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.

Looking Back on 2012: A Banner Year for LGBT Rights

As 2012 comes to a close and I write my final post of the year. I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for all of the accomplishments realized by the LGBT community.  It has truly been a banner year.

Same-sex couples in Maine, Maryland and Washington won the right to marry at the ballot box this November while voters defeated a ban against gay marriage in Minnesota.   Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealedPresident Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage.

Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate, will be sworn in this January and an unprecedented number of LGB legislators won or kept seats in Congress.

More celebrities have joined the cause in support of gay rights, including Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.

Court battles were won and more than one court held DOMA to be unconstitutional.  Best of all, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the DOMA cases this term.

Professionally, I had a wonderful year as well.  As a result of this blog, I was invited to be a panelist at the Secrets of the Legal Bloggers event hosted by the Young Lawyers Section of the Connecticut Bar Association.   There, I met two aspiring bloggers with an interest in LGBT issues.  I was interviewed by the Connecticut Post in May about President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage.  This blog turned 3 in July (my Attorney O’s Midnight Musings blog turned 3 in June).  In September, I had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer at a family law paralegal class at Manchester Community College on the topic of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.  For fun (and to hopefully engage the students), I wrote and performed a tongue-in-cheek rap song about DOMA that I hope to post on this blog sometime in 2013.

I was elected vice-president of the Collaborative Divorce Professionals, in September, which was quite exciting as I am such a firm believer in the collaborative divorce process.  I was contacted by the BBC in London to give an interview on the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy banning gays from the organization.  Although that interview never materialized due to a major world crisis that preempted the story, it was gratifying that my opinion had been sought by a reporter.  In October, I was privileged to attend the Diversity Award dinner for my mentor and colleague, Judge Maureen M. Murphy, a tireless advocate for LGBT rights who worked for marriage equality in Connecticut and was part of the groundbreaking Kerrigen case that ultimately won same-sex couples the right to marry in this state.   Finally, I ended 2012 with an interview for a piece on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that is supposed to run in the Hartford Courant.

All in all, it was an exciting year for me and for LGBT citizens in general.

To the wonderful clients who entrusted me with their legal matters this year, thank you for the opportunity to work with you and to learn from you.  Whether working with clients wishing to draft Wills and documents of protection, wanting to protect their families by going through the step-parent adoption process, seeking divorce or working with the Probate process for a loved one’s estate, it was a gratifying year to have met so many wonderful people.  I thank you for the many conversations, for your displays of courage and humor and tenacity in the face of adversity.  You are all to be admired.

As 2013 approaches, I am optimistic that we will continue to see advances in LGBT rights and protections.  There will be opposition, to be sure — but I choose to believe that the LGBT community will ultimately prevail.

Have a fabulous night as you celebrate the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.  Be safe in whatever you choose to do.

I wish you joy, love and prosperity in the coming year.  I also wish each of you great peace.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

Happy New Year 2013

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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 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Westboro Baptist Church Threatens to Picket Funerals of Newtown Victims

By now, most everyone has heard that the Westboro Baptist Church has threatened to picket the funerals of the victims of Friday’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t reacted to the news by saying that something must be done to protect the families and the community during this difficult emotional time.

Under the Constitution, the Westboro clan has the right to free speech, as upheld by the United States Supreme Court.  Even hateful and hurtful speech is protected.  I am a believer that with rights come responsibilities.  In this case, I feel strongly that the misguided folks in the Westboro cult (I have trouble identifying it is anything else) have a responsibility to respect the sensitivity of this horrific tragedy and restrict their free speech to some place other than the funerals of those victims.

Please refer to the following Washington Post article on some ways to respond to their protests:

Westboro Baptist Church to picket Sandy Hook funerals: 4 ways to respond

For those on Facebook, an “event” page has been set up to track the Westboro protestors and provide information on what is being done to prevent them from disturbing the funerals.  Check regularly for updates:

Love and Protect Sandy Hook

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and friends of the victims and to every member of the Newtown community during this difficult time.

Newtown Candle

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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 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Sandy Hook School Support Fund

For those who wish to offer some support to the Newtown community in the aftermath of the horrific shootings that took the lives of 27 people (20 of them children) on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a co-op has been set up between Newtown Savings Bank and the United Way of Western Connecticut.  Donations may be made in person at any bank branch, online at  https://newtown.uwwesternct.org/ or by mail via check/money order by sending to Sandy Hook School Support Fund, c / o Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main St., Newtown, CT 06470.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims and to all the residents of Newtown, Connecticut.

Newtown Candle

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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 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

2012: A Year to Be Thankful

I want to wish each and every reader of this blog a happy Thanksgiving.  I also want to remind everyone in the LGBT community that 2012 has provided a lot of wonderful victories for which to be thankful.  Whether you are celebrating personal victories or those of the community in general, please take the time to reflect on all that has been accomplished this year … and take a moment to be thankful for all the volunteers and organizations that put in such a tremendous amount of time and energy to make life in the LGBT community better for everyone.

I won’t take the time to enumerate every achievement of 2012 in this space, you already know what happened so far this year.  I’m just hoping that every LGBT person will take a moment out of this glorious day to be thankful for all that has been achieved for the greater good of the LGBT community.  It has truly been a banner year.

Finally, I want to thank each of you for reading this blog, for passing along my posts and for taking the time to comment on them.  It means the world to me and I am truly thankful to have such a wonderful audience for my posts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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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.

