Articles Tagged with LGBTQ

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Joshua Chilton, Legal Assistant

The United States, as a whole, has only allowed same-sex marriage for just over two and a half years. It is law that same-sex couples have the right to marry in the United States of America, but there are some who still struggle with the question of what exactly that entails. Certainly, same-sex couples can be married now, but are they afforded the same rights as heteronormative marriages? My answer is yes; if same-sex couples can legally marry, they should not have some cheap imitation of it. The law should give them the equal rights to their heteronormative counterparts, including hospital visitation, joint taxes, inheritance, and all other areas of the law. However, there are those who see same-sex marriages as inherently different from heteronormative marriages, and as such, believe they should not be treated the same or offered the same services. One such service, which is still heavily fought over, is the adoption of children.

Our neighboring state, Georgia, has recently had this argument enflamed in the form of Senate Bill 130. The bill would have been a major update to the state’s adoption laws, of which had not been updated in such a manner in 27 years. The bill stalled, neither passing or failing, at the end of last year after a provision was added by their state Senate Judiciary Committee which would allow private adoption agencies, including those that receive public funds, to refuse to place children in homes based on familial, cultural, or religious reasons.

Champions of LGBT+ advocacy argue the provision would allow the private agencies to discriminate against LGBT+ homes and cite any number differences between the children and the potential families. Sponsors of the amendment adversely claim that the added language in the bill would give agencies the power to find what they deem to homes more aligned in the interests of the children. It’s not hard to see both sides of this argument, as there is some truth to both sides. Certainly, agencies should consider the best interests of children, but it is also possible that such a provision could allow agencies to push their private agendas of what they believe families should be like, discriminating against not just LGBT+ families, but any family they do not want to place children with for any familial, cultural, or religious reason, rather than seeking out fit homes for children. A private agency could refuse to place a child in the home of divorcees, single parents, families of different ethnicities than a child, and families of different religions than a child even if the prospective families have the means and desire to care for a child.

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When a marriage breaks down, the question of child custody becomes inevitable. This can often be the most emotionally charged and even contentious part of a divorce. At the Woodruff Family Law Group, our compassionate and hard-working North Carolina child custody attorneys will let you know your rights as well as your options during this difficult time.

In Heatzig v. Maclean, a biological parent of children conceived through artificial insemination disputed the rights of her former same-sex domestic partner. The couple lived together and took care of the children for three and a half years. The relationship ended and the defendant left the shared home and took the children with her. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking joint and physical custody of the children.

The court assessed the following factors:  i) the plaintiff and the defendant made a joint decision to create a family unit; ii) the defendant deliberately identified the plaintiff as a parent; iii) the sperm donor was chosen based on certain physical characteristics similar to those of the plaintiff; iv) the plaintiff’s last name was used as one of the child’s last names; v) the plaintiff was present throughout the pregnancy and took part in the child’s birth; vi) both the plaintiff and the defendant were identified as parents at the child’s baptism; vii) the plaintiff was listed as a parent on the child’s school forms; and viii) the plaintiff had the authority to make medical decisions for the child. The Court noted the defendant had been trying to get pregnant for a while before she began her relationship with the plaintiff.

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IMG_1275By Joshua Scott Chilton, Legal Assistant & Receptionist, Woodruff Family Law Group

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States of America made a ruling in a case known as Obergefell v. Hodges which changed the definition of what marriage was in our country. Despite the arguments against it, it was no longer defined simply as the union between man and woman; it was now a union between any two people who wished to come together and love one another. As a gay man, I was overcome with pride and joy that people like me could now marry those they loved and experience what marriage had to offer, from the joy of a wedding to the drudgery of joint taxes and to the sorrow of a hospital.

However, despite the ruling, I knew that it was a close battle. It was a 5 to 4 vote, and that meant that the push for equality wasn’t over yet; there were and still are many in our country who believe that marriage should be between only a man and a woman rather than any definition other than what is viewed as “traditional”. There is still a struggle for those in the LGBTQA+ community outside of the realm of marriage as well; in our state of North Carolina, Governor McCrory was quick to issue a statewide ban on Transgender individuals entering restrooms or locker rooms they feel comfortable in after the Charlotte lawmakers approved city law to allow such.

The most recent attack on the LGBTQA+ community didn’t come from restrictive legislation, however. It didn’t come from politicians or protestors. It didn’t come in the form of a hateful hashtag on Twitter. It didn’t come from a county clerk refusing to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling. It came in the form of one man with an assault rifle…

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By: Dana M. Horlick, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group


Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015)

(a) Two years ago, it appeared that the United States would be divided for some years between states that recognize same-sex marriage, and states that do not recognize same- sex marriage.

(b) After Windsor, most federal courts held that state provisions refusing to recognize same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. See, g., Bostic v. Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352 (4th Cir. 2014).

(c) This issue reached the S. Supreme Court in Obergefell. The Court held that as a matter of federal constitutional law, states are not permitted to allow only opposite-sex couples to marry. If a state recognizes opposite-sex marriages, it must also recognize same-sex marriages.

(d) The choice-of-law question has therefore fizzled into irrelevance. All states must permit same-sex couples to marry, and all same-sex couples who do marry are entitled to file a joint federal income tax return.

A less well settled topic is that of innocent spouse relief.

Deihl v. Comm’r, 603 F. App’x 527 (9th Cir. 2015) (unpublished)

(a) Facts: A wife sought innocent spouse relief from tax due on returns she filed jointly with her late husband. She claimed that she was entitled to relief because, among other things, she was abused during the marriage.

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1.  What is the date of marriage?  Prior to October 2014, same-sex couples could not marry in North Carolina. But what date of marriage will North Carolina recognize if the same-sex couple was earlier married or entered into a civil union in some other state before October 2014?   The date of marriage is obviously critical in equitable distribution as marital property is created from the date of marriage to the date of separation.  The North Carolina legislature has not dealt with this important date of marriage issue (civil union date) where the couple married (created a civil union) in another state prior to October 2014.

a. Arguably, the date of marriage is the date of the marriage license and ceremony in a state that recognized same-sex marriage on the actual date of the marriage.  North Carolina should recognize that original marriage date because the couple could return to the state of the marriage and get a divorce.

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In Greensboro, a same sex couple can go to the Register of Deeds in Guilford County and obtain a North Carolina Marriage License.  There are also Register of Deeds in the Piedmont Triad in Lexington, Asheboro, Graham, Wentworth, Roxboro, Yanceyville, and Winston Salem that provide the same product and service, a Marriage License.

Recently, and notably, Ireland has had a national referendum and said “yes” to same sex marriage.  Ireland has long been a stronghold and defender of the Catholic faith, which has been a citadel of opposition to gays, lesbians, and of course same sex marriage.

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