Colorado Civil Unions Bill Passes Senate

Colorado Gay marriageYesterday,  a Colorado Senate committee voted 3-2 to pass Senate Bill 11, which would legalize civil unions for same-sex couples in that state.  The bill was opposed by Republicans in that vote.  The bill will now be heard by the Appropriations Committee before it reaches Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk.  The bill is expected to become law.

The Governor challenged the legislature to make civil unions available during his last State of the Union address.

“As mentioned earlier, there are quite a few mountains we ought to climb together before this session ends in May,” said the Governor.  “Some of us tried very hard, but it didn’t get done last year. This year, let’s do it. Let’s pass civil unions.”

If the law passes, Colorado will become the 6th state to support civil unions.  Colorado currently has a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Connecticut Legislature Confirms First Openly Gay Supreme Court Justice

Earlier today, the Connecticut General Assembly confirmed Andrew J. McDonald, a Democratic state senator, as the first openly gay justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The Senate voted 30-3 to confirm McDonald while the House voted 125-20.  McDonald currently serves as Governor Malloy’s general counsel.

McDonald is the first lawyer nominated to the Connecticut Supreme Court who did not first serve as a judge in a lower court since Governor Lowell P. Weicker Jr. nominated Richard Palmer.

According to the CT Mirror, McDonald, who first ran for the state Senate in 2002 as an openly gay politician, was co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2005, when the legislature passed a civil unions law that gave many of the same rights as marriage to same-sex couples.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Obama Speaks of Gay RIghts in Inaugural Address

gay_rightsIn what will surely become an historic inaugural address, President Barack Obama made two strong mentions of gay rights.  According to Politico, Obama “became the first president to use the word “gay” in an inaugural address in reference to sexual orientation, making two references to gay rights as he began his second term.”

The first reference, mid way through his address, was to Stonewall and the riots that took place there in 1969.  The riots were spurred by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in Greenwich Village.  The Stonewall riots were a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement.

Obama referenced Stonewall in the same sentence in which he also referenced  Seneca Falls (the site of the 1848 Women’s Rights convention) and Selma (where Alabama state troops attacked civil rights marchers in 1965).

The second reference came in the next section of the address:

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

I am overjoyed that President Obama acknowledged the struggles of the gay and lesbian community not once but twice in his inaugural address.  This is a good day, America.

Watch the video on Politico.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

LGBT Fast Friday News 1/18/13

Fast Friday is a weekly feature in which I provide links to news items and other resources of interest to the LGBT community.

Check out my tongue-in-cheek DOMA Rap on the law office’s YouTube page. It was written the night before my guest lecture on same-sex marriage and LGBT rights to a group of family law paralegal students. Just for fun .. and hopefully to teach them something about DOMA.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for informational videos on a variety of legal topics to be posted this year. http://www.youtube.com/user/IreneOlszewskiLawCT

Man Discharged Under DADT Named Co-Chair of Obama’s Inaugural Committee

Lawyers From LGBT Group to Join Supreme Court Bar

Mayor Emanuel signs Illinois marriage equality petition

CT LG Blog FB Image

For those who do not have access to Facebook or haven’t had the time to log recently, here is a sampling of the week’s posts from our Connecticut Lesbian and Gay Law Facebook page:

Smallest state becomes big battleground on same-sex marriage as RI House holds hearing

Vicco, Kentucky, called smallest town in America with gay-rights protections

French leaders unmoved by march against marriage equality

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Alimony Basics in Connecticut

When two people enter into marriage, each has the duty to support the other.  When couples divorce, that duty to support may continue.  That’s the concept of alimony, in a nutshell.

AlimonyIn many cases, the incomes of the two divorcing parties are disparate. For example, if one party earns $150,000 per year and the other earns $30,000 per year, the difference in their incomes is $120,000 per year. Combined, that married couple lives on $180,000 per year. When divorcing, there has to be a way to equalize the money each person will have available to live on. The party earning $150,000 will likely be obligated to pay alimony to the party earning only $30,000. There are a variety of factors that the courts must consider.

Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 46b-82 states that:

“In determining whether alimony shall be awarded, and the duration and amount of the award, the court shall hear the witnesses, if any, of each party, except as provided in subsection (a) of section 46b-51, shall consider the length of the marriage, the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties and the award, if any, which the court may make pursuant to section 46b-81, and, in the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has been awarded, the desirability of such parent’s securing employment.”

