Alabama and Kansas Put LGBT Parenting Rights At Risk

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LGBT Parenting Rights

+ The Supreme Court has backed a lesbian mom’s right to see her adopted kids, temporarily blocking an Alabama court that declared the adoption invalid. It’s not a separate ruling, but it allows the woman to see her three children while the court decides whether to hear her case.

In September, the highest court in Alabama refused to give visitation rights to the woman in question, although trial and appellate courts had approved joint custody. She had adopted the biological children of her partner, from whom she later separated. The court did not recognize her as a parent, and went so far as to say that the court who originally granted it had been wrong to do so, ruling that it wasn’t permissible for a “non-spouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents.”

Alabama Supreme Court

Alabama Supreme Court

Alabama isn’t the only state where same-sex parental rights are at risk — in Kansas, the Department for Children and Families “faces claims that it has weighed sexual orientation in foster care and adoption cases,” and at least two court documents have surfaced that do appear to show that sexual orientation was a factor in decision making.

It’s a frustrating case study in the fact that the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling didn’t magically fix many of the other problems that LGBT people and their families face. The statement of the mother whose case is at stake in Alabama puts it best:

“I adopted my children more than eight years ago to be sure that I could always be there to protect them,” the woman said in a written statement. “This terrible Alabama decision has hurt my family and will hurt so many other families if it is not corrected.”

Presidential Candidates

+ Trump held a rally in Las Vegas last night, the same place where a Republican debate will happen tonight. Multiple protesters attended, and were escorted out, but not before Trump supporters yelled truly terrifying things at them, including threatening to light them on fire.

When Austin began to shout and disrupt the candidate’s speech, he was not given a verbal warning before he was physically removed, he said.
“They immediately used physical force,” he said. “I absolutely was being disruptive, but as I was making statements I felt hands grabbing on me.”
Austin said he was placed in police custody outside of the rally, but was not arrested.
“What concerns me is that people were yelling racial epithets and hateful things,” Austin said, referring specifically to the person in the crowd who called for him to be lit on fire. “I heard the n-word a couple of times.”


+ At a gathering of Democratic Hispanic leaders, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were criticized for being anti-Latino along with Donald Trump.

Dolores Huerta, an influential labor leader and civil rights activist, called Cruz and Rubio “sellouts” and “traitors” at the gathering and said the Hispanic candidates “are turning their backs on the Latino community.”

+ Just 158 families have provided nearly half the funding for presidential candidates so far in the 2016 race.

…the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.

+ W. Kamau Bell and Adam Mansbach on why it’s white people’s responsibility to stop Trump.

+ Right now, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz may be the most likely GOP candidates. How will each of them handle the other? Two men enter, one man leaves! The linked article has some more speculation about possible strategy both from the two candidates and from the GOP generally.


+ A judge has ruled that a Chicago police employee who dragged a prisoner out of the cell by his handcuffs in 2012 used brute force.

The police video of the next morning shows six officers at the Calumet Police District lockup entering Coleman’s cell to take him to bond court. Coleman, who had been asleep, stood, then was tased before officers wrestled him to the floor and handcuffed him. He was shocked three times. Police have said they shocked Coleman because he was uncooperative. The video shows Kirkland dragging Coleman out of his cell and down the hall by his handcuffs, according to Kennelly’s opinion. “Mr. Coleman is motionless while being dragged,” Kennelly wrote. “His legs are shackled together at the ankles and are not moving.”

+ On Wednesday of last week, a grand jury declined to indict officers who shot Gilbert Flores to death despite witness reports that his hands were raised in surrender; now a second video which appears to show the same thing has been released.

+ A CA police officer will not be charged for shooting a drunk driver. Dashcam video shows the officer, Patrick Feaster, approaching the accident scene in which a drunk driver’s collision killed his wife and shooting the driver in the neck, although there’s no indication that the officer believed he was armed.

+ In Los Angeles County, 28-year-old Nicholas Robinson was killed by police officers after 911 calls reported a black man shooting a gun into the air. Witness video shows Robinson walking away from the officers when they fired, and that he continued to be shot at as he fell to the ground and crawled away.

Law & Order in the Court

+ Former OKC police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of 36 rape and assault charges, and will spend the rest of his life in prison — 263 years. The story may not be over, though; a lawsuit alleges that Holtzclaw was already under investigation but was still on active duty when he committed his final (that we know of) act of sexual assault — “Holtzclaw’s crimes were committed between 2013 and June 18, 2014, but the Guardian report indicates that the Oklahoma City police began investigating Holtzclaw on May 8, 2014.” If Holtzclaw had been suspended while he was being investigated, at least one woman might have been spared sexual assault by him. Kirsten West Savali has this piece on why this verdict isn’t enough.

