Members of the LGBT community have often found themselves the targets of crime. Unfortunately, with the advent of technology, the range of these crimes has significantly broadened. Recently, a number of gay men have become the focus of a blackmail scam.
These men would meet other gay men online and then engaged in consensual sexual acts. However, almost immediately afterwards, these men would be contacted by a third party who would tell them that the person with whom they just engaged in consensual sexual acts with was a minor. In Michigan, statutory rape is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The third party would then tell these men that he would report them unless they paid him off. Sometimes the payment was a few hundred dollars, but in other instances the payment would be upwards of $70,000.00.
Many of these men contacted Dana Nessel, of Nessel and Kessel Law and founder of Fair Michigan, a nationally known civil rights attorney. Ms. Nessel advised these men to contact the police because it was clear that they had been targeted by a scam artist. Thankfully some of the men did and one man has been taken into custody.
Here is a link to a story done by Channel 7 WXYZ, in which Michigan LGBT attorney Dana Nessel spoke about the matter.
A new kind of custody battle.
Battles involving child custody are often hotly contested between the parties. These can also become very complicated, when the couples used donor genetic material (eggs or sperm) to conceive their child. Now, thanks to the ruling in Obergefell (the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling), a new wrinkle has been added to these cases.
A same sex couple in southeast Michigan finds themselves at the center of a new, and potentially ground breaking, area of law. The parties are a lesbian couple who entered into a domestic partnership in New York and a civil union in Vermont. They did these things before same-sex marriage became legal. They then used a donor egg and sperm to have their children. The parties have been co-parenting the children since birth. Now the couple is splitting up and the birth mother is trying to deny our client parenting time with the children.
There are two things particularly interesting about this case. First, according to the Michigan Custody Act, the birth mother is not technically a parent. This is so because she is not genetically related to the children, nor is she an adoptive parent. Second, our client is the legal guardian of the children, meaning she may in fact have more legal rights to the children than the birth mother.
The central issue is whether or not the court will recognize that because these women did all they could to be a family and co-parent each should be entitled to parenting time as though they had been married.
Here is a link to a story done by Local 4.
On a day that was overflowing with emotion from all parties, April and Jayne Deboer-Rowse were finally able to officially become legal parents to all 5 of their beautiful children. The battle that started on January 23, 2012, in a federal court house in Detroit, finally came to a conclusion on Thursday, November 5, 2015, in the Oakland County Circuit Court. Judge Karen D. McDonald, who presided over the hearing, was clearly feeling the excitement that filled the room as she questioned both April and Jayne about the legal obligations they were about to undertake. After the obligatory questions were asked, and the hearing concluded, Judge McDonald gave big hugs to April and Jayne as she congratulated them.
After weeks of time spent assembling the packets for the Family Court, attorneys of record, Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel were happy to have only a minor role as the hearing proceeded. With the adoption hearing over, everyone (including some of the local reporters) enjoyed some cake. Rarely do long court battles have completely happy endings…thankfully this one did.
Below are links from various local news outlets that covered the hearing.
Here is a link to a story by Fox 2 Detroit.
Here is a link to a story by the Detroit Free Press.
Here is a link to a story by the Detroit News.
Here is a link to a story by the Pontiac Morning Sun.
In yet another victory, this time without the help of the courts, LGBT rights attorney Dana Nessel has helped a same-sex couple gain equal access to benefits previously denied. Our clients, Elizabeth Gardiner and Stephanie Citron, were one of the couples able to marry in Michigan after the decision in the Deboer-Rowse case. Unfortunately, though the marriage was legal, Ms. Citron’s employer, Kroger, used an insurance company that refused to extend marital insurance benefits to Ms. Citron’s wife, Elizabeth.
Even when presented with all the applicable information, the insurance company refused to recognize Ms. Citron’s right to have her wife receive benefits. Enter Dana Nessel, whose determination and success on these issues is now known world-wide. After Ms. Nessel made clear that this type of blatant and illegal discrimination against a same-sex couple would not stand, with the threat of lending legal action, the health insurance company decided to reword their insurance p0licy. As of today, Ms. Citron and her wife, Elizabeth, are not fully covered as a marital couple.
Here is a link to the story done by Channel 7.