Waldlaw Blog

Monday, May 29, 2006

Having A Baseball Moment

Okay, I know it's off topic -- and I know it's not a popular point of view right now. But I have to take a moment to say CONGRATULATIONS to Barry Bonds. First of all, I have to admit that I'm a pretty die-hard baseball fan. If you don't care at all about baseball, you might want to stop reading now.... I have had the privilege of going to my fair share of Giants games over the past 5 years. I have had the good luck to be present for many of their finest moments. I have gotten to watch Barry make history in person several times -- although I wasn't at yesterday's game. And I have gotten to share many of these exuberant moments with my partner and children, which has made them even more special. I know about the steroids scandal. I know that Barry probably used steroids for some period along the way. I know he has been less than truthful about the whole thing. I also know that the exact same thing can be said for many, many other players in the game. Not just the sluggers, either. I asked my older son, who is in his 4th season of Little League baseball and knows a lot about the sport of baseball, the following question: If the sluggers are now off steroids -- which everyone agrees they are -- then why are there MORE home runs being hit this season than in past seasons?? His immediate answer: because the pitchers are off steroids too! And try as I might to think of a better answer, I think he's probably hit the nail on the head. I do not approve of steroid use in baseball, or any other sport. I hate the fact that our professional sports culture has glorified "success" over playing the game fairly and honestly. I believe that the trickle-down effects of steroid use at the Major League level -- if not dealt with in a meaningful and effective way -- will mean that younger and younger players, down to the high school level, will find themselves looking to performance-enhancing drugs as they compete for scholarships and other opportunities to distinguish themselves in their sport. I am not condoning any of this. But I also believe that Barry is being unfairly singled out for disparagement, when steroid use seems to have permeated the sport of baseball for a bunch of years without anyone taking it all that seriously. Let's stop it now. Let's make rules that assure that the people who succeed do it by whatever combination of luck, talent and hard work gets them there -- without the assistance of the latest designer drugs. But let's also admit that Barry Bonds is a baseball phenomenon unlike any other player of his time, and honor his accomplishments within the historical context in which he has played the game. Steroids? Maybe. But having seen that man play baseball for years, I maintain that he is an amazing athlete in his own right, and he deserves to be recognized as such. There, I said it. Now back to the usual business of waldlaw....

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oklahoma Comes To Its Senses

Hot off the presses: Adoption Law Is Rejected By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: May 21, 2006 OKLAHOMA CITY, May 20 (AP) — A Federal District Court judge on Friday struck down a two-year-old Oklahoma law against recognizing adoptions by same-sex couples from other states and countries. The judge said the law violated due process under the Constitution because it tried to break up families without weighing the parents' fitness or the children's best interests. So there you have it. Here's the "back story" on this one: No matter where a child is adopted, for domestic adoptions (as opposed to international adoptions) issuing a new birth certificate falls to the state where the child was born. Oklahoma is one of a number of states that won't issue birth certificates listing two parents of the same sex, even if that is the legal situation. So, for example, if a woman in Oklahoma gives birth to a child, and chooses to give that child to a gay couple in Wisconsin for adoption, and the gay couple legally adopts the child in Wisconsin so the child legally has no mother and two fathers, Oklahoma then has the responsibility of issuing a new birth certificate reflecting that fact. But they won't. Several years ago, a gay couple and Lambda Legal sued the state of Oklahoma for refusing to issue a girl adopted by the couple a new birth certificate with both fathers' names on it. They won in the trial court, then Oklahoma turned around and passed legislation, signed into law by the governor, decreeing that Oklahoma would not recognize any adoption performed anywhere by which a child ended up with two parents of the same sex. In other words, even though my children unquestionably have two legal mothers, we couldn't go to Oklahoma without them being stripped of their relationship with one of us as a matter of Oklahoma law. Pretty scary stuff! Anyway, Lambda appealed the case on federal, constitutional grounds, and on Friday they won. This is a huge relief to all of us who practice adoption law and frequently are asked by our gay clients the sensible and pressing question: "If I adopt my child here in California [or any other state that allows gay couples to adopt], the adoption will be legal wherever I go, right?!" I am happy to say that, for the moment anyway, we will once again be able to answer that question with a resounding YES. (For Lambda's press release on the Oklahoma case, go to http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/press.html?record=1959.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mothers' Day from Waldlaw!

