OMAHA, Neb. ‚ÄĒ Nebraska‚Äôs Douglas County, the most populous county in the state, plans to consider extending health benefits to same-sex spouses of county employees who legally wed in other states, the Omaha World Herald reports.
A measure that was slated to go before the County Board this week would change the definition of an eligible spouse from ‚Äúlegally married spouse‚ÄĚ to ‚ÄúThe person to whom the employee is legally married regardless of whether that person is of the same gender or opposite gender of the employee,‚ÄĚ the article notes.
Gallaudet University‚Äôs chief diversity officer filed a $16 million discrimination and defamation lawsuit on Sept. 27 against the university and two out lesbian faculty members on grounds that they ‚Äútarnished‚ÄĚ her professional reputation by implying she held anti-gay views.
The university‚Äôs president suspended Angela McCaskill from her job as Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion last October after news surfaced that she signed a petition to place Maryland‚Äôs same-sex marriage law on the November ballot in a voter referendum.
McCaskill, a Maryland resident, explained at the time that she signed the petition when it was circulated at her church. She said her intention was to allow Maryland voters to decide on the gay marriage question and that she had taken no public position on the controversial issue.
The 39-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia accuses Gallaudet faculty members Martina ‚ÄúMJ‚ÄĚ Bienvenu and Kendra Smith of pressuring Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz into violating the D.C. Human Rights act by illegally suspending McCaskill.
The lawsuit calls the suspension a form of retaliation against McCaskill for her decision to exercise her constitutional right to sign a petition on a pending civic matter.
A Gallaudet spokesperson told the Washington Post the university would have no comment on the lawsuit. Bienvenu and Smith couldn‚Äôt immediately be reached for comment. At the time of McCaskill‚Äôs suspension last October the two women told the Blade through an intermediary that they had no comment on the matter.
McCaskill‚Äôs lawsuit comes nine months after Gallaudet President Hurwitz reinstated McCaskill to her job in January. McCaskill states in her lawsuit that Hurwitz reinstated her to a slightly different position that represents a demotion.
‚Äú[O]n or about October 7-8, 2012, co-defendant, Bienvenu, and her same-sex partner, Smith, began making false and malicious statements that plaintiff was ‚Äėanti-gay,‚Äô‚ÄĚ the lawsuit says.
‚Äú[A]nd on those same dates, from the university campus, co-defendants, Bienvenu and Smith, falsely reported to PlanetDeafQueer.com, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (‚ÄėLGBT‚Äô) publication, that plaintiff, Gallaudet University Chief Diversity Officer, was ‚Äėanti-gay‚Äô in an article entitled ‚ÄėGallaudet‚Äôs Chief Diversity Officer Sign‚Äôs Anti-gay Petition,‚Äô‚ÄĚ the lawsuit states.
It adds, ‚ÄúCo-defendant, Bienvenu, and her same-sex partner, Smith, further falsely stated, ‚Äė[S]igning that petition is an act against many of Gallaudet‚Äôs constituents.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
The lawsuit charges Gallaudet University and Bienvenu and Smith with one count of a D.C. Human Rights Act violation, two counts of defamation, two counts of intentional infliction of emotional distress, and one count of invasion of privacy.
The suit seeks $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages for the first count of a Human Rights Act violation and $1.5 million in compensatory and $1 million in punitive damages for each of the remaining counts. The total amount of damages sought by the lawsuit comes to $16 million.
The decision to suspend McCaskill came at a time when LGBT students at the school raised concerns about the appropriateness of McCaskill appearing to side with anti-gay groups that were pushing the ballot referendum while she served as chief diversity officer, a position thought to be a manifestation of the school‚Äôs support for equality for everyone, including gay people.
‚ÄúThe plaintiff explained that her signature on the petition solely represented her desire to have the same-sex marriage issue vetted through public discourse so that Maryland voters could become more understanding, informed, and enlightened about the issue once they entered the polls,‚ÄĚ the lawsuit says.
‚ÄúPlaintiff further explained that it was not an ‚Äėanti-gay‚Äô petition and plaintiff‚Äôs signature thereupon did not express an opinion on same-sex marriage one way or another,‚ÄĚ it says.
According to the lawsuit, Bienvenu acted in a hostile way toward McCaskill after the two met last October at Bienvenu‚Äôs request to discuss revelations that McCaskill signed the marriage petition.
