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Same-sex equality in the courts takes another step forward

December 22, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

14th-amendment.jpgThe fight for same-sex equality in the arena of family law recently took a giant step forward.

A Utah judge who earlier decided to remove a foster baby from its same-sex foster parents decided to amend his decision and return the child to its original foster parents.

In his initial decision, the judge based his decision to remove the child from the same-sex, married couple based on research that, "has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home ...."

Did the judge have a change of heart or did he react to adverse publicity and criticism about his initial ruling? Some have surmised that the judge might have been concerned that his earlier ruling would be construed as a decision based on religion rather than an application of the law.

April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, the couple involved in this case, had been legally for a year and had passed all of the inspections, background checks and interviews required by the division of family services. As such, their status as a lesbian, same-sex couple was no surprise to family services.

It was, in fact, the child services division who filed a motion asking the judge to stay his order. The family services division even went so far as to threaten a formal appeal.

Continue reading "Same-sex equality in the courts takes another step forward" »

Father and Son Fight for the Right to Marry

December 1, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

635824401793519435-948903896_just-married-jpg.jpgI know what you're thinking: "Now I've heard everything." Am I right?

Well, keep reading because the headlines in this story don't depict the unusual circumstances of this case.

The father and son are gay men who are unrelated by blood. These are the not so unusual facts in this case.

Adoptions Were Fairly Common Before Decision Allowing Gay Marriage

Before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage, Nino Esposito adopted his partner Roland Drew Bosee so they could become a family unit with all the benefits laws provide.

In addition, at the time of the adoption Esposito and Bosee sought to reduce Pennsylvania's inheritance tax payable upon the death of one of the men from 15% to 4%.

At the time of the adoption, they'd been a couple for more than 40 years - clearly longer than numerous heterosexual couples manage to stay together.

After the Supreme Court's decision, the two men began to rethink their decision. Why live as father and son when they could more correctly live as a married couple?

Continue reading "Father and Son Fight for the Right to Marry" »

What Will Happen to these Frozen Embryos in Landmark Case?

September 22, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Test-Tube-Baby.jpgIf you've had fertility issues in your marriage, you will appreciate this story.

Pianist and part-time anesthesiologist Mimi Lee married Stephen Findley, reportedly a wealthy executive, five years ago.

Right before the wedding, Mimi was diagnosed with breast cancer, so she cautiously took the step to have her eggs and her new husband's sperm used to create and freeze five embryos.

At the time, Mimi signed a consent form allowing the destruction of the embryos in the event of a divorce. However, if the husband were to die the embryos would not be destroyed and would instead go to Mimi.

Now that Mimi and Stephen are divorced, they are contesting the fate of those frozen embryos.

Mimi sees the embryos as her only chance to have children. Stephen, on the other hand, doesn't want to see the embryos develop become children because of his now contentious relationship with Mimi. He said he didn't want to spend the next 18 years of his life interacting with his ex-wife.

Yes, the embryos are in the middle of a custody battle.

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The Next Frontier: The Right to Divorce for Same-Sex Couples

14th-amendment.jpgIt wasn't long after the U.S Supreme Court voted in favor of same-sex marriage throughout the country that a similar battle brewed in Texas: the right to divorce.

Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, both from Texas, married in 2004 in the state of Massachusetts.

The union didn't last long.

Same-Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in the Lone-Star State

Just a few years later, Naylor filed for divorce. It was complicated not just because they were gay but because they were raising a child and operating a business together.

Had they continued to live in Massachusetts, securing a divorce would have been easy. But they were from Texas and the state's position at the time was that there could only be a marital union between a man and a woman. Since same-sex marriage wasn't legal, women couldn't be divorced.

Ironically, it was Daly who argued the position that divorce was impossible.

The state court granted the divorce noting that the record stipulated that the judgment "is intended to be a substitute for . . . a valid and subsisting divorce," and "is intended to dispose of all economic issues and liabilities as between the parties whether they [are] divorced or not."

Attorney General's Office Steps In

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Is Your New Year's Resolution to Buy a Home? Consider an FHA Loan

January 6, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Thumbnail image for MW-AY569_smsold_20130124162258_MG.jpgAre you ready to jump into the housing market?

In Sonoma County, the last two years have seen rapid sales and eager buyers. If you're among those who formerly suffered a foreclosure or if you plan to purchase your first home, you may want to consider an FHA Loan.

The Federal Housing Administration's Roots

The government created the Federal Housing Administration in 1934 to help pull the nation out of the Depression and boost homeownership. The FHA accomplished this by making mortgages available to more people.

Back then, the benefits to the FHA program included:

  • lower down payments,
  • qualifying borrowers on their ability to repay the loan (and not on their business connections),
  • establishing an amortization schedule, and
  • allowing for longer loan terms

Continue reading "Is Your New Year's Resolution to Buy a Home? Consider an FHA Loan" »

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.

Continue reading "Charles Manson and the Right to Marry in U.S. Prisons" »

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.

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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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