Recently in In the News Category

Legal Battles Over Same-Sex Marriage Continue

December 2, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Gay Marriage Flags.jpgVictory in the ongoing fight to legalize gay marriage continues to be out of reach for many same-sex couples in the United States.

However, the war is far from over.

And let's not forget to mention that news broke last week that mass murderer Charles Mason received permission to tie the knot with a woman 54 years younger than him. Yes, two, loving, law-abiding adults of the same sex still can't marry in many states but a killer can.

Okay, here's what's been happening.

Federal Appellate Decision Prevents Gay Marriage in Four States

A federal appeals court recently denied same-sex couples the right to many in four states: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In ruling, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals wrote that it preferred that the battle for marriage equality take place through the political process rather than the legal system.

Perhaps the high court forgot that in California, ballot measures that allowed gay marriage and then banned gay marriage finally had to get settled in the courts.

As you may recall, California voters enacted Proposition 22 in 2000 to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. However, the California Supreme Court declared in 2008 that the provisions of that proposition were contrary to the state constitution.

Gay couples around the state began appearing before court clerks to marry.

Then Proposition 8 surfaced, a new California ballot proposition created by opponents of same-sex marriages. It eventually passed but was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The country's highest court ruled that the proponents of that initiative lacked sufficient legal standing to defend their case.

In short, gay marriage became legal in California.

Lawyers for representing the appellants in the recent case in Michigan promise to continue fighting through the courts. However, the state's attorney general, an advocate of traditional marriage, believes that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling will once and for all ban gay marriage.

Continue reading "Legal Battles Over Same-Sex Marriage Continue" »

Charles Manson and the Right to Marry in U.S. Prisons

November 25, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

kelly-hanson-pic-itv-image-1-989998856.jpgWill convicted serial killer Charles Manson really get married?

It's hard to tell.

What we do know is that 26-year-old "Star" Afton Elaine Burton, who reportedly has been seeing Manson for nine years, obtained a marriage license in Kings County, California on November 7th.

Burton and Manson have 90 days to decide whether they will indeed tie the proverbial nuptial knot.

Manson's Helter Skelter Holocaust Theory

You may recall that Manson received a death penalty verdict back in 1971 for the 1969 murder of Sharon Tate. Authorities also charged him with the deaths of four guests at his home and the murder of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Manson continues to live because the California Supreme Court lead by Rose Bird, "Rosy and the Supremes", outlawed the death penalty in 1972.

Before the Manson murders occurred, Charles Manson believed that an apocalyptic war would ensue due to racial tensions in the U.S. between blacks and whites.

According to Manson's idea, members of his makeshift family would live in a city beneath Death Valley and emerge at the end of the holocaust blacks would wage on whites. Manson and his followers, or so he thought, would then emerge as post-apocalyptic leaders to rule over African-Americans living in the U.S.

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Domestic Violence Dominates Sports Headlines

October 14, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Thumbnail image for goodell.jpgAs of this writing, the San Francisco Giants, a wild card pick, just trounced the Washington Nationals in the Division Series. The Giants, who tend to perform well in post-season games, are off to play the San Louis Cardinals.

Sports, it seems, is always in the air.

Unfortunately, the sports channels have been covering more than just runs batted in, home runs, strikes, errors and balls.

There's a new statistic being tabulated: The number of times major league athletes are arrested for domestic violence.

Take the case of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. The Atlantic City Police Department claims he struck his fiancée, caused her to lose consciousness, and dragged her body out of the elevator where they argued.

Then there's Adrian Peterson, one of the league's biggest stars and the 2012 NFL MVP. Police arrested him for reckless or negligent injury to a child following a grand jury investigation.

That case involved Peterson's decision to use a tree branch to spank his child, a discipline measure his parents had used on him. His case proceeds to trial on December 1 of this year. In that case, the National Football League banned Peterson from playing pending closure of his case.

In September of this year, Anheuser-Busch issued a public statement expressing its concern about the manner in which the NFL has handled recent domestic violence controversies.

