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Lambda Legal Tells 'New Jersey Love Story,' Celebrates Couple Married After 40 Years: VIDEO

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A new video from Lambda Legal shares the story of Cindy Meneghin and Maureen Kilian, two women who met their junior year of high school and have been together since, a total of over forty years. Cindy and Maureen were one of six couples originally contacted to join the fight for same-sex marriage as plaintiffs alongside Lambda Legal. Now, they are legally married in the state of New Jersey. In the video, the couple recounts the first time they met, their difficulty acquiring a marriage license over a decade ago, and the joy they felt as they finally signed the papers.  

Congratulations to Cindy and Maureen, as well as to all the other couples benefiting from the recent same-sex marriage ruling in the Garden State!  

Watch the moving video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Lambda Legal Tells 'New Jersey Love Story,' Celebrates Couple Married After 40 Years: VIDEO" »


Lambda Legal Appeals HIV-Positive Man's Transmission Conviction to Iowa Supreme Court

Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed an appeal in the Iowa Supreme Court over the conviction of Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive Iowan who was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison and required to register as a sex offender based on a one-time sexual encounter with another man during which they used a condom, said the organization via press release.

RhoadesLambda explains the case:

In June 2008, Rhoades had a one-time sexual encounter with Adam Plendl during which they used a condom. Several days later, Plendl was told by a friend that Rhoades might be HIV-positive.The police were contacted, and Mr. Plendl cooperated fully in the prosecution of Mr. Rhoades. The police arrested Rhoades in September 2008, and on the advice of his counsel, he pled guilty. Despite the fact that a condom was used and Mr. Plendl did not contract HIV, Rhoades was convicted under Iowa's HIV criminalization law. He received the maximum sentence: 25 years in prison and classification as the most serious type of sex offender. Subsequently, the court suspended his prison sentence, and he was placed on supervised probation for five years. On March 15, 2010, Rhoades filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief, arguing that the attorney who advised him to plead guilty had failed to inform him of the specifics of the statute, resulting in his conviction for a crime he did not in fact commit. In December 2011, the district court denied the application, and Lambda Legal began representing Rhoades on appeal. Oral argument were presented to the Iowa Court of Appeals in early September (2013), and on October 2, a three-judge panel affirmed Rhoades's conviction.

Thirty-nine states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges resulting in more than 160 prosecutions in the United States in the past four years. Among other things, HIV criminalization perpetuates the many myths and misconceptions that fuel other types of discrimination against people living with HIV. It sends an inaccurate message regarding prevention responsibility, creates a disincentive to getting tested, and may actually discourage disclosure of HIV status.

Added Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal: "We're asking the Iowa Supreme Court to review this case because the facts here don't add up to a conviction. The Court of Appeals' decision was based on a misinterpretation of the plain language of the statute, and we look forward to presenting the case to the state's supreme court. A person who uses a condom and engages in safe sex, as Nick did, does not have the intent required to support a conviction under Iowa's law addressing exposure to HIV."

More on the case at Lambda Legal's website.

Previously on Towleroad...
Nick Rhoades: Imprisoned fro Months, Punished for Life, for Failure to Disclose [tlrd]
Criminalizing the HIV-Positive Community [tlrd]


Lambda Legal Appeals Decision Barring Gay Couples From Marrying In Nevada To Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals

6a00d8341c730253ef0168e9e3492f970c-200wiYesterday, Lambda Legal filed their opening brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case challenging Nevada's constitutional amendment and other laws banning same-sex marriage. The appeal comes after the initial case was rebuffed by a federal judge in November 2012. The appeal with the Ninth Circuit was filed December of that same year but was stalled as the U.S. Supreme Court considered Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop. 8) and United States v. Windsor (DOMA). At the time, many lower courts were looking to those rulings for guidance as to how they should enact their own jurisprudence in cases pertaining to same-sex marriage.

In their argument to the Ninth Circuit, Lambda Legal posits that the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA makes it all the more necessary for the Ninth Circuit to act in their favor because same-sex couples in Nevada are being denied federal benefits that the Supreme Court ruled they ought to be afforded.

Via Lambda Legal's press release:

6a00d8341c730253ef017c3420d235970b-250wi"The world has changed dramatically since we filed this lawsuit over a year ago," said Tara Borelli, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Western Regional Office. "After the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA, Nevada's ban on marriage for same-sex couples has become exponentially more harmful to same-sex couples who are barred from a sweeping array of federal benefits as well."

The brief argues: "As the arbiter of which couples may be married in the State, Nevada thus holds the key to access for the sweeping array of spousal rights and responsibilities available under federal law, and keeps them locked away from same-sex couples under the marriage ban.  By foreclosing same-sex couples from marriage, Nevada inflicts virtually the same collection of federal harms and deprivations on unmarried same-sex couples as DOMA previously did, since nearly all federal benefits are unavailable to unmarried couples, regardless of whether they are registered domestic partners."

In addition to legal challenges to Nevada's anti-equality laws, there is also an attempt underway to get marriage equality on the ballot in 2016 in Nevada.


