Kansas Supreme Court Rules to Protect the Interests of Children in All Families, Regardless of Parents’ Sexual Orientation

February 22, 2013

(Topeka, KS, February 22, 2013)—Today, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that when a same-sex couple has a child together, both parents can be fully recognized as parents under Kansas state law. The court explained that Kansas parentage laws apply equally to women and non-biological parents, and that courts must consider the reality of who a child’s parents are in order to protect the interests of children. The court also ruled that an agreement to co-parent and share custody can be enforceable.

With this ruling, Kansas joins a number of other states in ruling that when two people bring a child into the world and then raise that child as co-parents, the law should treat both of them as the child’s parents, regardless of gender or biology. These courts have recognized that reality is that the children in these families exist, and the law cannot turn its back on that reality or on a child’s need for stability and a protected relationship with both parents. This ruling is significant not only for same-sex parents, but also for many kinds of families where non-biological parents are raising children.

Marci Frazier and Kelly Goudschaal were in a same-sex relationship and decided to have children together through insemination. Kelly was the birth mother for their two children, who they then raised for many years as co-parents. They gave the children hyphenated last names, and the two mothers signed a written agreement saying that they both intended to be parents and share custody of the children. Unfortunately, the relationship between Kelly and Marci broke down in 2008. They co-parented the children for a period of time after separation, but then Kelly cut off contact between Marci and the children.

After Marci went to court to try to see the children again, a Kansas trial court granted joint custody to the two women. Kelly appealed this order and argued that Marci was not a parent and had no right to seek custody. The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling and explained that both women could be legally recognized as parents under Kansas law.

“Today, the Kansas Supreme Court recognized that children with same-sex parents have the same need for stability and protection as children in any other family. We are grateful to the court for this thoughtful decision protecting the best interests of children in all families,” said Cathy Sakimura, NCLR Family Law Director.

“Today’s decision is important and ground breaking,” said Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “The court rightly found that the co-parenting agreement was not only legal, but that it served the best interest of the children.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri, and ACLU Foundation submitted an amicus brief in support of recognizing both mothers. Amicus briefs in support of the non-biological mother were also filed by the National Association of Social Workers, represented by Stephanie Goodenow, and Washburn University School of  Law Children and Family Law Center.

Marci Frazier was represented by Dennis J. Stanchik and Valerie L. Moore.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org

Special Fund Helps LGBT “DREAMers” Get Work Permits and Relief from Deportation

February 19, 2013

LGBT Dreamers Helped So Far Share Their Stories

(San Francisco, CA, February 19, 2013)—Nearly 200 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) undocumented young people have either received or are in the process of receiving two-year work permits and reprieves from the threat of deportation, thanks to a fund made possible by over four dozen LGBT organizations.

Last summer, President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to enable people who came to the United States as children—commonly known as “DREAMers”—to apply for work permits and relief from deportation.

In response, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, and the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund launched the “LGBT DREAMers Fund” at the Liberty Hill Foundation to help LGBT DREAMers pay the $465 fees required to apply for relief under the DACA program (a list of organizations contributing to the fund appears at the end of this release). The $465 fees pose steep hurdles for many DREAMers because neither they nor their parents are able to obtain lawful employment due to their undocumented status.

“These young people are an important part of the LGBT community, and we knew we had to find a way to give them a hand,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, one of the fund’s co-founders. “We are thrilled that so many LGBT organizations across the nation stepped up to help.”

To date, more than $100,000 has been raised and 160 LGBT Dreamers have received financial assistance. At least another 40 will get help from the fund. LGBT Dreamers who would like assistance from the fund may apply at www.LibertyHill.org/LGBTDreamersFund.

One of the recipients of aid from the fund, Jose Mendoza, recently received his work permit. Jose’s dream is to become a nurse, and he is now taking classes that will allow him to apply to a nursing program.

“Getting this kind of support and help means so much, and it’s great to see the gay community stepping in and saying that what I am doing is important,” he said.

Marco Quiroga, who wants to be a surgeon, said he was “thrilled” to have the support of the LGBT DREAMers Fund so that he could submit his DACA application.

“Immigrant and LGBT issues have always been separate in my mind, and it is wonderful to see these two communities come together to work on a common cause,” he said. “Receiving these funds creates a sense of community with other gay immigrants who are in my situation.”

“In spite of having to deal with the stresses of being both undocumented and LGBT, these young people have persevered and emerged as leaders of the national reform movement,” said LA Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Lorri L. Jean, another fund co-founder. “All of us are so pleased to be able to show our support and gratitude to them.”

There is widespread agreement that the “DACA” program is only a temporary fix and that creating a direct pathway to citizenship for DREAMers is one of the key elements of comprehensive immigration reform. The framework for reform recently announced by President Obama as well as the one put forward by the bipartisan “Gang of 8” in the U.S. Senate specifically included DREAMers. On February 5, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who helped sink the federal DREAM Act in 2010, also endorsed citizenship for DREAMers.