Obama nominates openly gay, African-American judge to federal bench

According to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, president Barack Obama nominated an openly-gay African American judge for a seat on the Federal bench.  Judge William L. Thomas was nominated Wednesday to an opening on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Thomas would become only the second out LGBT African-American to serve as a United States District Court judge.

Read more here.

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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.

Stand Up and Be Counted … VOTE!

Tomorrow’s election is critical for the LGBT community in many ways.  This is not a year to skip the voting booth.  We will be keeping an eye on the gay marriage ballots in Maine and Washington.  Of critical concern is Minnesota’s Amendment 1, which would limit marriage to one man and one woman in that state.

The presidential election is most critical given that Romney is not supportive of the LGBT community, he signed the so-called marriage pledge and has vowed to work toward the passage of a federal amendment that would ban gay marriage in the United States.  LGBT citizens don’t have much time to talk to everyone around them to be sure they understand the important issues.  Do your part.

No matter what you’re doing tomorrow, take the time to VOTE!

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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 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

My Law Office is Observing Emergency Storm Protocols

As you are all aware, Storm Sandy is making her way up the coast.  The winds have been increasing steadily all day and as of this writing, have really begun to pick up.  Severe flooding and high winds are expected in Connecticut.  Power outages are a given.  Our first priority is the safety of our staff and clients.  The law office is observing storm safety protocols and will remain closed until power is restored and roads are safe for travel.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we weather this storm.  With power outages, we will have no phones, fax or internet service until the crews restore power which is estimated to be 36-40 hours after the outages begin.

At home, we have prepared for the worst.  Flashlights and lanterns have fresh batteries, wood is stacked and ready to heat the house, bottles of water are full.  Patio furniture and other possible projectiles are safely stored away.  All electronic devices have been charged so I have something to do when the lights go out.  Although wifi will go out with the power, I am thrilled that my smartphone will continue to give me access to the outside world.  I even managed to do 2 loads of laundry and take what I hope won’t be my last hot shower of the week.

We hope that all of you in the path of the storm will remain safe.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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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 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

‘Home for the Holidays’ Concert Proceeds to Benefit ‘Forty to None Project’

Last year’s Home for the Holidays concert starring Give A Damn Campaign founder, Cyndi Lauper, was so successful that the star is hosting the event again this December.  Every cent of the proceeds — yes folks, 100% — will go to Give A Damn Campaign’s sister project, the True Colors Fund.  Specifically, that program is the Forty to None Project, the nation’s first national organization focused solely on raising awareness about and bringing an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness.  According to Lauper, an estimated 40% of all homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

In addition to a performance by Cyndi Lauper, some of the featured performers will include Sarah McLachlan, Adam Lambert, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Roberta Flack, St. Vincent, Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells, Hunter Valentine and host Carson Kressley.

The event will be held on Saturday, December 8th at the historic Beacon Theater in New York City.  Advance tickets go on sale today.  Purchase tickets here.

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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 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.

Toyota Financial Services Sponsors ‘Spirit Day’ App for iPhone and Android, Mobilizing Users Against Bullying

I received the following press release:

Toyota Financial Services Sponsors ‘Spirit Day’ App for iPhone and Android, Mobilizing Users Against Bullying

TORRANCE, Calif.  Toyota Financial Services (TFS) and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have teamed up to take a stand against bullying, joining hundreds of celebrities, media outlets, corporations, and organizations in doing the same.  Together, the two entities launched the “Go Purple for #SpiritDay” app, available for both iPhone and Android smartphones.  The TFS powered app provides users with anti-bullying resources, calls to action, and a tool that can turn photos purple.  These purple photos can then be shared to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to show one’s support for and participation in the upcoming Spirit Day on Oct. 19.

Millions of Americans will “turn purple” for Spirit Day, raising awareness of the dangers of bullying, and showing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.

“Everyone at Toyota Financial Services, and across the Toyota family, is proud and excited to be a part of this year’s Spirit Day,” says Ann Bybee, TFS vice president, corporate strategy, communications & community relations.  “Going purple for the day is a small but powerful way we can all show our support for those who have been bullied or who fear being bullied.  It is so important to raise awareness that bullying isn’t acceptable.  At Toyota, we have always embraced a guiding principle of ‘respect for people,’ which has made us the company we are today.  And it is a principle that includes not only our employees and customers, but everyone, without exception.”

TFS is certainly in good company.  The iconic New York Stock Exchange will light up in purple for Spirit Day, as will the LAX Pylon Lights and the JFK traffic tower.  MTV Networks and Logo will turn their on-air logos purple.  American Apparel will feature purple clothing items on its website.  The National Basketball Association (NBA), Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and many supportive celebrities, such as blogger Perez Hilton, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, TV icon George Takei, and talk show host Wendy Williams, will join the ranks of past Spirit Day participants Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Tyra Banks, Ricky Martin, Cher, and Julianne Moore.  And the list goes on; corporations including AMC Entertainment, AT&T, CNBC, Delta Air Lines, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, McGraw-Hill, Omnicom, Warner Bros., and Yahoo! will all participate by encouraging their employees to wear purple, turning their logo purple, and/or participating through social media.

“By going purple for Spirit Day, millions of Americans are helping to send a clear message that no one should be bullied simply because of who they are,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick.

Supporters are encouraged to take the Spirit Day pledge at http://www.glaad.org/spiritday, and download the “Go Purple for #SpiritDay” app.

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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 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.