Blog of Rights

It's Not All About Marriage

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 11:04am

With all the attention over the past several months given to our DOMA challenge at the Supreme Court and to our state marriage campaigns from Rhode Island and Delaware to Minnesota (and we haven't given up the fight in Illinois!), you may be forgiven for thinking that here at the ACLU, it's all about marriage 24/7. I write to assure you it's not. Here are a few of the non-marriage struggles we're working on right now.

A trans young man fights to be himself. High school senior Issak Wolfe, of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, submitted his name for prom king. But when he got the ballot on election day, he was shocked to see that the principal had placed his female birth name on the ballot for "prom queen" instead. We're working to persuade school officials to extend transgender kids the same respect that Issak's classmates have given him over his high school years – and for Issak, to allow him to wear male attire and to be addressed as a man at graduation.

Getting accurate identity documents in Idaho.  Idaho revoked the driver's licenses of two transgender residents, saying the gender markers on their licenses had been altered without the required proof of surgical changes. Just before our filing a lawsuit, the Idaho Transportation Department, persuaded by our arguments, decided to drop the surgery requirement, bringing Idaho in line with policies in most other states.

"If it's Wednesday, the ACLU must be suing a stupid-ass school district that will lose." So quipped LGBT legal observer Rex Wockner when the ACLU filed suit against the Lake County School Board (FL) to enforce 14-year-old Bayli Silberstein's right to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance at her middle school. The school board had responded to Bayli's GSA request with months of delaying tactics, including a proposed ban on all non-academic clubs. The litigation ended a day later (surely our shortest lawsuit ever), when the school board relented. For a video on Bayli being interviewed about her victory, see http://www.myfoxorlando.com/video?clipId=8846851&autostart=true.

Challenging Arkansas parenting restrictions. John Moix sought to deepen his relationship with his 12-year-old son, who lives with Moix's ex-wife. To do that, he approached an Arkansas family court judge for an expansion of his visitation rights. After a hearing, the judge found that it was in the son's best interest to spend more time with his dad and ordered the standard visitation, but there was one catch. John's partner Chad, with whom he had a long-term relationship and who, the judge wrote, "poses no threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the minor child," was barred from being present in their home during any overnight visitation. This put John in the dilemma of choosing between his son and his partner, but he chose instead to fight the restriction, often imposed by family court judges throughout the state.

We've taken John's case to the Arkansas Supreme Court, where we're challenging this partner restriction. We are no stranger to this high court, having brought two cases challenging anti-gay bans on foster care and adoptions to this court within the last decade . . . and winning both. We'll let you know how this one goes.

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