Same-sex couples update legal status after ruling on abortion

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Emails and phone calls from same-sex couples, concerned about the legal status of their marriage and the keeping of their children, flooded the office of attorney Sydney Duncan within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional law. right to abortion

Last week’s ruling did not directly affect the 2015 decision that paved the way for same-sex marriage. But, Duncan said, it was still a warning to families with same-sex parents who fear their rights could evaporate, such as those of people trying to terminate a pregnancy.

“A lot of people are afraid of that and, I think, rightly so,” said Duncan, who specializes in representing members of the LGBTQ community at the Magic City Legal Center in Birmingham.

Overturning a nearly 50-year-old precedent, the Supreme Court ruled in a Mississippi case that abortion was not protected by the Constitution, a decision is likely to lead to a ban in about half of the states† Justice Samuel Alito said the ruling only related to the medical procedure, writing, “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents not related to abortion.”

But conservative judge Clarence Thomas called on his colleagues to… rethink things that allowed same-sex marriage, gay sex and contraception.

The three most liberal members of the court, in their dissent, warn that the ruling could be used to challenge other personal freedoms: “Either the majority of the majority is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are threatened. It’s one or the other.”

That prospect is troubling some LGBTQ couples, who worry about a return to a time when they had no equal rights under the law as married heterosexual couples. Many, fearing that their marital status is in jeopardy, are now moving to resolve potential medical, parental and estate issues.

Dawn Betts-Green and wife Anna Green wasted no time in clearing their legal paperwork after the decision. They have already visited a legal clinic for same-sex families to start the process of making a will.

“That way, if they blow us back to the dark ages, we’ll have legal protections for our relationship,” said Betts-Green, who works with an Alabama-based nonprofit that documents the history of LGBTQ people in the South. .

As a white woman married to a black transgender man, Robbin Reed of Minneapolis feels particularly vulnerable. A decision that undermines same-sex marriage or interracial unions would turn Reed’s life upside down, including the couple’s 3-month-old child.

“I don’t expect anything about my marriage to be safe,” said Reed, a legal assistant.

Reed’s employer, Sarah Breiner of the Breiner Law Firm, hosts seminars in both the Twin Cities and the Atlanta area to help same-sex couples navigate potential legal needs following the court’s decision. Breiner said helping people stay calm about the future is part of her job these days.

“We don’t know what could happen, and that’s the problem,” Breiner said.

As a sign of what might come next, the state of Alabama has already cited the abortion ruling by asking a federal appeals court to enforce a new state law that makes it a crime for doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to transgender people under the age of 19. The decision that gives states the power to restrict abortion means states should also be able to ban medical treatment for transgender youth, the state claimed.

Any attempt to overturn same-sex marriage would start with a lawsuit, and any possible rollback is still years away as no major legal threat is on the horizon, said Cathryn Oakley, senior adviser and state legislative director at the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.

“This is definitely a scary moment and people are nervous, but people’s marriages are still safe,” Oakley said.

While the threat to same-sex couples is particularly acute in conservative states, Oakley said in recent days she’s been hearing from people across the country seeking adoption by a second parent, who protects a family by using the names of both. adopting parents on the birth certificate. † People also complete medical guidelines in case a spouse is incapacitated and engage in general estate planning, she said.

Ryanne Seyba’s law firm in Hollywood, Florida is offering free second-parent adoption, similar to step-parent adoption, to qualified same-sex couples to alleviate some of the stress caused by the potential ripple effects of the abortion decision. .

“We realized last week when[the ruling]came out that we had to do something,” said Seyba of The Upgrade Lawyers.

A Broward County judge plans to hold a special day in August to finalize all adoptions at once, Seyba said. If nothing else, completing the process should give nervous families more reassurance, she said.

“If gay marriage goes away, we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s better to stay on the safe side.”

Associated Press writer Kim Chandler in Montgomery contributed to this report.

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