‚Äú‚Ä¶Co-defendant Bienvenu responded in a very animated manner with her sign-voice elevated, exclaiming, ‚ÄėI am really disgusted with you!‚ÄĚ the lawsuit says. ‚ÄúShe asked rhetorically, ‚ÄėAre you still a member of that church?‚Äô and then criticized plaintiff‚Äôs Christian faith and belittled her religious beliefs,‚ÄĚ the lawsuit says.
The Gallaudet website identifies Bienvenu as a professor of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies. It says she received a doctorate degree in linguistics in 2003 and served as co-chair of the Deaf Lesbians Festival from 2000 to 2004.
The website identifies Smith as chairperson of the Gallaudet Department of Counseling. She has a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Counseling Education and Supervision. Among the areas she specializes in is ‚Äúgay/lesbian/bisexual identity development and issues in counseling,‚ÄĚ the website says.
At the conclusion of Equality Maryland‚Äôs 25th Anniversary Brunch on Oct. 27, there was a challenge from Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign that his organization will match up to $25,000 in donations to Equality Maryland to help pass a statewide gender identity non-discrimination law. Following that announcement, thousands of dollars were pledged by supporters in attendance. The last total available indicated Equality Maryland still lacked $8,000 toward the goal.
Earlier in the proceedings Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, praised HRC for its efforts and contributions toward winning the ballot referendum on same-sex marriage.¬† ‚ÄúWithout HRC, we would not have won,‚ÄĚ she said.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd responded to a question on same-sex marriage on Sept. 2.
Is there a way to know when you‚Äôve met the right person?
I‚Äôm 23 and have been with my girlfriend for five years, since our first week of college, and she recently proposed to me. I‚Äôm really excited, but am also scared to say yes. She‚Äôs the only woman I‚Äôve ever dated or really had sex with. I‚Äôm afraid that if I get married to her, I‚Äôll always wonder what it would be like to be with someone else, and if I might have an even better relationship with someone else.
We really love each other, have a lot to talk about, enjoy the same things and have really good sex. Still, it seems kind of crazy to marry the first gal I‚Äôve been with.
There are so many possibilities out there. Sometimes I meet a really cool woman through my work or socially and wonder what it would be like to be with her. But because I met Beth before anyone else, I am with Beth.
How can I know if she‚Äôs the best possible partner for me? And if I am not sure of that, how can I marry her?
Rather than looking for the best possible partner, how about picking a person who is imperfectly wonderful?
Relationships are complicated and never perfect. The same is true for our spouses.¬† The person with many great qualities is bound to have some not-so-great qualities as well, most likely noticed after you have been with her long enough.¬† And keep in mind that your wife will have the same experience of you.
Instead of trying to find a relationship that will give you the loveliest ride possible through life, think of a relationship as an adventure that is going to give you ongoing opportunities to become a stronger and therefore more interesting person. When you‚Äôre picking the person to take this journey with, your ideal candidate is not a flawless person or someone with whom you mesh perfectly. There actually is no such person, of course; and part of the fun, heartache, and growth that relationships offer is figuring out how to live with someone who is different from you in important ways, sometimes irritatingly so. While we all hope that our relationship will give us many wonderful times, relationships are also great laboratories for learning how to deal with adversity and disappointment.
I‚Äôm certainly not saying you should pick someone who will make you miserable.¬† I‚Äôm saying it‚Äôs unavoidable that anyone you pick will seem like a less-than-ideal match at times. Part of what will actually make her a good match is that being married to her will give you the opportunity to figure out how to have a great marriage with a person who isn‚Äôt a perfect fit (as no one is).
If reading this makes marriage sound difficult, keep in mind that struggling to live with an imperfect partner is unavoidable if you choose to be in a long-term relationship.¬† The good news: Doing so, over the course of your lifetime, will help you grow into a strong, resilient adult.
Back to the idea of picking a wonderful ‚ÄĒ though not perfect ‚ÄĒ partner: If you want to have a shot at a happy marriage, I suggest that in addition to physical attraction, you look for shared values, some shared interests and a shared vision of the future. You want a fair amount of agreement in these areas, because it‚Äôs important that the two of you are seeking to go in the same overall direction as you move forward in life. Rest assured that even if you are a great match in all of these realms, you will inevitably run into some major differences, going forward, that will challenge you to figure out how to stay married to each other. And, keep in mind that major differences need not stand in the way of your being happily married.
