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Supreme Court stops gay marriages in Utah pending court case outcome

After over 1,000 gay weddings have already taken place, the cat's a bit out of the bag on that one.

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06
Jan
2014

Marriage: It’s more (and less) than you think

will, gay news, Washington Blade

In most states, if you die without a Will and you are married and that marriage is recognized, your spouse will inherit a share of your estate.

By LAWRENCE S. JACOBS

In the eight months since the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act, I have witnessed a huge rush to marriage among friends, clients and our community at large. Many of those people dramatically underestimate the changes that marriage might bring to their lives, while at the same time being lulled into a false sense of security that marriage will solve every potential legal issue that comes along. Of course, it won’t.

Hundreds and hundreds of benefits accrue to married couples. Yet, many of those benefits are misunderstood and do not come automatically. For example, the right to own real estate as a married couple does not and cannot happen unless the deed to that property includes that right. Many of my clients own their homes as joint with right of survivorship. But married couples can hold real estate as tenants by the entirety, which is much better. Far too many of my clients live in a home that is only owned by one of them. If something happens to that homeowner, the other one may be literally out on the street. Not surprisingly, we re-deed many of our clients’ homes, which is neither difficult nor expensive. Where the transfer of title may be impractical or undesirable, we create Revocable Trusts for the purpose of owning real estate.

Wills are another area where marriage has unexpected impacts. In most states, if you die without a Will and you are married and that marriage is recognized, your spouse will inherit a share of your estate. The amount of that share varies and can be as low as one-third. A properly drafted and signed Will can override those rules. For couples with children, the default rules can be even more problematic because minors cannot inherit money directly, either under a Will or because they were named as the beneficiary of a life insurance or retirement account. Worse yet, no matter how much money you leave, they will likely get it all in a single payment on their 18th birthday. Wills can and frequently do establish distribution schemes that make much more sense.

Marriage only solves problems for couples when both of them are healthy and alive.  If either of those should become untrue, then the marriage may count for little or nothing. If your spouse becomes incapacitated, you may have medical decision-making rights, but not the right to manage their separate assets.  That is usually accomplished by general durable power of attorney. Otherwise a guardianship petition will be required, which are typically expensive and time-consuming.  If your spouse dies before you, and you die later without a will, your assets will all be distributed to certain family members with parents typically first in line, regardless of whether that makes sense.

Marriage equality also brings with it the trials and tribulations that our straight counterparts have endured for generations. If you break up in the future, the only way to end that legal relationship is through a divorce. While you are still married, you cannot change your Will to completely disinherit your spouse. If you get divorced, the court will determine how to divide your assets. The court may also order you to pay alimony to your former spouse.  However, all of these potentially adverse outcomes can be changed in a properly drafted prenuptial (and sometimes post-nuptial) agreement. A word of caution: do not call a lawyer the week before your marriage for a pre-nup. I typically advise my clients to allow six to eight weeks.

None of this is intended to discourage anyone from getting married. I am a firm believer in that institution and took the plunge myself in 2009. Rather, I view my job as educating people on the issues, so that they can then make good decisions.

Larry Jacobs has helped hundreds of same-sex couples in the Washington area protect their assets and loved ones through partnership planning. He is a partner at McMillan Metro, P.C. and has practiced law for 39 years. He is admitted to the bar in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. You can learn more about Larry and his practice at PartnerPlanning.com.

28
Feb
2014

Queen Latifah can’t change, even if she tried

Spoiling an otherwise beautiful moment during last night’s Grammy Awards marriage ceremony was the presence of Queen Latifah, who presided over the mass nuptials on live TV.

Included among the 34 pairs that were married during the telecast were many gay and lesbian couples. It was a momentous spectacle — the weddings of gay and lesbian couples being celebrated on a nationally televised awards show while the crowd cheered and cried. The times have certainly changed from the days when LGBT people were rendered invisible in pop culture.

But Latifah’s involvement illustrates just how far we still have to go toward full equality and true mass acceptance. Latifah is a closeted singer/actress, a fact confirmed over the years by several colleagues and personal friends and in photos snapped by paparazzi of Latifah with her partner.

Her presence on that stage was baffling. Was it a tacit acknowledgement that she’s gay? Does she think it’s enough for her to make carefully scripted pro-gay appearances without having to actually come out?

Why do we keep rewarding closet cases when there are so many other openly LGBT people deserving of attention and praise? Bring out Wanda Sykes, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Ellen DeGeneres or Neil Patrick Harris to do the honors. The irony of that Grammy moment was glaring: a beautiful hit song celebrating same-sex love and the unions of gay and lesbian couples introduced and presided over by a closeted lesbian.

It’s akin to the farce of President Obama granting an exclusive interview announcing his historic support of marriage equality to Robin Roberts, who at the time was also in the closet. There are plenty of openly LGBT journalists who should have been given that honor.

How can we expect average LGBT Americans to come out when some of the wealthiest and most successful among us — like Latifah — continue to cower in the closet?

Queen Latifah can’t change, even if she tried.

