. On July 12, a closely-divided court ruled 4 to 3 in favor of the claim by Kelly Mullen, the biological mother, that Hobbs has no parental rights and responsibilities for the daughter they jointly raised from birth.
“This decision is a tragedy for the child, above all else,” said Christopher Clark, a Senior Staff Attorney with Lambda Legal. “The court disregarded the overwhelming evidence that Ms. Mullen agreed to parent Lucy with Ms. Hobbs ‘in every way.’ Regrettably, the decision severs a parent-child relationship between Lucy and the person she knows to be her mother.”
Hobbs and Mullen were in a committed relationship for five years and decided to have a child together. When their relationship ended, Mullen denied Hobbs any contact with her daughter. A motion by Hobbs for joint custody was granted by a magistrate judge, overturned by a juvenile court, and an appellate court upheld the reversal. The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in February.
Commission calls for rights
KAMPALA, Uganda — The Uganda Human Rights Commission has called on the newly sworn-in Ugandan 9th Parliament to decriminalize homosexuality. In the commission’s annual report to Parliament, the UHRC said it is “gravely concerned that homosexual behaviour [is] criminalized in Uganda.” This is the second consecutive report in which the state-funded commission has urged the government to recognize the rights of gays and lesbians.
The commission’s position has been vehemently opposed by anti-gay cabinet ministers and legislators who say the government did not establish the body to promote “criminals.” UHRC Chairperson Meddi Kaggwa counters that there have been increased incidents of mob justice around the country which means more resources are needed to educate the public on the rule of law and to protect gays from vigilante justice.