I watched as a few of the women victimized by Holtzclaw and supporters of the women stood on the steps of the Oklahoma County Courthouse, vibrating with anger and hurt. I listened to them say that they were not satisfied with the verdict, that almost doesn’t count. They wanted to know where was the accountability for the rest of the department? Surely Holtzclaw did not work alone? Surely his rapes had not gone undetected? How was he able to turn his GPS locator off so many times without raising suspicion? How was he able to run searches on so many women that he never arrested?

+ Planned Parenthood has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Ohio. After the state Attorney General couldn’t find evidence of Planned Parenthood “selling baby parts,” he says that he found fetus material in landfills and alleges that Planned Parenthood illegally disposes of tissue. Planned Parenthood says these claims are blatantly false, and that the AG is simply trying to stop abortion access.

State Attorney General Mike DeWine

State Attorney General Mike DeWine

+ On Monday, began deliberations in the trial of William Porter, one of the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Baltimore PD has suspended holiday leave in case of protests regarding the verdict.

+ The frightening future of a nation without any legal abortion protections is, for many, already here: a Tennessee woman who tried to self-abort with a coathanger is being charged with attempted murder in the first degree.

+ A group of women in Japan are fighting in court for the right to keep their names after marriage; currently, married couples are legally required to share the same surname. Two courts have ruled against the plaintiffs so far, but there will be a third court decision on December 16.

+ Last week we discussed in this column Justice Antonin Scalia’s racist remarks that maybe affirmative action wasn’t helpful to black students because they actually benefitted more from being in “slower” academic environments. Now a group of black scientists have written an open letter that takes his misinformed views on. “We embrace the assumption that minority students are brilliant and ask, ‘Why does physics education routinely fail brilliant minority students?’”

+ 2015 wasn’t a banner year for reproductive rights! Legislators introduced nearly 400 bills aimed at restricting abortion access, and passed 47 of them into law.

+ Europe is considering raising the age at which teens can use social media without parental consent to 16; right now, it’s at 13.

This Week in Islamophobia

+ In Georgia, a teacher asked a 13-year-old hijab-wearing Somali-American Muslim student if she was carrying a bomb in her backpack, in what she apparently thought was… a joke??

+ Several fans of the Denver Broncos were refused entry to a Broncos game this week — because they were Sikh men wearing turbans. They were finally allowed in, but told that if they ever want to return to the stadium, they can’t wear their turbans. In addition, a fan called the police after seeing the men in the parking lot and had a bomb-sniffing dog investigate their car.

+ Two Los Angeles city mosques were vandalized this week, with crosses and the phrase “Jesus is the way” spraypainted onto parts of the property. The vandalism happened the day after a Muslim-Christian interfaith march. The FBI is currently investigating.

“I just feel really sad that I have to go out with my scarf, getting really scared because of my religion [and] feeling that I’m gonna be attacked,” a woman who didn’t want to give her name told NBC. “It just really hurts me, as we’re being judged and things are happening to our mosques all over America.”

Grab Bag

+ GSA networks for LGBT youth are on the rise in Ohio; in 2011, there were seven, and now there are nearly 80.

+ In Flint, Michigan, an ongoing crisis of water toxicity and lead poisoning, which began when the city made a switch from using the Detroit water supply to the Flint River, has reached a crisis point. Families have filed a class-action federal lawsuit, and Flint’s mayor has declared a state of emergency. Since the switch in 2014, Flint residents have experienced symptoms like “skin lesions, hair loss, chemical-induced hypertension, vision loss and depression,” and many children and infants have above-average levels of lead in their blood. Lead poisoning has long-term effects on health that are considered irreversible.

+ Tennessee Senator Bob Corker failed to disclose millions of dollars earned! He is also a member of the Senate Banking Committee.

+ Students and staff at Northeastern University are protesting the decision to equip campus police with semiautomatic rifles, despite opposition from the campus and from Boston police.

+ Former Arizona representative Gabby Giffords — who was almost killed by a shooter five years ago — is really tired of the US not having comprehensive gun laws.

Since that tragedy three years ago Monday, about 30,000 more Americans have been murdered with guns. Some were killed by strangers. Many of them by people they knew. Some were Republicans, and some were Democrats. All, I know, were loved. All, like those kids at Sandy Hook, have left a hole in their families’ hearts that is eternal. Many of their deaths might not have made the headlines, but we must grieve for them, too.