You may or may not decide to be with Beth. From what you describe, the two of you certainly have a lot going for your relationship. If you do look for someone else, you may find that she is even more wonderful than Beth is, in some ways.
But then again, you cannot have a guarantee that she will be as wonderful as Beth is, in other ways.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@personalgrowthzone.com.
As the law begins to treat our LGBTQ families more equally, let‚Äôs try to do our break-ups differently.
Establish clear understandings as you marry. Prenuptial agreements will be enforceable if they are basically fair and entered into in good faith by both spouses.
Married or unmarried, it is essential to have certain documents: a will, power of attorney and an advanced medical directive.¬† If you previously published a will, have it re-evaluated in light of the Supreme Court‚Äôs DOMA decision, which struck down Section 3.¬† The tax treatment has changed completely if you are married.
Include a provision in any agreement that any divorce will be handled collaboratively or in mediation. Mediation is the process where a trained neutral professional assists a couple in resolving the issues arising from their divorce.¬† Collaborative divorce practice employs a teamwork approach where both partners have the support of their own attorney who, together with other team members (such as mental health coaches, a neutral financial planner, a child specialist, etc.) help to resolve divorce-related issues without the cost, conflict and uncertainty of court litigation.
Divorces do not have to be hateful and adversarial. Choose lawyers, coaches, and financial planners who are certified in collaborative practice and members of collaborative organizations. Practice joint problem-solving. Seek options that will be a win-win for the family.
Relationships with our spouses/partners can be nurtured and preserved. There is a long, wonderful history of this tradition. Often, we have created our own families when our families of origin abandoned us when we come out. Do not lose your beloved friendship circles due to a breakup.
If we have formed a family with children, remember that it is not the divorce per se that hurts children; rather, it is the hostility and putting the child(ren) in the middle that leaves lasting scars.
Any parent in a LGBTQ couple should have the status of ‚Äúlegal parent.‚ÄĚ Even if both parents are listed on the child‚Äôs birth certificate, do the second parent adoption. The consequences, if you do not, may be catastrophic. Even Virginia residents may have options to better protect their children. Parents who do not seek additional legal status are at enormous risk and their children do not have the same benefits.
In D.C., you can also consider domestic partnership. In the District, domestic partnership rights and responsibilities are comprehensive and equate with marriage under D.C. law. Some courts have held that same-sex couples have entered into common-law marriages by holding themselves out as married even though they did not obtain a marriage license. But note, domestic partnerships and civil unions are not considered marriages under federal law.
The rights of unmarried couples are somewhat amorphous and complex at the time of a breakup. The rules of marriage do not apply; your rights will largely depend on what you document in contracts. A clear contract and careful agreements are necessary when you purchase a home or condo.
It is encouraging to see our families increasingly integrated in our overall communities and treated better in the courts. As LGBTQ relationships inch ever closer toward equal status under the law, is has become more important than ever for couples to consider and plan for what is best for our families ‚Äď in good times and in bad.¬† Consideration, planning, and an honest dialogue now can ensure greater peace, stability, and predictability regardless of what may come.
Susan Silber has dedicated her legal career of more than 30 years to advancing the rights of all families, including a focus on same-sex families. Susan founded the law firm of Silber, Perlman, Sigman & Tilev, PA, which is a full service, community-based law firm located in Takoma Park, Maryland. She is an experienced attorney in family, employment, civil rights, and municipal law, and has served as the City Attorney for Takoma Park for 30 years.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.‚ÄĒThe Indianapolis City Council on Nov. 11 approved a resolution that urges lawmakers to oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.
The resolution passed by a 22-6 margin.
The Indianapolis Star reported Republican Mayor Greg Ballard signed the resolution before city council members approved it.
‚ÄúI understand that many people hold differing views on this subject, but Indiana law already defines marriage,‚ÄĚ Ballard said in a statement. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt see the overriding government interest in adding such an amendment to our state‚Äôs constitution.‚ÄĚ
The Indiana Legislature in 2011 initially approved the proposed amendment. It is expected to consider it again early next year. A referendum will take place in November 2014 if state lawmakers approve the proposed constitutional amendment.