It has been a hectic week, with no time for blogging, but I wanted to take a moment out of the pandemonium to wish you all a HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY from Waldlaw! On Thursday, I will be arguing the first lesbian custody dispute to make it up to the Court of Appeal since the California Supreme Court ruled on the trio of lesbian custody cases last summer. I am arguing on behalf of my client and NCLR (http://www.nclrights.org/cases/riley_v_sica.htm), with the other party represented by Liberty Counsel (http://www.lc.org/caseupdate/caseindex.htm). The case involves a lesbian couple who were registered domestic partners, had a baby together, then the bio mom took the baby and left when the baby was only about 4 months old. Non-bio mom has only seen the baby twice since then. The baby is now three. This will be a great test of the new laws -- both AB 205 and the Supreme Court case law -- and if we win, my client will get the best Mothers' Day gift she could ever ask for -- she'll get to see her daughter again. I'll keep you all posted.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Collaborative Law

I'm just back from a 2-day intensive LGBT Collaborative Law training in New York -- my excuse for my delay in posting -- and feel the need to preach the gospel of Collaborative Law. For those of you who've never heard the term, collaborative law is a fairly new approach to conflict resolution which sits somewhere between mediation and litigation. With collaborative law, each party to the conflict is represented by counsel who are committed to advocating for their clients. However, the parties and their lawyers sign a written agreement to avoid litigation and remain at the table until every reasonable effort at resolution has been made. The parties and their lawyers meet together in a series of "4-ways," and make a serious effort to achieve resolution using the legal skills of the attorneys, the commitment of the parties, and outside help as needed from mental health professionals, financial professionals, or whoever else is necessary to reaching resolution. The process is driven by the parties themselves, who retain the power throughout the collaborative law process to identify the key issues, identify possible solutions, and agree or disagree on acceptable outcomes. The collaborative law process was arrived at as a more sane and humanitarian method of doing divorces. Instead of the divorcing spouses firing shots at each other from across a courtroom, they are encouraged to identify their issues and then work with their attorneys, child experts, financial experts and others as needed to resolve those issues in a way that does minimal damage to all concerned and -- ideally -- facilitates improved communication and a beginning of the healing process that they will have to go through at some point to be able to move on. Particularly where there are children involved, the point is clear: these folks have loved each other in the past, and are going to have to continue dealing with each other in the future, so let's help them heal their wounds and figure out how to co-parent together, how to be respectful of each other, how to function. The traditional divorce process definitely doesn't teach those skills. So now on to LGBT Collaborative Law. For many of my clients, the court process offers very little. The courts have not, traditionally, been particularly kind to us. They don't necessarily understand or respect our families, and even if they do the law provides limited protections to us since we largely live outside established legal structures. (E.g. we can't marry, so "divorce" is not an option for most of us, although that is changing in California with the new domestic partner laws.) Courts have not done a good job of protecting our children. In short, there has to be a better way. I think collaborative law offers the hope of finding that "better way." We can keep the conflict in the community, and any solutions will be driven by the parties themselves. If "the law" doesn't know how to handle the problem, we can bring in mental health experts, financial experts, child development experts to help us figure out our own solutions. And we can do it without wreaking havoc on each other and the larger lgbt community. Sound like a pipe dream? Maybe. But it certainly is worth a try.... For more info on Collaborative Law, visit www.collaborativepractice.com or, for California, www.cpcal.org. For more on the application of collaborative law to the lgbt community .... Well, I'm working on it, so check my website in the next few days or call/e-mail me!