Gay Chicago Lawmaker Discusses Trip to Washington State to Marry Partner: VIDEO

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Chicago City Alderman James Cappelman and his partner Richard have been together for more than two decades.  But after waiting anxiously for Illinois to legalize marriage equality, and in light of the disappointing stop-and-start progress of an equal marriage bill over the last year, the couple is heading to Washington state to tie the knot.  The Chicago Tribune has the story:

"We are going to go elsewhere," said Ald. James Cappleman, 46th. "It's kind of sad that a Chicago alderman, an elected official, has to leave his own state. But we'll keep fighting. There's a lot of people who want to get married."

Cappleman and Richard Thale, who met in church, have been together for 22 years. The plan to get married Nov. 22, surrounded by relatives who live out West. The couple already have a civil union in Illinois.

Cappleman is a social worker and longtime community activist in his first term. Thale is the courts advocate for the Town Hall Police District, a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy beat facilitator and president of the Uptown Chicago Commission.

Cappleman said he first spilled the beans Tuesday night on CLTV's "Politics Tonight" show when asked what it was like to be an alderman and gay. He later posted his plans on Facebook.

The alderman told the Tribune his decision was based in large part on the Supreme Court's June decision invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.  "Should something happen to either one of us," he wrote in a Facebook post, "we didn't want to take the risk of losing those federal protections that other married couples already have."

Cappleman isn't the other city politician forced to travel outside Illinois to get married: his colleague Deb Mell wed her partner in Iowa.

LGBT advocates in Illinois are pursuing two parallel tracks in their quest for equal marriage rights in the state.  Legislators will seek to pass a marriage equality bill in the veto session this fall, and former state Republican party chair Pat Brady--who resigned after criticism from his own party for his support of same-sex couples' right to marry--is helping the ACLU of Illinois convince GOP lawmakers to back the legislation.

The other track towards marriage equality in Illinois is taking place in the courts.  Late last month, a state judge rejected motions to dismiss two court cases challenging the state's policy of providing only civil unions and not marriage to same-sex couples.  Lambda Legal and the ACLU, who are sponsoring the two cases, are now pressing forward to win a positive ruling from Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall that brings marriage equality to the Land of Lincoln.

You can watch Cappleman discuss his wedding in an appearance on Chicago's WGN9 News (warning: autoplay), AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Gay Chicago Lawmaker Discusses Trip to Washington State to Marry Partner: VIDEO" »


New Jersey Supreme Court To Consider 'Emergency' Gay Marriage Appeal

SipIn response to Governor Chris Christie's "emergency" filing, appealing a lower court's decision to uphold Judge Mary Jacobson's ruling that same-sex marriage must be made legal in the Garden State following the destruction of section 3 of DOMA in United States v. Windsor earlier this year, the New Jersey state Supreme Court decided to consider the merits of the case in question and the request for a stay. If granted, the stay would prevent same-sex couples from marrying while the court decided whether to uphold or reverse Judge Jacobson's decision.

As the AP reports, in Christie's filing he argued that New Jersey's Supreme Court should consider the marriage equality case because no one judge should be allowed to make so momentous a decision:

"To overhaul such an ancient social institution prematurely, precipitously, or in a manner ultimately deemed unnecessary would injure not only the public interest, but the State that represents this interest," the state attorney general's office said in its brief."

The decision on whether to stay Judge Jacobson's ruling is expected to happen "within days" so as determine whether same-sex couples can begin to marry starting October 21 as Jacobson had ordered. However, the court will not consider the merits of the marriage case itself until January.

Lambda Legal spoke out on the court's intervention:

"Time is of the essence and it's great the court is moving so quickly," said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. "We are looking forward to making our case at the New Jersey Supreme Court for the families in New Jersey who need marriage to better protect their families."

UPDATE: You can find all the official court documents associated with the case HERE.


Lambda Legal To Fight Stay Of Judge's Ruling Legalizing Gay Marriage In NJ

As previously reported, last week New Jersey judge Mary Jacobson ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to wed in the Garden State, declaring, "now that the federal government recognizes gay marriages, not doing so in New Jersey would violate the state constitution." Governor Chris Christie, a stalwart opponent of gay marriage, who in the past vetoed marriage equality legislation sent to him by the state legislature, today officially made good on his earlier promise to appeal Judge Jacobson's ruling. Acting State Attorney General John Hoffman in his appeal to the State's Supreme Court also requested a stay which would in effect prevent same-sex couples from marrying "until the matter can be settled." In response, Lambda Legal promptly announced they will fight Hoffman and Christie's attempts to stay Jacobson's decision. Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director at Lambda Legal (pictured below), spoke on behalf of the organization:

Lambdalady"We're going to do everything we can to make sure same-sex couples can begin making plans to marry starting on the date set by the court - Oct 21st. We will file our opposition on Friday and we'll be making the case that  we are likely to win and any delay in allowing same-sex couples to marry is too great a hardship to allow a stay."

Lambda Legal first brought the case in question to the court in 2011. Following the United States v. Windsor ruling that gutted section 3 of DOMA, Lambda Legal asked for summary judgment from the New Jersey Superior Court. Lambda Legal also filed the 2002 Lewis v. Harris case in New Jersey. In that case the state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must be afforded the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, though the Court stopped short of saying that full marriage equality was required under the state's constitution. A civil union law was passed by the state legislature as a result of that ruling.

Lambda Legal is far from the only party displeased with Governor Christie's efforts to fight Judge Jacobson's decision. Among others, Christie has drawn the ire of comedy mogul Judd Apatow, who last week tweeted his displeasure with the Governor's anti-equality positions.


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