+ Martin Shkreli, big pharma kingpin who is literally the worst, wasn’t satisfied with just skyrocketing prices on HIV/AIDS/toxoplasmosis medication; now he’s hiking the prices for a medication for Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that primarily affects Latinx people.

+ 195 countries have agreed on an accord for environmental policy that’s aimed at reducing global dependence on fossil fuels. It marks the first successful end to a global climate summit in two decades.

+ Seven Sisters, an Australian organization, announced the beginning of a new three-day feminist retreat — one that’s only open to trans women if they’ve “undertaken all operative measures to become a woman.” After receiving criticism on their Facebook page (which was deleted by admins), the organization now says they “have at no time expressed any official statement regarding our position on trans inclusivity,” and in addition to “seeking legal advice on the matter” they are sending a confidential survey to retreat attendees “so they can share their opinions without fear of bullying.

+ A new study shows that women who sought abortions but were unable to access them tend to have less aspirational goals for themselves, and are also less likely to achieve those goals.

+ Serena Williams has been named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated, with the cover concept being Serena’s own idea. Williams’ victory was won via Sports Illustrated reader poll; some are arguing that American Pharaoh, a literal horse, who got 47% of the vote should have won Sportsperson of the Year in Serena’s stead.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I have this queasy feeling in my stomach. I didn’t carry an expectation all the bigotry would magically evaporate into etherea the moment marriage equality gained legal sway. And after all, as we’ve sickeningly witnessed over the last 7 years, racial bigotry didn’t go away, we just managed to shove it into the shadows.

    People are distressingly persistent in wanting to hate or look down upon others in order to elevate their own standing in their minds. Wander into religious spaces and advocate for not mistreating anyone and you’ll get torn to shreds.

    We’re funny creatures. We don’t pursue what is in our best interests. We buy into lame slogans over substantive explanations. And even a holiday season is not enough to overcome.

  2. One terrifying thing about that cop who shot the drunk driver is that he DIDN’T TELL ANYONE. And he didn’t try to help the guy. He immediately began instead to scout the ground around him for his shell casing instead. This happened in my community. From the news:

    “When backup arrived on the scene, Feaster did not mention anything about having fired his weapon. According to [District Attorney] Ramsey, Feaster notified his commanding officer about the discharge only after Thomas’ gunshot wound was found.

    As the commanding officer suggested an investigator return to Canteena and try to find out if Thomas had been shot at the bar, Feaster revealed that he may have shot Thomas.

    Ramsey said nearly 11 minutes passed before any other officers, medics or firefighters learned Thomas had been shot.”

    HE DIDN’T TELL THE MEDICS THAT HE SHOT THE GUY BEFORE THEY PULLED THE GUY OUT OF THE CAR. And now the guy is a quadriplegic. That is criminal. It has to be criminal!

    • Very, but sadly when it comes to sports, anything goes. I’ve read about people spending top dollar just for a winning horse’s, shoes.

  3. So sad and scary about Flint’s water supply. I’m worried about the children with high levels of lead in their blood.
    This news round-up has been thoroughly depressing.

  4. Not a correction I enjoy doing, but Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty on 18 charges, not 36. He was convicted on five counts of rape and 13 counts of sexual assault.

  5. One detail to consider in the case of the woman who is facing charges for the attempted self-abortion is that she was six months into the pregnancy. I’m pro-choice, but I don’t think it’s ethical to terminate a pregnancy that far along unless it’s a matter of life and death.

    I don’t know whether this woman should be charged with anything. Even though I don’t agree that what she did was right, I can understand the desperation that must have driven her to do it. I think we can all agree that she should have had access to an abortion much earlier in the pregnancy, and it’s an injustice that she did not.

    • That’s precisely why it’s so crucial that women are able to have affordable, accessible, and safe health care at all stages. Could the right healthcare have helped to prevent her unwanted pregnancy? Could the right healthcare have helped her to obtain a safe, legal abortion early in her pregnancy? Could the right healthcare, mental healthcare, and social support have helped her to see alternatives to what desperation drove her to try and do?

      When politicians limit the access of women in underserved populations to reproductive and mental health care and social services, and AT THE SAME TIME prohibitively restrict access to safe and legal abortions, they are effectively criminalizing the very act of being a woman living in poverty, or without resources of whatever kind, or with mental illness.

      I feel like our moral judgments about what kinds of abortion should be legal are beside the point here, because this woman and the child the doctors saved are both already victims of the systems we have in place.

  6. Those cases in Alabama and Kansas just show you how limited a SC ruling is (about parenting, adoption, fostering, etc.) or how limited the SC wanted its ruling to be.

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