27
Jan
2014

Gay marriages have begun in Michigan!

Last night a federal court struck down Michigan's gay marriage ban, the 14th such victory since US v. Windsor.

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22
Mar
2014

Doin’ it our way

Lou Ann Sandstrom, Kathleen Kutschenreuter, Foundry United Methodist Church, same-sex weddings, wedding, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Lou Ann Sandstrom, left, and Kathleen Kutschenreuter at their wedding recessional at Foundry United Methodist Church on Sept. 28, 2013. (Photo by Paul Morse Photography; courtesy the couple)

Like the couples themselves, same-sex weddings come in all shapes and sizes.

We got to know three local couples that each went about it in different ways.

Kevin Anthony Rowe, 31, married Will Shreve, 28, last Sept. 19 at the Jefferson Memorial. They kept it “small and quick” so they could tie the knot before Shreve left for the Middle East on Christmas Day for his deployment with the U.S. Navy.

Greg Alexander, 43, married his partner of 13 years, Paul K. Williams, 47, on Jan. 31 at the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse.

Kathleen Kutschenreuter, 43, and Lou Ann Sandstrom, 54, did the more traditional “big church wedding.” They had about 130 guests when they wed last Sept. 28 at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, an event that was also the day of their then-6-month-old daughter, Ava Kae’s, baptism.

For myriad reasons, each couple’s decision, they say, made the most sense for them.

David Lett, Kevin Anthony Rowe, Will Shreve, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade, wedding

Kevin Anthony Rowe, left, with husband Will Shreve, right. They were married Sept. 19 by Rev. David Lett, center. (Photo by John Ellis)

Rowe and Shreve met on a Sunday evening at Nellie’s Sports Bar in January 2012.

“It sounds cliché, but I knew from the minute I met him, this is the guy I was going to end up with,” says Rowe, a budget analyst at National Geographic who also tends bar on weekends at Town Danceboutique. “I’d had long relationships before … but I never had been so sure about something. …. In my mind, it was only a matter of time.”

He says they might have done a destination wedding had time not been so pressing, but they’re happy with how things worked out. They chose the Jefferson Memorial because it’s Shreve’s favorite D.C. memorial.

Rowe says it was all pretty easy to arrange. After downloading a form from the National Park Service website and sending $100, the permit was e-mailed back to them within about three days.

“It was super easy,” he says. “Once you get there, there are only certain areas you can have it, but you just ask at the little guard spot and they tell you where you can and can’t go.”

The ceremony lasted about 15-20 minutes and Rev. David Lett, a friend of the couple, officiated. They were at the site about an hour.

On the Thursday of their wedding, they had dinner beforehand and an after party at Number Nine, a gay bar on P Street, with balloons and Champagne.

Rowe says the separation is hard but he’s making do with Skype, texts and the like. They video chat every couple days and are planning a few trips throughout the year to see each other. Rowe says he keeps busy working two jobs and has great friends around to help fill the void.

Because they had lived together near Columbia Heights about a year before getting married, Rowe says the wedding itself didn’t change how their relationship felt.

“It kind of just felt like another day together,” he says. “We fit so well on every level and it’s so comfortable that just because the label was there now didn’t change anything.”

Greg Alexander, a magazine editor, thought he would feel pretty much the same way. He and Williams had lived together for about 10 years by the time they wed last month.

“It’s hard to describe it,” he says. “We’d been together 13 years and I didn’t expect it to feel any different. We’d exchanged rings on our 10th anniversary, just the two of us in the garden. But something about it, after it was done, not to sound cheesy, but it feels more real. When I look at my ring, it’s not just, ‘Oh, those are the rings we gave each other because we love each other.’ Now it’s more like, ‘Yes, we are married.’”

The couple thought about getting married when same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland in January last year, but decided to wait. When key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were repealed by the Supreme Court later in the year, Alexander says, “That was kind of the final push we needed.” They waited until 2014 for tax purposes.

“We were pretty sure this is what we wanted,” says Williams, who is president of Congressional Cemetery. “I think we were more concerned we might offend some family members or friends by not doing something bigger, but we talked about it with them and decided to do some nice dinners with our two families a few months later. That’s just kind of the way it worked out best for us, especially for our families and their schedules.”

Alexander says in early discussions that, “luckily we were on the same page about this.” They’d had large parties with family, friends, banquet halls, private chefs and that type of thing for each other on their respective 40th birthdays, so when it came time to tie the knot, they agreed simpler was the way to go.

Paul K. Williams, Greg Alexander, wedding, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Paul K. Williams, left, with husband Greg Alexander the day they married at the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse. (Photo courtesy the couple)

He says there was some initial concern that doing it so low key might feel anticlimactic, but he says the courthouse didn’t have the bare bones feel he thought it might.

“I thought it might be a little two-second thing like going to jury duty or something, but we were pleasantly surprised,” Alexander says. “It’s actually pretty nice. The people were amazing, which kind of caught us a little off guard. … You go into a little room that’s decorated and they have an officiant do your vows. … We couldn’t get over how excited the city employees were. We had total strangers hugging us and telling us they were so happy two gay men could get married. We didn’t expect that from the Baltimore City Courthouse.”