The following are the stories of four DREAMers who received assistance from the fund, including Jose Mendoza and Marco Quiroga. More about these individuals and some of the other recipients of the LGBT DREAMers Fund is available at www.LGBTDREAMersStories.com.

Jaime DiazJaime Diaz, who also received a grant through the fund, recently got the news he had hoped for—he was granted a work permit under DACA. It was at that moment that he realized the dreams he’s had since his parents brought him to this country as a young boy could indeed come true, and he could one day become an elementary school teacher.

“Everything is starting to fall into place,” Jaime said. “Getting my work permit and Social Security card and other documents was like getting a whole load lifted off my shoulders. I feel more free because of DACA and I am no longer scared of the police or of being treated like a criminal.”

Marco Quiroga

Marco Quiroga wants to be a surgeon, and he says earning a work permit under the DACA program will help him reach his dreams.

Marco arrived in the United States from Peru when he was just 2 years old. Marco’s mother singlehandedly raised him and three siblings while working custodial and cleaning jobs in Orlando, Florida.

Jose MendozaJose Mendoza decided to become a nurse while he was taking care of his mother during her recent battle with breast cancer.

With his mother now recovered, Jose, a recipient of the LGBT Dreamers Fund, is taking classes that will allow him to apply to a nursing program. Getting approved for the DACA program is allowing Jose to pursue his newfound passion to help people in the same way that the nurses in the hospital helped his mother.

AlejandraAlejandra Estrada hasn’t known any other home than the United States. She was just 3 months old in 1989 when her mother brought her and her sister across the U.S.-Mexico border. She excelled in school, and after high school graduation she began cleaning houses with her mother, with the two recently starting a small house-cleaning business in Las Vegas.

Alejandra, who also received a grant through the fund, submitted her DACA application and is hopeful it is approved so she can achieve her dreams of attending college and majoring in early childhood education.

“A change of status could really change everything,” said Alejandra, adding that her immigration status has limited her abilities, not only to excel professionally, but to feel safe and included. “Even though I have been here since I was a baby, there’s still this feeling that I don’t belong. Becoming a citizen and getting everything squared away will be an incredible relief.”

Current contributors to the LGBT DREAMers Fund:

  • Aaron Belkin, Executive Director of the Palm Center
  • Center on Halsted (Chicago)
  • The Center/GLBT Community Center of Colorado
  • Cream City Foundation
  • The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada
  • CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
  • Equality Federation
  • Equality Maine
  • Family Equality Council
  • Freedom to Marry
  • Gay City Health Project (Seattle)
  • Gay Community Center of Richmond
  • Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
  • Greater Palm Springs Pride
  • GSA Network
  • Horizons Foundation
  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
  • Immigration Equality
  • Paul Kawata, Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council
  • L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
  • Lambda Legal
  • LGBT Center of Central PA
  • LGBT Center of Raleigh
  • LGBT Project of the ACLU
  • Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
  • MassEquality
  • Mautner Project Board and Staff
  • Metropolitan Charities
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • National Coalition for LGBT Health
  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
  • National Stonewall Democrats
  • The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (New York City)
  • One Colorado
  • Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
  • The OUTreach Center (Madison, WI)
  • Pride Foundation
  • Pridelines Youth Services (Miami Shores, FL)
  • Q Center (Portland, OR)
  • Rainbow Community Center (Contra Costa, CA)
  • Ruth Ellis Center, Inc. (Detroit)
  • San Diego LGBT Community Center
  • Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
  • Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)
  • San Francisco LGBT Community Center
  • Transgender Law Center
  • The Trevor Project
  • True Colors
  • Several Anonymous Donors

You can learn about other fund recipients at www.LGBTDREAMersStories.com.

LGBT Dreamers who would like assistance from the LGBT DREAMers fund may apply at www.LibertyHill.org/LGBTDreamersFund.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org

Winning Comprehensive Immigration Reform

February 15, 2013

Statement by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Immigration Equality, and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

(San Francisco, CA, February 15, 2013)— Winning Comprehensive Immigration Reform will require unity, collaboration and a tremendous amount of work. Many organizations are already working tirelessly to make certain that reform, including reforms that include all families, become a reality. Here is a shout out to one key partner in this effort:

“We, and so many other groups, are committed to Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million, an end to unwarranted detention, citizenship for Dreamers and protections for same-sex couples, among other provisions. This is an historic opportunity and there is broad-based support from a range of LGBT groups, immigrant right groups, and civil rights groups for these critical reforms. Included among these supporters is the Center for Community Change and their inspiring leader, Deepak Bhargava. Time and time again Deepak has spoken out in support of reform that includes the Uniting American Families Act, including his keynote at Creating Change and communications to lawmakers and public statements. Deepak’s commitment is unambiguous and clear. We look forward to working hand in hand with all groups committed to winning immigration reform.”

