First Ever GA ICLE Same Sex Legal Seminar

In March 2012, Georgia, a state which may well be one of the very last to recognize gay marriage, will celebrate a first, the first legal seminar hosted by ICLE to focus exclusively on same sex issues (click here for the brochure).

This program will be a comprehensive and thought provoking one. The first discussions will focus on the initial consultation and issues to discover and raise early. The next panel will cover the status of gay marriage and civil unions in the United States, interaction between federal and state law regarding same sex marriage, the portability of marriage and (un)availability of divorce and rights and remedies not available to gay couples where marriage or civil unions are not recognized. They will also discuss recent notable cases.

Other panels will discuss alternatives to divorce (since divorce is not available to same sex couples in Georgia) and alternative legal theories to resolve disputes under Georgia law. The entire program should be highly informative and educational. Even if you, as a lawyer, do not practice in this area, isn’t it something you/we should all understand and know what the law, and legal paths available are?

I can’t wait to watch and learn and hope you will consider joining us as we discuss these issues that many of us try to figure out each day in our practices, on a case by case basis. And again, to view the brochure and date andtime information, please click here.

International child related issues on the rise.

As the Chair Elect of the ABA’s Family Law Section, I have made it clear that one of my priorities will be to focus on international custody issues. Given the many widely reported cases of international kidnapping and custody battles, such as the Goldman case, it seems we must focus more on these situations to protect all children.

But now there are much more complex issues relating to children across the globe which go beyond mere custody battles. Issues such as surrogacy and adoption. What if one country’s laws do not allow for a certain type of adoption or a certain type of articifial insemination? There are now ways to work around laws in one country by using another country as a vehicle for certain procedures. And this can be dangerous.

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Assembling the Global Baby” discussed these issues in fine detail (click here for a link to the story). There are American companies orchestrating surrogacy and reproductive technology across the globe. While the term “orchestrating” may sound negative, that was not my intent. My intent was to demonstrate the internationalization of child related issues. What body or organization will set the rules? Is this something for the United Nations to look at? Conferences like The Hague will certainly look at these issues, but then a country’s willingness to sign a treaty is purely voluntary.

This internationalization of child birth, adoption and reproduction may be a very good thing. It seems very well intended. The problem is with the unintended consequences. When things go wrong, who is accountable? Which country’s laws apply? Is it more important where the birth occurs, where the semen was taken, where the parties live or which country the egg came from? These are fascinating issues that we must consider before they overwhelm us. I have no idea where we go from here, but I am sure that we need to start asking the right questions which will hopefully lead us to the right answers, or at least to the right forums and formats for seeking comprehensive answers to these emerging issues.

Gay adoption in Florida

I was asked to appear on a CNN owned network (Tru TV, formerly Court TV) yesterday to comment on the rights (or lack of rights) homosexuals have to adopt and/or seek custody or visitation with children. It was an interesting show, and while preparing for it, I learned a bit more about Florida’s law. Florida’s statute actually forbids adoption by anyone engaged in homosexual activity. Apparently, if one is homosexual, but not “engaging in homosexual activity” the ban does not apply. Well guess what? As a divorce lawyer I am confident there are many heterosexual couples no longer engaging in heterosexual activity. In other words, the distinction Florida seems to draw is between homosexuals who have sex and those who don’t.

Recent court decisions have upheld Florida’s law saying basically that the legislature could have rationally believed that such a law was based on a legitimate government objective. That objective was to place children in an environment where there was a legitimate chance for them to end up in a “typical” home with a mother and father, since a gay adoptive parent was unlikely (and in Florida, unable) to marry someone of the opposite sex. This theory of course, omits the possibility that a gay man may decide to coparent with a woman with whom he is friends, or that a single heterosexual may never marry, thereby leaving the child to be raised by one person, when two people might be able to raise the child with twice the love, twice the time and twice the resources to give the child.

But the law may soon change. In the case of In Re Gill, a foster parent was allowed by the trial court to adopt children for whom he had provided foster care. The case is on appeal and oral arguments were held last August. A decision could be made any day. It will be interesting to see what happens, but the national trend seems to favor allowing adoption, regardless of sexual preference.

[youtube width=”315″ height=”245″][/youtube]