Anyone who values equality, non-discrimination, and respect for diversity is justified in fearing what assaults on LGBT rights may be ahead with a Trump presidency, particularly given the policy positions of his cabinet picks. Like-minded attorneys are already mobilizing to make sure we're ready to fight any anti-LGBT efforts the new administration makes, but it's important that members of the community also take individual action to protect themselves to the greatest extent possible before barriers are erected.
If you are a transgender person who has not yet completed your name and gender marker changes on official documents, now is the time to do it! Please spread the word about the free legal clinic hosted by the QLaw Legal Clinic and the Gender Justice League next Wednesday, November 30, from 6:30-9pm at Agnes Underground. Hope to see you there!
I'm so excited to be marching in the Seattle Pride parade this year with fellow attorneys who are committed to justice & equality for all. Special thanks to Rosemarie Lemoine, an incredible attorney and ally to the LGBTQ community, for designing the banner and coordinating the KCBA contingent that will be marching behind it.
How will you be celebrating PrideFest? Check out all the great events here: http://www.seattlepridefest.org/
I have had the privilege of working with Mary Irons in conjunction with a case involving transgender parental rights, and I am pleased to have been invited to spread the word about the support group she has organized for transgender parents and their children:
It's been a long time since I've posted (lots of great cases keeping me busy!) but I just had to take a moment and acknowledge the tremendous progress that has been made in recent weeks throughout the country towards equality for all families! Click on the map for more information from HRC, or check out this article from Vox about how the last two weeks changed everything.
While most of the focus has been on marriage, with state bans on same-sex unions falling like dominoes, other good news includes the ability of same-sex partners to adopt. As with marriage, there is still a long way to go in adoption law to replace discriminatory policies with ones that support families (earlier this year I was absolutely sickened by this story out of Texas), but we're getting there.
Fortunately, living in Washington means there are no legal barriers to adoption by loving parents of the same sex; unfortunately, that does not necessarily mean prejudices don't exist within the world of private adoption. If you're looking for a local adoption agency that is sure to respect your family, consider checking out Amara in Seattle or Your Adoptive Family on Vashon - both are considered "Leaders in Supporting and Serving LGBT Families" by the HRC's All Children, All Families program.
It's been a while since I've posted because there are so many exciting things keeping the firm busy, but I had to take a moment to invite you to join us and many other members of the legal community, business professionals, and elected officials in celebrating the work of the QLaw Foundation at the annual FallTacular, which raises money for public interest internships for law students, free legal services, and educational programs benefiting Washington's GLBT communities. If you're able to come and join the fun for a good cause, look for Kate (founding attorney), Tara (our newest addition), and some firm giveaways!
At first glance, this may seem like an odd topic for a family law blog, but it really isn't--pets are family too! The first step to protecting your furry children is to get them licensed and microchiped so they can always find their way home. If you renew an expired license in the month of April, the city waives all fines.
Pets actually come up in family law quite a bit. Did you know that you can include your pets in a domestic violence protection order? In addition to providing for you to have custody of your children and secure possession of your belongings when leaving an abusive partner (or have the abuser removed from the home--you don't have to leave to be safe!), you can ensure that your pet remains safely with you in a standard Washington State DVPO:
This is crucial because pets are frequently victims too. There is a well-known correlation between cruelty to animals and antisocial behavior, and even if someone has not abused an animal before, victims standing up for themselves can trigger new controlling behavior in batterers, including using a beloved pet to harm their victim indirectly. You can read more at ASPCA.
Loving pet families have different incentives for including animals in their family law orders. Although Washington State requires the use of standardized forms for domestic relations (family law) cases, and pet custody isn't mentioned, there are plenty of opportunities under the headings of "Other" to write in provisions that fit your family, and it is becoming more and more common to include provisions for the care of pets. Some people choose to allow a pet to stay with whichever party is keeping the family home, while others may want the pet to travel between households along with the human children to foster a greater sense of normalcy for them. Whatever you decide is best for your family, you should include it in your court papers, for the same reason a parenting plan goes into so much detail--the less ambiguity there is, the less conflict there will be, and the easier it will be for everyone to adjust to the changes of a family restructuring.
Advocates for equality know we have common sense, morality, and justice on our side, but it's always nice to have science too. In anticipation of the arguments to be heard this week by the Supreme Court on two key marriage equality cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a new study and announced its formal policy statement in support of marriage equality because of the benefit to the nearly 2 million children being raised by gay and lesbian in the U.S. today:
"To promote optimal health and well-being of all children, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports access for all children to (1) civil marriage rights for their parents and (2) willing and capable foster and adoptive parents, regardless of the parents' sexual orientation." (click for full policy statement)
The study confirms what we already know: it's parents' love for their children that matters, not their sexuality. There may not ever be a point in our lifetimes when everyone accepts this basic truth, but hopefully, starting tomorrow (countdown with United for Marriage!), our country will be setting out on a path towards policy based on fact and fairness rather than the ignorant intolerance of the shrinking minority.
Recognizing that access to the civil justice system is a fundamental right, the Access to Justice Board works to achieve equal access for those facing economic and other significant barriers.
The Pro Se Project Forms Review Work Group of the Washington State Supreme Court's Access to Justice Board is working to make family law forms easier for non-lawyers to use...but that name alone makes me skeptical about their ability to do that job well. One of the big problems with attorneys, as is true in many professions, is that we have spent so much time gaining the education and experience needed to be good at our jobs that we tend to forget what it was like before we became part of this world, and how intimidating and confusing it seemed from the outside.
Attorneys are likely going to end up having the most influence over the new forms because we're plugged in to the court system's inner workings and deal with these documents every day, but the input of non-lawyers is what should matter most. The whole purpose of this agency is to make it easier for people to deal with legal issues even if they can't afford an attorney, but we can't achieve that goal from inside our lawyer bubble. The new proposed parenting plan form is open for comment from the public, so here's your chance to let us know: is it easy to understand? if you've had a Washington parenting plan before, is this one better? what's missing? what needs to be explained more clearly? Submit your comments directly to the court and be heard!
“This means so much to those of us who dedicated ourselves to the military, only to be forced out against our will for being who we are,” said Collins. “We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.”
Thanks to a class-action suit by the ACLU, servicemembers who were discharged on account of sexual orientation in the years leading up to the repeal of DADT will now be entitled to their full separation pay. Previously, the Department of Defense Policy was to cut this transitional period compensation in half for members of this class of veterans, despite lengthy and honorable service.
View the settlement press release
View more info on Collins v. US
This case highlights two big problems with the law when it comes to progress towards equality and full respect of human dignity: (1) messy bureaucracy, and (2) statutes of limitation. The suit was necessary because the provision for cutting severance pay of anyone discharged for homosexuality was not part of DADT, so it was not repealed when DADT was--discrimination is not always isolated in one bad policy, it may be strewn throughout the laws and administrative regulations governing the conduct of government departments and agencies. And the suit can only offer a remedy for those discharged since 2004, because the law limits the amount of time in which it is possible to right old wrongs--those who experienced the same unjust treatment in earlier years are out of luck.
These problems are certainly not limited to the military or to the federal system. Washington, and Seattle in particular, have enacted some great protections against discrimination, but sometimes coverage is incomplete and legal action is needed to close the gaps. If you believe you may have been the victim of any type of discrimination, consult an attorney right away to hopefully avoid a statute of limitations problems barring you from taking action.
Every case is different. Any information contained in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.