Perhaps the company's concern and outrage expressed by organizations serving domestic violence victims or advocating stronger policies to protect women, caused NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to strengthen his league's stand on these issues.

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Florida Gets Closer to Allow Same-Sex Marriage - Update on Gay Marriage Around the Country

September 2, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

images.jpgIn July, two Key West residents prevailed in a same-sex marriage case in a Florida district court. In that case, Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia - similar to other judges -- characterized the ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately issued a stay on Judge Garcia's decision. When the men asked the appellate court to lift the automatic stay, the appellate court responded with a firm denial.

It was the couple's second attempt to lift the stay.

Consequently, Judge Garcia's ruling only applies to the residents of Monroe Count.

Update on the Status of Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.

So far, same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Those states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Same-sex marriages continue to be banned in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.

These are the states where judges ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and yet state attorney generals have issued stays: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Colorado allows civil unions. In a civil union, couples enjoy many of the rights of a married couple. However, they are unable to enjoy a number of benefits, including Social Security benefits upon the death of a spouse.

Continue reading "Florida Gets Closer to Allow Same-Sex Marriage - Update on Gay Marriage Around the Country " »

Gay Marriage Bans Overturned in Utah and Indiana

600x4179.jpgNot only has the tide changed on the issue of same-sex marriage, last year's US Supreme Court's pair of decisions has caused a tsunami to sweep across the shores and Midlands of this country.

Just last week, a federal appeals court in Denver ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry. If there is an appeal, the issue will head to the Supreme Court where justices will be forced to tackle the issue head-on.

The 10th Circuit Appeals Court that made the decision about Utah's ban on gay marriage also governs Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and New Mexico, where it is already legal for gay couples to marry.

Last Wednesday, the justices found little justification under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marrying. In fact, the justices found the opposition's arguments based on procreation and parenting skills lacking in merit.

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Gay Adoptions - Bans on Gay Marriages Ruled Unconstitutional in More States

Thumbnail image for gay-adoption.jpgA lesbian couple from Virginia has a lot to celebrate these days. Desiree Bryan recently gave birth to twin girls, but not in her home state. Instead, Desiree and her partner Stephanie drove two hours to the District of Columbia were Stephanie gave birth to two healthy girls.

When children are born in the District of Columbia to a gay couple, both parents' names are added to the birth certificate. However, the birth certificate is not considered legal proof of parentage. That is why within a few months, the mothers will return to the District of Columbia were Stephanie will be able to adopt the girls and share full parental rights with her partner, Desiree.

The women couldn't have equal parental rights if the child had been born in Virginia. However, a recent law allows the courts to grant adoptions to out-of-state lesbian couples when the children are born in the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia is one of few jurisdictions where second-parent adoptions can occur even when the parents don't reside there.

In addition, even in states that don't have gay-friendly laws, court rulings are enforced despite the state court that issued them.

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30 Years After Their Divorce, the Robinson's Return to Court

music-notes-15781-1920x1200.jpgSmokey Robinson, the singer of unforgettable R&B tunes including "My Girl" and "Cruisin," is now battling his ex-wife of 30 years.

They're not fighting over custody issues or houses; they are fighting over his beloved songs.

The basis of their case stems from The Copyright Act of 1976, which is the basis of copyright law in United States. Essentially, the law delineates the basic rights for copyright holders.

Experts believe that Smokey's battle with Claudette Robinson has the potential to create a precedent for musicians who have divorced in the past.

Continue reading "30 Years After Their Divorce, the Robinson's Return to Court" »

ACLU Joins Fight Over Same-Sex Marriage in Michigan

bilde.jpgYou may recall that a Michigan judge, not too long ago, stated his conviction that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution and issued an order invalidating the state's constitutional restriction limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

Following U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's ruling on March 21, 2014, 300 same-sex couples jumped at the opportunity to marry until, that is, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, following a request by Attorney General Bill Schuette, temporarily stopped same-sex marriages in the state.