In some cases, one party to the marriage has given up a career or educational opportunity in order to stay at home and raise the couple’s children. On divorce, that party has very few employment options and may require training or education before being able to command a salary that is higher than minimum wage. It is only fair, then, that the party with the income pay alimony to the party without income in order for that disadvantaged party to be able to obtain the training or education necessary to become employable. A court will certainly take such circumstances into account when determining an alimony award.

In order to provide security to the person receiving alimony, our statutes provide that:

“The court may order that a party obtain life insurance as such security unless such party proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that such insurance is not available to such party, such party is unable to pay the cost of such insurance or such party is uninsurable.”

This is only meant to be a brief overview of the alimony process in Connecticut.  If you are in the process of divorcing, your attorney will explain your personal alimony obligation to you in detail.

In addition to this blog which is specific to the lesbian and gay community, I also publish a general blog called Attorney O’s Midnight Musings: Connecticut Law.  While the posts on that blog are not specific to the LGBT community, the information is none-the-less appropriate to the community as well.  The above post originally appeared on my other blog but it is useful for divorcing same-sex couples to review.  Originally titled “Alimony 101 posted By Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. on May 16, 2011.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

House Republicans Ready To Spend $3 Million of OUR Tax Dollars On Legal Defense of DOMA

DOMAIf you haven’t heard about this bit of continued insanity, read on.

When the Obama administration instructed Attorney General Eric Holder not to defend DOMA in court any longer because they found the law to be unconstitutional, it didn’t stop the House Republicans from mounting their own defense in the Spring of 2011.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders hired attorneys at the law firm Bancroft LLC to represent the House in court cases involving the federal ban on gay marriage.  It wasn’t their own money the Republicans put up for the legal battle, it was all funded with taxpayer dollars!  Basically, you and I are paying for them to fight to keep a discriminatory law in place that we do not agree with in any way.  What’s wrong with this picture?

We all pay taxes because we are required to do so.  I don’t know about you but I certainly didn’t send my hefty check to the IRS to fund the GOP’s discrimination against the lesbian and gay community.  I don’t believe in DOMA.  I was opposed to it way back when it was initially passed and I’m opposed to it now.  I don’t recall anyone from the GOP asking if I wanted to contribute my share of the hard earned tax dollars to assist them in perpetuating discrimination.

Fast forward to 2013.  Several courts have already found DOMA to be unconstitutional.  Now the United States Supreme Court is poised to hear two DOMA cases.  According to the Huffington Post, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), chair of the House Administration Committee, signed a revised contract with Bancroft LLC that increases the spending cap to $3 million, allowing the firm’s attorneys to continue defending DOMA in  court.  The revised contract also bears the signatures of Bancroft partner Paul Clement and Kerry Kircher, general counsel for the House of Representatives.  This took place on January 4th of this year.

The Huffington Post reports that:

“The revised contract comes on the heels of House Republican leaders inserting language into the rules package for the 113th Congress that authorizes the House legal team to keep paying outside counsel to defend DOMA. The rules package also states that the House legal team continues to “speak for” all House members in its defense of DOMA — language that infuriated Democrats opposed to the matter. All but one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.), voted to pass the rules package, effectively endorsing the DOMA language. But a Jones spokesman told The Huffington Post that Jones’ opposition wasn’t DOMA-related.”

They are a sneaky bunch, wouldn’t you say?

House Democrats voiced their opposition to pouring more taxpayer dollars into defending DOMA in a letter to Boehner:

“We wish to strongly reaffirm our objections to the repeated actions by the Republican leadership to secretly and dramatically increase the contract between the House and outside counsel in arguing to uphold the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in more than a dozen cases,” reads the letter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“It is the height of hypocrisy for House Republicans to waste public funds in one breath then claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility in the next,” the letter continues. “With Republicans willing to take our economy and our country to the brink of default in the name of deficit reduction, there is simply no excuse for any Member of Congress to commit taxpayer dollars to an unnecessary — and futile — legal battle.”

Okay folks, it’s time to start making some serious noise.  Call, write and e-mail your congress members.  Ask everyone you know to do the same.  This is unconscionable.  If the GOP wants to continue fighting DOMA, they should do so with their own money, not with ours.

