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Michigan Doctor Cites Religious Beliefs in Her Cowardly Refusal To Treat Lesbian Couple’s Baby: VIDEO

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A Michigan lesbian couple has been left reeling and hurt after a doctor they were referred to agreed to post-natal care for the couple’s newborn daughter, but later reneged, Detroit's Fox 2 reports. Krista and Jami Contreras, who married in Vermont in 2012, were referred to Dr. Vesna Roi in September by their midwife before the birth of their baby Bay Windsor in October 2014. "We were really happy with her," Krista said of the couple’s initial meeting with Roi, "The kind of care she offered, we liked her personality, she seemed pretty friendly. She seemed pretty straight up with us." 

WindsorHowever, the Contreras went in to see Dr. Roi six days after Bay’s birth and found themselves face-to-face with a different doctor. Roi’s replacement, Dr. Melinda Karam, told the couple that Roi "decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won't be able to care for Bay," and that Roi didn’t even come into the office that day to avoid seeing the couple. The Contreras felt humiliated and embarrassed with Roi’s decision.

Said Jami Contreras:

"It was embarrassing, it was humiliating and here we are, new parents trying to protect her, and we know this happens in the world and we're completely prepared for this to happen other places. But not at our six-day-old's wellness appointment." 

The couple proceeded with Dr. Karam and later sought another pediatric group for their baby. The couple took to social media to share their story, which raised awareness and led people to start calling Eastlake Pediatrics to share their concerns. Nearly four months after the appointment, the Contreras finally received a letter from Roi.

RoiSaid Roi:

"After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that i would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationships that I normally do with my patients."

 "We do not keep prenatal information once we have our meetings so I had no way to contact you."

"I should have spoken with you directly that day. Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice."

Watch a Fox 2 report on the story, AFTER THE JUMP...

The American Medical Association prohibits physicians refusing care to patients based on sexual orientation, but doctors can refuse treatment if it conflicts with their personal, religious or moral beliefs. Michigan currently does not have laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families from discrimination. 

Continue reading "Michigan Doctor Cites Religious Beliefs in Her Cowardly Refusal To Treat Lesbian Couple’s Baby: VIDEO" »


Michigan Governor: State Will Recognize 300+ Same-Sex Marriages That Took Place in March

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced today that the state would recognize more than 300 same-sex marriages that took place last March after the state's ban was struck down but before the Sixth Circuit suspended the ruling.

SnyderOn January 15 U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered the state of Michigan to recognize the marriages and Wednesday Snyder said he would not appeal that ruling.

Said Snyder in a statement:

“The judge has determined that same-sex couples were legally married on that day, and we will follow the law and extend state marriage benefits to those couples.

“I appreciate that the larger question will be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court this year. This is an issue that has been divisive across our country. Our nation’s highest court will decide this issue. I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and it’s vitally important for an expedient resolution that will allow people in Michigan, as well as other states, to move forward together on the other challenges we face.”

The case challenging Michigan's ban on gay marriage is set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, along with challenges to bans in three other states that fall within the Sixth Circuit's jurisdiction.


Openly Gay Montana Rep. Bryce Bennett Introduces Bill To Remove Gay Marriage From State's List Of Prohibited Marriages

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 12.45.53 PMD-Rep. Bryce Bennett of Missoula, Mont. introduced House Bill 282 in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday that if passed would remove same-sex marriage from a list of prohibited marriages reports NBC MontanaIn November, District Judge Brian Morris struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in Montana with the state joining 32, now 36, other states that allow or have seen rulings allowing same-sex marriages. Morris ruled that Montana's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, thus making the ban unconstitutional. 

The U.S. Supreme Court announced in early January that it would take up the issue of gay marriage. However, members of the Montana House Judiciary Committee questioned removing the state's restriction before the high court makes its decision on the matter. The U.S. Supreme Court declared it would hear four cases that challenge states' bans on same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee with the cases set for hearings on April 24. 


Pro Bono Attorneys Handling Same-Sex Marriage Cases Slam Gay Inc. For Lack Of Financial Support

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A pro bono attorney who's challenging Michigan's same-sex marriage ban is publicly criticizing national LGBT organizations for failing to adequately support her efforts. 

Dana Nessel, co-counsel for Michigan marriage plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse (all three shown above), told Bloomberg Politics that attorneys from national LGBT organizations initially tried to dissuade her from filing the case because they said it didn't fit into their national strategy. When Nessel and her clients began to have success, she said organizations wanted to take over the case. After she refused, they denied requests for financial assistance, all the while using the case to raise money for themselves. 

From Bloomberg Politics

Nessel1An historic triumph for gay marriage may be within reach this spring on the biggest possible stage, but attorney Dana Nessel’s chief frustration at the moment is actually not anti-gay opponents. Rather, she’s taking aim at an unlikely target: the biggest, richest civil rights and gay rights organizations, all of which have left her team to beg and scrape for the estimated $1 million they need to litigate at the Supreme Court. “Nobody even wanted us to file this case, they all tried to stop us, and even now they’re not helping much,” she says tartly. “The great irony is, we’re the ones going to the Supreme Court.”

Private attorneys handling same-sex marriage cases in other states echoed some of Nessel's complaints, which are certainly nothing new to the movement. If you'll remember, national LGBT orgs didn't initially support the lawsuit challenging California's Prop 8, which was ultimately funded by the American Foundation For Equal Rights. 