The license was about $85 and there was an additional $25 charge for the civil ceremony. Three couples joined them for dinner afterward.

“I think the couple needs to really ask themselves how they want to remember the occasion,” Williams says. “I know when we had the big [birthday] party, it went so fast and it was so involved and complex, I barely remember the conversations we had. I think it’s just something that’s very individual and each couple needs to look at themselves and how they like to entertain and decide how they want to do it.”

Kutschenreuter and Sandstrom were struck by Rev. Dean Snyder’s homily when they visited Foundry United Methodist Church in November 2012. As he shared a story of a same-sex couple whose wedding he had officiated the previous day and Kutschenreuter and Sandstrom discovered the church’s social justice, community and LGBT advocacy work, it hit a nerve.

“We really knew we wanted a sacred space to really honor our desire to express our commitment in front of family and friends and we didn’t want to do it on our own, we wanted witnesses,” says Kutschenreuter, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency. “We had a desire to do it in front of a higher power … . To us, we felt for our marriage to have the best chance and to be the most grounded, we wanted it to be grounded in a spiritual context.”

They say the cost of the church was a “drop in the bucket,” considering what they spent on their reception. They said it was “less than $2,000” for the church, clergy and a team of musicians who performed. Foundry offers a discount to members.

“It’s between about $500 and $2,000 depending on how lean or heavy you want to go,” Kutschenreuter says. A reception was held that evening at the Hay-Adams Hotel.

“We have absolutely no regrets about it,” says Sandstrom, who works for the FBI. “We saw it as an investment and everyone had a fantastic time.”

“We did think along the way, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we doing, this is so stressful,’” Kutschenreuter says. “But we weren’t being elaborate just to be elaborate. We were trying to honor the fact that we’re older people, we have a daughter, it was Lou Ann’s Dad’s 90th birthday and both our dads walked us down the aisle, we had people coming from all over; there was just so much more to it than there would have been for a younger couple. But we knew this group of people would never be together any other time so we wanted it to be special. It was definitely worth it.”

13
Feb
2014

“Why does #GayGestapo never complain about the hateful repression of women by Muslims?”

Upset about their Mozilla loss, GOPers are now (falsely) claiming that the left ignores women in the Arab world.

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07
Apr
2014

Baltimore LGBT Wedding Expo set

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights.

The third annual “Same Love, Same Rights” LGBT Wedding Expo will take place on Jan. 26 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Grand Historic Venue, 225 North Charles St., in Baltimore.

The Expo will include dozens of LGBT-friendly wedding professionals. There will also be ceremony planning tips, free samples, raffles, keynote speakers and music

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited, to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights. The event is free but a $5 donation is requested. For more information, visit samelovesamerights.com.

07
Jan
2014

Author of disputed study takes stand in Mich.

Regnerus, gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

DETROIT — The author of a controversial study of adult children often cited by opponents of gay marriage defended his work in court this week but also said it was too early for social scientists to make far-reaching conclusions about families headed by same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports in a story carried by the Washington Post.

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan, which is defending a ban on gay marriage. The constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, is being challenged by two Detroit-area nurses in a rare trial.

Regnerus was the leader of a study that screened thousands of people, ages 18-39, and found roughly 250 who said they grew up in a house where a mom or dad eventually had a same-sex relationship, the AP reports.

He found they were more likely to have problems — welfare dependence, less education, marijuana use — than young adults from stable, straight-led families. But he later acknowledged that his study didn’t include children raised by same-sex couples in stable relationships.

The results ignited a blast of criticism when they were published in an academic journal in 2012, the AP reports.

05
Mar
2014

Furor over closeted lesbian Queen Latifah officiating mass gay wedding at Grammys

33 couples got married at the Grammys this past Sunday, several of which were gay.

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28
Jan
2014

Gay R.I. House speaker steps down

Gordon Fox, Rhode Island, Democratic Party, Democratic National Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) on March 22 announced he will step down after authorities raided his office and home. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) on March 22 resigned his post a day after federal and state authorities raided his office and home as part of an undisclosed criminal investigation.

“Because of the respect I have for all members of the House of Representatives, I am resigning as speaker,” said the Providence Democrat in a statement that also announced he would not seek re-election as the Associated Press reported. “The process of governing must continue and the transition of leadership must be conducted in an orderly manner.”

Fox, 52, in 2010 became the country’s first openly gay House speaker.

He sparked controversy among some LGBT rights advocates in 2011 when he sponsored a civil unions bill after it became clear a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to marry did not have enough votes in the Rhode Island Senate.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee last May signed a same-sex marriage bill into law that Fox spearheaded.

Fox and his partner, Marcus LaFond, wed after the law took effect last August.

Lawmakers on Tuesday elected House Majority Leader Nick Mattielo (D-Cranston) to succeed Fox.

26
Mar
2014