It’s bad enough we are forced to fund pensions and insurance plans for Congress when we had no say in those expenditures either!  Don’t even get me started.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Florida Senate Files Statewide Domestic Partnership Bill

Gay FloridaAccording to the Equality Florida website, Senator Eleanor Sobel (D) filed a statewide bill (SB 196) this week intended to allow Floridia residents to enter domestic partnerships.  The bill, known as “Families First” would give same-sex couples in that State legal protections hospital visitation rights and the ability to make healthcare decisions for a partner.

“This bill makes a lasting change in the lives of many Florida families. By keeping couples together through affording them the same equal rights, we are supporting Florida families,” Senator Sobel commented. “A majority of Americans support extending benefits to couples in domestic partnerships. We cannot allow Florida to be the last state to treat all of its citizens fairly and equally. I am committed to sponsoring and fighting for this bill until it is heard, passed, and signed by the governor.”

If you are a Florida resident, be sure to support the bill and get involved with Equality Florida to promote rights for same-sex couples.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Virginia Lawmakers Vote Down Bill to Repeal Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriage

Gay VirginiaOn Monday, a House of Delegates subcommittee in Virginia voted 6-1 against HJ665, a bill to repeal that State’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

HJ665 was introduced on January 9th by Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell (D-).  In an interview with the Washington Blade, Surovell said, “people affirming their love to each other and living in committed relationships is a universal human right.”

“It’s a civil right,” Surovell continued. “I don’t think that the constitution should prohibit the government from recognizing people’s love and commitment to each other solely because of their sexual orientation. I think it’s wrong and it’s hateful.”

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Delegate Rob Krupicka (D) said, “Virginia is going to have to re-visit this issue either because the public demands it, because we are forced to by the Supreme Court or because corporations make it clear that they’d rather move to D.C. or Maryland in order to protect their employees.  Marshall-Newman is so broadly worded, that it puts even basic contracts in question. Ultimately, I’d like us to be talking about an amendment to add marriage freedom to our constitution. But as today’s action shows, we have work to do to even allow for basic contract rights between two people.”

It looks like supporters of same-sex marriage in Virginia have a lot of work to do to convince the legislature that the discriminatory amendment must be repealed.  If you’re looking for a way to help the cause, you may wish to contact Equality Virginia.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Colorado Governor Wants Civil Union Legislation Passed This Year

Colorado Gay marriageIn his third State of the Union address, Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, called for the legislature to pass civil union this year.

“As mentioned earlier, there are quite a few mountains we ought to climb together before this session ends in May,” said the Governor.  “Some of us tried very hard, but it didn’t get done last year. This year, let’s do it. Let’s pass civil unions.”

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has supported the Colorado Civil Union Act since it was first introduced in the legislature in 2011.  The Republican controlled House opposed the measure even though it had gained bipartisan support in the Senate.  In 2012, the bill was again cleared by the Senate with bipartisan support.  It also cleared three House GOP committees.  The bill died after the clock ran out on the legislative session.  According to Out Colorado, then-Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, (R) called it an impasse and said his chamber’s body didn’t have enough time to consider the bill. The bill was introduced on the first day of the regular session but was held in the Senate while sponsors state Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Mark Ferrandino, both Denver Democrats, shopped for a GOP House sponsor.  Less than 24 hours later, Hickenlooper told lawmakers he would call a special session to give Republicans the time they needed to consider the bill.  McNulty sent the bill to the House State Affairs committee where it was killed on a party line vote.

The civil union bill was reintroduced this year and with a legislature controlled by Democrats, seems destined to pass.

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

LGBT Fast Friday News 1/11/13

Fast Friday is a weekly feature in which I provide links to news items and other resources of interest to the LGBT community.

Tammy Baldwin: Was Chuck Hagel’s gay apology ‘sincere’?

Washington National Cathedral Announces It Will Hold Same-Sex Weddings

Scott Lively Warns ‘Wedding Songs to Homosexual Marriage’ are Responsible for Noah’s Flood and End Times

Mark Ferrandino Becomes Colorado’s First Openly Gay Speaker Of The House (VIDEO)

Bishop Says Marriage Equality Is ‘Immoral and Unnecessary’

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Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog.  Read my entire disclaimer.

copyright 2013 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.