However, one of the attorneys serving as Nesser's co-counsel in the Michigan case, Carole Stanyar (right), painted a slightly different picture in a statement to Daily Kos' Kerry Eleveld

Stanyar"While this article is mostly accurate in detailing our experience with the civil rights and gay organizations, it grossly understates the contributions of both GLAD and Lambda Legal. Mary Bonauto (GLAD) helped us the moment we asked her and has never stopped helping us. She is our co-counsel and deserves to be acknowledged. Throughout the case, Lambda has provided a great deal of assistance to us also. They helped us -- any time we asked -- to locate trial witnesses, to garner resources and research from around the country, and to help fund one of our expert witnesses (a $13,000 contribution). I was aware of a 'national strategy' to avoid the states in the Sixth Circuit, however, I don't recall either GLAD or Lambda ever discouraging us from filing or pursuing this lawsuit." 

According to Bloomberg, Lambda Legal was the only organization that responded to requests for comment about Nessel's complaints: 

TaylorLambda’s Marriage Project director Camilla Taylor (right) rejected the criticism, insisting: “We don't ever try to take over someone’s case. To my knowledge [the Michigan attorneys] are thrilled with all of the help we have provided, including financial resources.” She would not specify what those resources were and would not respond to questions about whether the group advised various plaintiffs not to file their suits. Attorney-client privilege extends to potential clients even if they don’t end up retaining the organization, Taylor said.

Certainly there are valid points on both sides of this debate, but as gay PR guru Bob Witeck (right) suggests in the Bloomberg piece, now's not the time for bickering: 

WiteckWhile national groups pressured Nessel to back off her critique for this report, unaffiliated activists say blaming her for speaking out is yet another illustration of the problem. “This is the case of our lifetime,” said Bob Witeck, a public-relations strategist who has worked with Human Rights Campaign and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and advises American Airlines on their gay marketing outreach. “If others are raising large chunks of money and they’re not feeding and servicing the lawyers and the litigants in these cases, what are we giving it to? There can’t be weak links. We have to have our ‘A’ game going in. There can’t be any part of this defense that isn’t fully prepared.”

On that note, you can contribute to the Michigan marriage effort here

And watch the touching video of Nessel and her clients celebrating a federal judge's decision to strike down the state's marriage ban in 2014, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Marriage At the Supreme Court 2.0: The Cases

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BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

This article is one in a multipart series leading up to a future Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. The Court has granted review of four marriage cases from the Sixth Circuit and a decision may be handed down at the end of June. Between now and then, Towleroad will break down the cases step by step. Today's topic: The Cases.

Last time, we spoke about the importance of framing the case through the Questions Presented. I argued that despite some concern, the two questions posed in the Supreme Court's order do not indicate that the justices are looking for a way out. They are ready to rule. Before we discuss the substance on which the justices will rule, let's review the four cases that will decide the marriage equality question.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Marriage At the Supreme Court 2.0: The Cases" »


As Michigan's Republican Governor Plugs Gay Rights, GOP Lawmaker Reintroduces 'License To Discriminate' Bill

If you need evidence of the growing divide on LGBT issues within the Republican Party, look no further than Michigan. 

On the same day that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (top right) made headlines by calling for more dialogue on LGBT protections, a GOP state lawmaker reintroduced a "license to discriminate" bill that would take the state in the opposite direction. 

From The Huffington Post

SnyderDuring a State of the State address marking his fifth year as governor, Snyder called for legislators to continue discussions on amending Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, age, sex, religion and more, but does not offer protections based on sexual orientation.

"Let's keep up that dialogue and let's show that we can deal with issues of discrimination in our state," he said.

Perhaps Snyder should have delivered an advance copy of his speech to Republican Sen. Mike Shirkey (bottom right), who earlier in the day reintroduced the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to Mlive.com:  

ShirkeyThe state RFRA, modeled after a federal version, would allow individuals or businesses to seek exemptions to government regulations they feel may substantially burden their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Critics who opposed the bill last year called it a “license to discriminate” against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals, a charge that supporters denied before a straight party-line vote in the House.

Former House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, introduced RFRA legislation last year alongside a separate bill that would have expanded the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bolger said at the time that he wanted to “strike a balance” between protecting individual rights and defending religious liberty, but the non-discrimination bill stalled in committee due to a dispute over protecting transgender residents.

Meanwhile, the "license to discriminate" bill passed the House but died in the Senate — which is where Shirkey has reintroduced it. 

The Michigan bill joins a wave of anti-LGBT state legislation across the nation, and the Associated Press took a look at the trend on Saturday:   

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in April and could decide by June whether gay couples can marry, and national opinion polls show U.S. voters increasingly unopposed to gay rights. Yet lawmakers in a handful of states are backing longshot legislation targeting gay rights, doubling down on the culture wars. Most, if not all, of the efforts are led by Republicans. ... 

If the bills' backers manage to force a sharp debate in coming weeks, and the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage a few months later, supporters of the bills would be exposed to criticism that they've been fighting for a fringe issue.

"On no issue during my 40-year career have opinions moved as rapidly as they have on the issue of the morality of gay relationships and ultimately gay marriage," said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the National Rifle Association. "When you have conservative organizations like the U.S. military and the Boy Scouts openly accepting gay members, the debate is close to being over."


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