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Basic Rights Oregon Sues Oregon, the first of many.

Basic Rights Oregon Unveils New Legal Strategy to Achieve Equality for Oregon Same-Sex Couples
BRO filed the first in a series of planned lawsuits Wednesday in Multnomah County

(Portland) At a press conference in Portland Wednesday morning, Basic Rights Oregon announced its newest strategy to advance equality in Oregon courts as it filed the first in a planned series of lawsuits designed to address the discrimination faced by Oregon same-sex couples because of the State of Oregon's failure to comply with the 1998 Oregon Court of Appeals decision in the case of Tanner v. OHSU.

Plaintiffs in the first case, Jeana Frazzini, 33, and partner of nine years K.D. Parman, 31, along with their son Emmett Rocco, 2, are suing the State of Oregon after it blocked Jeana from being listed as Emmett's parent on the child's birth certificate.

"Just as other parents, we carefully planned and conceived of Emmett and our hopes and dreams for a family as a couple," said Frazzini. "For the state to deny Emmett a second legal parent is a cruel dismissal of our family and a marked departure from the automatic status other Oregon parents take for granted."

The case of Parman v. Oregon is based upon two Oregon laws that give parental rights to married couples and their children. In Oregon, a child born during a marriage is automatically the legal child of both the husband and the wife at birth. This is true even when it is clear that the husband is not biological father. Similarly, a husband and wife who use artificial insemination to achieve a pregnancy are automatically the legal parents of the child. In these cases, the husband only rarely is the biological father. The protections of these laws are denied to gay and lesbian Oregonians and their children solely because of the parents' inability to marry.

The primary legal arguments behind this case and other planned litigation are based on the 1998 Tanner decision, which said that the State of Oregon is constitutionally prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation as it relates to state benefits, services, privileges and immunities. While it is commonplace for state governments to adjust existing policy and administrative rules to comply with new case law, Oregon did not take this step related to the Tanner decision. As a result, gay and lesbian Oregonians continue to face discrimination in areas including retirement benefits, parental rights and family protections, workers compensation and more.

"The State of Oregon has a responsibility at all levels to treat each of its citizens in accordance with the Oregon Constitution," said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Roey Thorpe. "To do anything less sends a message that some Oregonians are more deserving of equality under the law than others."

"Unfortunately," Thorpe continued, "The more than seven-year failure of the state to voluntarily comply with the Court of Appeals decision in Tanner has left us with no other option than to go back to court."

More information about this case will follow later this morning.

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By Blogger Torrid, at April 05, 2006 10:56 AM

Interesting take. How does being named as the parent qualify as a benefit or privilege, legally speaking? It's a status, not really a bestowment of privilege or benefit. In the case of a person being named legal father of a child that is not biologically their own, that could be construed as a liability as much as a benefit.

I look forward to seeing how this argument fleshes out...    



By Blogger true_slicky, at April 05, 2006 11:49 AM

I'm not sure going into the courts may the best step to tkae. It may turn against BRO by negatively shaping public opinion. It could be confirming suspicions of BRO's "agenda" and how this agenda will be accomplished.

That said, it appears this suit is on solid ground and offers some good challenges....    



By Blogger Toro70, at April 05, 2006 1:08 PM

My parter and I have a young 'un (almost five - crap did I order his Darth Vader cake?) - I gave birth to the little tyke (thank you OHSU sperm bank and Kaiser) and my partner adopted. I lost zero privledges and she is on the birth certificate. Badda bing, badda boom. My partner's company (at the time) paid for the adoption and it sailed right through. I completely support BRO but wonder if this is a battle worth chosing when there are alternatives.    



By Blogger BRO, at April 05, 2006 1:10 PM

Torrid--

You can check out more detail on the case in the documentation below. But the basic answer to your question is that the status of a legal relationship between a parent and a child IS bestowed on some couples by the state and denied to others.

This case is based upon two Oregon laws that give parental rights to married couples and their children. In Oregon, a child born during a marriage is automatically the legal child of both the husband and the wife. This is true even when it is clear that the husband is not the biological father. Similarly, a husband and wife who use artificial insemination to achieve a pregnancy are automatically the legal parents of the child. In these cases, the husband only rarely is the biological father. The protections of these laws are denied to gay and lesbian Oregonians and their children solely because of the parents’ inability to marry.

You are also right that in denying this legal relationship the state also removes for parents any legal responsibility for the care and support of the child--a fact which is not in the best interest of the child or the state.

