Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Around The Nation

Iowa Judge Orders Health Department To Provide Accurate Death Certificate For Lesbian Couple's Child
DES MOINES, IA -- District Court Judge, Robert A. Hutchison last week ordered Iowa's Department of Public Health to issue a death certificate to Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer that lists both of them as parents of their stillborn child, Brayden. 
Attorneys for the department had argued that the women could not be considered as “mother” and “father,” respectively, on their son's death certificate, although the couple had checked those boxes and written out their names. Officials had returned the final death certificate with Jennifer’s name erased from the box she had marked listing her under 'father.'
In his ruling, Hutchison wrote;
“(The department) has unconstitutionally interfered with a same-sex wife’s ability to receive the benefits of a certificate. A categorical refusal to register a mother’s wife on a Certificate violates equal protection. DPH is required to modify its Certificate so as to identify both petitioners here as parents.” 
The 20-page decision is currently under review according to a spokesperson for the State Attorney General, Tom Miller, whose office represented the Health Department in the legal challenge. Geoff Greenwood said the office is “reviewing the judge’s ruling. "We’ll talk with the Iowa Department of Public Health about the state’s legal options."
"The ruling came a day after the Attorney General’s office represented the health department at a related hearing in front of the Iowa Supreme Court. In that case, Des Moines couple Heather Martin Gartner and Melissa Gartner are suing the state to force them to include both their names on the birth certificate of their daughter, Mackenzie. 
Camille Taylor, an attorney for the gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal, represents both the Buntemeyers and the Gartners. A message left with the organization was not returned Monday. 
“In this case, the state was not only denying that Jenny and Jessica are both mothers, it was trying to erase Jenny from the family,” Taylor said in a news release. “A death certificate for Brayden is their sole legal record of his existence and his significance to their family.”
Nondiscrimination Ordinance Passes Unanimously In Montana's Capital City
HELENA, MT -- After two hours of at times almost rancorous debate, the Helena City Commission, in a unanimous vote Monday night, passed an ordinance that will prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and many kinds of public accommodation based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Hundreds of the city's residents and other concerned parties turned out to support or oppose the measure which led to the meeting being expanded to two additional rooms in the City-County Building to provide audio and video of the meeting. Helena Mayor Jim Smith gave each side an hour to speak on the measure.
According to the Billings Gazette approximately 30 persons managed to speak in favor of the measure, including some transgender people, in their allotted hour. Fourteen persons opposed against the measure spoke, with both sides leaving many people still in line when their respective hour(s) elapsed.
City Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath, the principal sponsor of the ordinance told those gathered; 
“I believe, and I felt the commissioners believe, that being LGBT is part of the human condition. It’s something that people cannot change, and we believe that people should not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientations.” 
Eight of the 14 people speaking against the measure mentioned what some called the “bathroom” or “locker room” issue — the concern voyeurs or pedophiles would exploit the protections for transgender people to gain access to women’s restrooms or similar areas demanding privacy, or that transgender people themselves would cause alarm in such situations.
Opponents also  cited fears of expensive litigation for the city and businesses; inadequate evidence, some said, that anti-gay discrimination is a problem worthy of such a law; and giving what some called “special privileges” to some people at the expense of others. 
One person opposed pointed out that fear of exploitation or being exposed to 'predatory' behaviours would make them wary of entering public bathrooms in Helena.
“How will we be able to monitor when a person, male or female, enters the opposing bathroom and says ‘Well, I can do this, because I’m gender-identity confused?’” said Jacqui Garcia, citing situations her children might encounter. “We all have been in bathroom stalls and public stalls, There’s gaps between the doors, and you can still see in them.”
Sharon Turner said the situation would put a huge majority of the population at risk. She said she wasn’t afraid gay or lesbian people would set out to harm the children, but rather others with malicious intent. “How easy it would be for a teenage boy to use this ordinance as a rite of passage?” she said. She said if the measure passed, she would cease her shopping trips into Helena with her children and grandchildren. 
Bill Gallagher, a GOP member of the Montana Public Service Commission, said the city faces huge risks of expensive litigation, with even individual commissioners and the municipal judge being potentially personally liable — especially because the ordinance was provocative and antagonistic to the teachings of major religions. 
Other opponents of the measure said bullying and even hate speech was going to persist regardless of the ordinance, and the government shouldn’t regulate such behavior. 
“We can’t legislate morality and we can’t legislate kindness,” said Liane Taylor. “I think that what we maybe need is more dialog and not more regulations.” The Billings Gazette 
Local attorney Ron Waterman offered;
“We are talking tonight about human rights, not special rights."