Shortly thereafter, Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement noting that same-sex couples who had been legally married would not necessarily be afforded the same benefits as married heterosexual couples.

Continue reading "ACLU Joins Fight Over Same-Sex Marriage in Michigan" »

Same-Sex Marriage Battle in Utah Continues

February 11, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

CA Same Sex Marriage.jpgSeventeen states now allow same-sex marriage; however, 33 states continue to ban it.

California's Path to Same-Sex Marriages

In California, the right to marry someone of the same sex took a circuitous route, involving political battles, appeals, and finally a reversal of the decision to ban gay marriage. Here's what happened. A proposition was passed allowing same-sex marriage in the state. Then Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, was put to the voters and was passed.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that California's anti-gay marriage initiative, known as Proposition 8, was unconstitutional. Unhappy with that result, supporters of Proposition 8 appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In June of last year, in a 5 - 4 decision, the court ruled that the defenders of Proposition 8 lacked standing and, therefore, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its ban, blocking same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriages are now legal in California.

Continue reading "Same-Sex Marriage Battle in Utah Continues" »

Battles Over Same-Sex Marriages Continue

January 21, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Same Sex Battle.jpgLiving in California, we can sometimes forget how conservative other states are, especially in the arena of same-sex marriages.

Take Oklahoma as an example. A federal judge recently struck down a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in his state. In his 68-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern lambasted the state's ban, referring to it as arbitrary for "just one class of Oklahoma citizens."

He added in stern language that equal protection "is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions."

His ruling stemmed from a suit filed by two lesbian couples who sued federal and state officials in 2004. In 2006, the 10th Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue them, so the plaintiffs sued again, this time omitting the governor and attorney general as defendants.

Kern strenuously supported the two couples in his ruling. He stated, "Same-sex couples are being subjected to a 'naturally procreative' requirement to which no other Oklahoma citizens are subjected, including the infertile, the elderly, and those who simply do not wish to ever procreate."

He also pointed out how one of the couples had been in a long-term, committed relationship, owned property together and planned to retire together. Why should they be denied the legal standing of marriage?

Struggle Over Gay Marriage Isn't Over

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Michigan Women Hope to Overturn State's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

October 22, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

same-sex-marriage-062308.jpgIn July, I wrote about the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings in June on two pivotal cases involving same-sex marriages. To recap what happened, the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5-4 decision.

Despite the historic ruling, a Detroit judge plans to decide the future of his own state's gay marriage ban in February 2014.

The Battle Over Same-Sex Unions in Michigan

The battle began when two Detroit-area women wanted to adopt each other's children. Their first salvo was a lawsuit they filed last year in which they hoped to overturn Michigan's ban on adoption by unmarried couples. The law they hope to overturn as been on the books since 1945.

On October 16th, the parties had their day in court. The plaintiffs argued that the ban on same-sex marriage now violates their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution to get married and adopt each other's children.

On the other side, Republican Governor Rick Snyder argued the state has a legitimate interest in promoting "natural procreation," "optimal parenting" and "family stability."

The judge won't issue a ruling until February. While no one can predict his decision everyone can make this prediction: whoever loses will challenge the judge's decision to a higher court.

Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.: An Upward Battle

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Filing for Bankruptcy During the Federal Shutdown: What You Should Know

October 8, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Shutdown.jpgFederal defense worker Rob Merritt was barely making ends meet when President Barack Obama and Congress reached an impasse, forcing many federal departments to come to a halt.

As soon as the shutdown began, visitors to national parks were turned away and U.S. residents found doors shuttered to other federal services. In many departments, large numbers of federal employees were furloughed, leaving those who remained poorly equipped to properly serve members of the public.

For example, the National Labor Relations Board furloughed 1,600 employees, leaving 11 workers in place. The Internal Revenue Service, which employs 94,516 workers, dropped to just 8,752 workers.

Even worse, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which subsidizes housing costs for the nation's poor, slashed 8,360 employees from its normal rank of 8,709.