To read the legal complaint filed today,
href="http://images.emailroi.com/users/rkassel/library43.pdf">click here
.
To read more about the case, the plaintiff's story and the
legal issues in the case,
href="http://images.emailroi.com/users/rkassel/library44.pdf">click here.

To read background on the Tanner decision, which is the basis for this case,
href="http://images.emailroi.com/users/rkassel/library47.pdf">click here
.    



By Blogger BRO, at April 05, 2006 1:18 PM

toro70-

While the non-birth mother could adopt the child through a second parent adoption our contention is that same-sex couples already have a right to place their names on the birth certificate without an adoption procedure because of the court’s mandate in the Tanner decision.

The state, therefore, is unconstitutionally treating some couples differently from others.

While it sounds like you had the best case scenario, that is not the case for many parents. In addition, second parent adoptions are costly (into the thousands of dollars and most don't have employers who cover the cost), can be challenged in court and take time after the birth of a child to go into effect—hurdles other parents don’t have to face.

Over the years, attorneys representing GLBT clients have devised workarounds to try to provide some measure of legal security. But that should not let the state off the hook for continuing to discriminate when it knows this discrimination has been ruled unconstitutional.    



By Blogger BRO, at April 05, 2006 1:22 PM

It's also important to remember that this case is not an isolated incident. We are going to court only as a last resort because despite working with two governor's administrations, the attorney general and the legislature, discrimination continues.

The problem of discrimination is widespread in Oregon. Court are not the only place to create change, but they are one critical part of a multi-pronged approach to win equality, which includes electing the right people to office, building political power, public education, passing legislation locally and statewide and more.    



By Anonymous Vicki, at April 05, 2006 1:30 PM

My partner and I also had a child nearly three years ago. We as well had to go through the legal process of a second parent adoption. It cost us thousands and it took up much of our time. Considering the legal implications of the Tanner decision - this is something that we (in hindsight) should not have had to go through. Even unmarried heterosexual couples are able to put the man's name on the birth certificate... they don't even need to prove anything!

As we plan for our second child - I applaud BRO for bringing this case to the forefront. It is something that already, by law, should be afforded to us. I look forward to the decision by the court. Seems like there is a good chance for a victory here.    



By Blogger faithpdx, at April 05, 2006 1:37 PM

we shouldn't have to adopt our own kids! that is a work-around . . . part of being a second class citizen. the larger issue is about equal rights FOR ALL OREGONIANS. not "separate" rights that kind of make us equal . . .

do straight couples need to adopt their own children? of course not!    



By Anonymous Vicki, at April 05, 2006 2:30 PM

Exactly. In all honesty, when I think of our child - if something EVER happened to me, our child would have had no protection... No other 'legal parent'. Thankfully we had the extra money to pay for legal costs-a lot of people do not. It can cost anywhere from 3-5 thousand just in legal fees to complete a second parent adoption. PLUS you have to wait 90 days for the process to be completed. What if something happened to myself or partner in that time?

It is in the best interest of the state, as well as the children of same-sex couples, to put the Tanner decision into action. It's been way too long.    



By Anonymous Jim Hernandez / Joseph Burgos, at April 05, 2006 7:38 PM

I am SO thankful that SOMEONE finally realized that the legal precedent and foundation created by Tanner v OHSU is a viable basis on which to build subsequent victories in Oregon to establish equality and fairness towards the state's LBGT community. Thank you, BRO, for seeing the light!    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 07, 2006 2:57 PM

I read about this lawsuit on the same day that our paperwork arrived from our lawyers regarding the co-parent adoption of our second child. It should be a crime that our child remains without the protections of two legal parents for months and months because we are not recognized as a legal family. I will breathe a sigh of relief when the adoption is done and our child has more protections if needed. It is pure discrimination that our child does not have the rights to the same legal protections as every other child simply because she was born to gay parents. And as a single income working class family, the costs of protecting our children are nearly prohibitive to keeping our kids safe as well. Thanks to KD & Jeana for taking the risk for all our families. Keep up the good fight BRO!    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 18, 2006 3:10 PM

You know, my issue was more with the article in the Oregonian. I am sorry but I don't understand why someone would try to slide in as a parent at birth unless they had an agenda to sue. Everyone knows that it is easy to adopt and then the birth certificate says parent and parent. And, our adoption was under $1000 NOT 3-5k.

However, obviously it takes someone to do this to push the laws and improve our lives so thank you. I just hope we are careful with the image we are shaping in our society.    



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