Alice

Alice

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Discrimination under the Maine Human Rights Act

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Have you been told by a potential landlord that you were denied for housing because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression or that it was because they did not approve of the sex of your partner or of your “lifestyle”?  Has an employer made an adverse job decision that has negatively affected you because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression?  If so, then you might consider speaking to a lawyer about your rights and the Maine Human Rights Commission.  The Maine Human Rights Commission is a state agency that is in charge of investigating and enforcing Maine’s anti-discrimination laws, as set out in the Maine Human Right Act.  The Maine Human Rights Act covers areas ranging from employment, housing, and public accommodations to fair credit extension and educational opportunities. The Act outlines the definition of sexual orientation in the act as being actual or perceived “heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression.”

Even though many of us may believe and wish to believe that discrimination against our fellow community members is lessening over the years, it is always good to know that there is a state agency that is vested with the power to hear complaints related specifically to discrimination based on our actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. To learn more about the Maine Human Rights Commission and their procedures– visit their homepage – they even have an online form to submit complaints.

There are other actions you can take in addition to going through the Maine Human Rights Commission.  You may have a case under federal law or in state court.  If you believe that a discriminatory act has happened to you, you should seek the advice of counsel immediately.

Second Parent Adoption

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Same-sex couples with families face unique issues when planning for their families.  In Maine, second parent adoption is one way to help protect your family unit.  A local family struggled for years to be able to have second parent adoptions for same sex couples recognized.  The love, time, and energy that these women poured into care for their family resulted in their being able to finally have their family unit recognized.  (http://www.glad.org/uploads/docs/newsletters/glad-winter-briefs-2008.pdf)  Because of their dedication and struggle now other families in Maine have the right and ability to have second parent adoptions. 

Some same-sex couples who create a new family together or who have a child enter into their lives do not pursue adoption through the Probate Court.  That family does not have the same protections that they would if the second parent had adopted the child or children.  Those families have limited legal protection for both parents if that family unit splits at some future point.  Having the second parent adoption in place would create less ambiguity and less legal trouble later on. 

Not every state has second parent adoption.  Nor do all states recognize second parent adoptions, even if they were valid where the adoption occurred.  Consulting with an attorney who practices in the area of family protection for members of the community is crucial to know what your options are and what you should do to protect your family and your children.

Advance Health Care Directives and the LGBTQIA Community

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Usually it takes a series of noteworthy occurrences to call our attention to things we may take for granted.  Perhaps this is because of the seeming recent advances in LGBT rights (or lack thereof, as the case may be).  Within the last week we, as a community, have been reminded of the necessity of advance health care directives.  An advance health care directive, sometimes called a health care proxy or medical power of attorney, is a document that every individual should have. 

 The purpose of an advance health care directive is, in part, to name your agent for health care issues and decisions.  Next of kin sometimes try to interfere with the designated wishes of their family members.  By creating an advance health care directive, you can ensure as best able that your family follows your health care wishes.

The President’s recent memorandum requests that rulemaking be initiated, to ensure that hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid comply with federal regulations, and that additional recommendations by the Department of Health and Human Services on these issues be provided to the President within 180 days of April 15, 2010.  While the underlying issues and stories address and acknowledge the issues of couples and chosen, non-blood related, family within the community after the aftermath of the tragic separation of Clay and Harold, the memorandum does not create any right or new law that protects the community and its members.  Despite this recent action, every individual should take steps to protect themselves by taking the time to create an advance health care directive. 

In Maine, the standard advance health care directive form published by the State of Maine incorporates elements that allow you to designate your health care agents, your end of life sustaining treatment, funeral or burial wishes, a DNR (short for “Do Not Resuscitate”), and a section for other requests.  These sections all provide places for you to designate your wishes for someone to act on your behalf.  You can specify individuals you do not wish to be consulted about your health care decisions.  You can also specify what you want your agent to do on your behalf.  You can use a directive to designate visitation for the family that you have chosen in life, not just to your near and dear blood relatives.  In addition, if you are transgender, you can request that your family or agent and medical providers use appropriate gender pronouns and that they provide continuing hormone or other medical treatment.

In short, an advance directive gives the individual power to say what he or she wants for treatment and who he or she wants to be able to make those decisions, if they become incapacitated.  This crucial document is worth the time and thought to not only create, but to discuss with your family, loved ones, and medical providers.

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