Some federally furloughed employees, some of whom have to continue to work without pay, are now like Merritt, financially vulnerable.

Merritt, who earns $80,000 annually, was already borrowing money using his credit cards to support his wife and four children. He accumulated an insurmountable amount of debt when he underwent heart surgery in April. His wife was in the process of changing careers but had to stop interviewing to help take care of her husband.

If Merritt had been furloughed - like tens of thousands of other federal workers - he would be filing for bankruptcy right now. He's one of the luckier federal employees. Although his check will be delayed, he will eventually receive one - unlike furloughed employees who aren't working and won't ever be able to recoup the lost income.

Is Now a Bad Time to File for Bankruptcy?

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IRS Issues New Ruling for Same-Sex Marriages

September 17, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

1376395773000-AP-IRS-Political-Groups.jpgOn September 16, 2013, a new "state-of-celebration rule" takes effect that recognizes the validity of same-sex marriages regardless of where the marriage took place.

The ruling is a result of the Supreme Court ruling in June when it overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5-4 decision.

The IRS ruling will not apply to state taxes unless a state adopts the IRS rule.

Provisions of the IRS Ruling

The new IRS rule includes these provisions:

  • The terms spouse, husband and wife will now refer to same-sex individuals who were lawfully married.
  • For same-sex couple living in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, as long as they were married in a state that does recognize gay marriage, the IRS will recognize the marriage.
  • For the ruling to apply to same-sex unions, couples need to marry. The terms spouse, husband and wife will not include individuals who have a registered domestic partnership or other formal relationship that is recognized under state law but isn't considered a marriage by the state
You May Be Entitled to a Tax Refund

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Wedleases Make Big News But Would They Make Divorce Less Messy?

August 13, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Wedlwases.jpgAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, couples are marrying at a faster rate than they are divorcing and that is good news.

Nonetheless, we all know the divorce rate is still higher than we'd like it to be and that the statistics for a lasting union deteriorate as couples enter their second, third and fourth marriages. If you take the film star Elizabeth Taylor as an example, her success at marriage didn't increase as she progressed to her eighth marriage. All of her nuptials ended in divorce court.

There's no doubt that it's easier to obtain a divorce today than it was back before 1970, when a divorcing spouse needed to allege that the husband or wife had been guilty of a crime or had committed adultery. In California, irreconcilable differences is a sufficient reason to substantiate the need for a divorce.

There does seem to be good news of late, however. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that divorce rates are decreasing (it was at 4 per 1,000 people in 2000 and 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2011) - and so are marriage rates (8.2 in 1,000 in the year 2000 and 6.2 per 1,000 in 2011).

Yet, if you look around your circle of friends and family, you know there is reason to be discouraged. Gone are the days when most couples made it to their 50th anniversary. These days, they are lucky if they celebrate their 11th year of marriage together.

With Still too Many Marriages Failing, Will Wedleases Become an Option?

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Same-Sex Immigrant Couples Can Finally Be Together

immigration.jpgWhen the U.S. Supreme Court made its historic rulings on same-sex couples on June 26 of this year, gay citizens were elated.

There were very likely some private celebrations held as well, especially among gay or lesbian naturalized citizens who were previously denied the right to bring a partner cross the U.S. border and obtain a coveted Green Card.

Citizenship and Immigration Services Green Cards

Since the legalization of medical marijuana in California, medical marijuana cards are sometimes referred to as "green cards." Elsewhere in the nation, a green card holder commonly refers to someone who has received authorization to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

Many green card holders are sponsored by employers or, more commonly, by family members. But what happens when your family member is a same-sex spouse or fiancé?

Before the Supreme Court ruling in June, petitions to admit a same-sex romantic partner were commonly denied. However, since the liberalization of the law, the federal administration has started a system-wide review of cases where U.S. citizens had been denied green cards for the simple fact that they were same-sex couples.

Attaining Legal Status Will Involve Forms

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