Leading Mental Health Professional Organizations, Health Care and Constitutional Scholars, and Social Services Providers Urge Appeals Court to Uphold California Law Prohibiting Dangerous Psychological Practices to Change Minors’ Sexual Orientation

February 8, 2013

(San Francisco, CA, February 8, 2013) – A diverse group of prominent mental health professional organizations and social services providers, scholars of constitutional and health care law, civil liberties and religious organizations, the City and County of San Francisco, and individuals and family members filed ten friend-of-the-court briefs this week urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to uphold a 2012 California law that prohibits licensed therapists from trying to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender expression.

The law, which was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 29, 2012, prohibits state-licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a patient under 18 years old. Anti-LGBT legal groups challenged the law in October, 2012, primarily representing California therapists who engage in these practices. Those lawsuits are now before the Ninth Circuit, which will hear arguments on April 17 to determine whether to block the law from going into effect while the therapists’ lawsuits proceed. The law was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2013, but is temporarily on hold while the Ninth Circuit considers the cases.

On Wednesday, the California Psychological Association, the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and the National Association of Social Workers urged the court to permit the law to take effect because the leading mental health professional organizations “agree that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and have advised against practices that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation.” These and other mental health organizations supported the legislation and worked closely with state Senator Ted Lieu, the bill’s author, to ensure that the law provides clear guidance to state licensed therapists.
Dr. Jack Drescher, one of the nation’s leading experts on the harms caused by efforts to change sexual orientation, submitted a brief summarizing the findings of a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on sexual orientation change efforts that was conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2009. The brief concludes that these practices “pose an unacceptable risk to minors,” who are “particularly vulnerable to harm from stigma.”

Twelve regional and national organizations that work with LGBTQ youth, including the Children’s Law Center of California, Legal Services for Children, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the Trevor Project, and others also filed a brief supporting the law. The brief recounts the first-hand experiences of youth who have suffered severe mental and physical health problems as a result of attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender expression, including suicide attempts, cutting and other self-injurious behaviors, severe anxiety, and depression. For example, the brief describes a young woman who called the Trevor Project’s helpline who, after seeing a therapist who tried to change her sexual orientation, “has attempted suicide several times” and “prays that she will die in an accident.”

Another brief tells the stories of individuals who underwent efforts to change their sexual orientation and as a result were plagued for years by problems such as severe anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and drug abuse. The brief includes the story of Kirk Murphy, who as a child in the early 1970s was subjected to an experiment designed to prevent children from growing up to be gay by the University of California at Los Angeles. Murphy’s family was counseled to reward “masculine” behavior and punish “feminine” behavior. Murphy’s sister recalls that these techniques severely damaged her brother, making him withdrawn, isolated and self-conscious. Murphy, a gay man, ultimately died by suicide at the age of 38.

Prominent scholars in constitutional law and health law, as well as the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, also filed briefs supporting the law. The scholars explain that California’s prohibition of these discredited practices is one of many examples of state regulation of medical treatment to ensure that medical professionals comply with the standards of their profession and do not harm patients. The scholars argue that such regulations are both constitutional and vitally necessary because meaningful oversight of the health and safety of medical care would be impossible without them.

The City and County of San Francisco filed a brief describing how these practices contribute to high rates of homelessness and other serious health problems among LGBT youth, many of whom flock to San Francisco after being rejected by their families. Religious organizations and leaders, including California Faith for Equality and the California Council of Churches, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ, and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, among others, also submitted a brief asking the court to uphold the California law.

“The friend-of-the-court briefs filed in this case underscore the unified message of all leading medical, mental health, and child welfare advocates—efforts to change a child’s sexual orientation are cruel, damaging, and have no place in the provision of mental health care,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “These briefs make an overwhelming case for the necessity for this law, which is now being looked to as a model by a number of other states.”

“We are grateful for this outpouring of support from some of the most respected medical and mental health practitioners and organizations in California and throughout the country,” said Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor. “No one can fail to understand the need for this law after reading these unforgettable first-hand accounts of the despair, self-injury, and suicidal behavior caused by these discredited practices. These briefs paint a vivid picture of why the state must take action to protect youth from these practices and to stop licensed therapists from inflicting so much damage on young people. We thank Senator Ted Lieu for his vision in working to enact this life-saving legislation.”

Last fall, Equality California filed a successful motion to intervene in one of the lawsuits in order to defend the law alongside California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who represents the State of California defendants. Equality California is represented in the cases by NCLR and the law firm of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

Law firms and legal organizations representing groups filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the California law included: ACLU Foundation of Northern California, Inc.; Arnold & Porter LLP; Covington & Burling LLP; Foley & Lardner LLP; Dennis J. Herrera, City Attorney of San Francisco; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP; Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP; Jon B. Eisenberg, Esq.; Eric Alan Isaacson, Esq.; Stacey M. Kaplan, Esq.; and Barry R. Levy, Esq.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.365.1324 | EOlvera@NCLRights.org