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How the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has affected other areas of law

The word patchwork may be the best way to describe the layers of laws that governed the relationships of same-sex couples before June 26, 2015, the day the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to marriage for gay couples in Obergefell v. Hodges (PDF).

Robert Stanley, a partner at the family law firm of Jaffe and Clemens in Beverly Hills, California, has personally navigated that patchwork. When he moved to California about 10 years ago from Georgia, he went from a state with no legal status for same-sex couples to one with domestic partnership status. Shortly after the California Supreme Court’s ruling that recognized same-sex marriage went into effect—in mid-June 2008—Stanley and his partner got married.

Then the state’s voters approved Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. That left Stanley’s marriage legal but prevented additional same-sex couples from marrying. Challenges to Prop 8 sprouted, and same-sex marriages again became permissible under state law in 2013.

California was hardly the only state flopping around like a beached fish when it came to the legal status of same-sex couples. Obergefell brought a conclusive end to that thrashing, and in the first four months after the decision, 96,000 same-sex couples married, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Those unions added an estimated $813 million to state and local economies and $52 million in state and local sales tax revenue.

However, Obergefell didn’t foreclose debate on the multitude of legal issues that arise from marriage.

“I felt that once there was some U.S. Supreme Court case or national recognition of marriage that didn’t have any loopholes, everything would be fixed,” Stanley recalls. “But Obergefell didn’t change the fact that existing relationships have been through a roller coaster of legal possibilities, and all those things are playing into cases at dissolution time.”

It’s not just during breakups that these issues are emerging. They’re surfacing when babies are born or adopted, when spouses pass away, and when all the other life events that affect families take place.

“Marriage isn’t for everybody, and getting married creates a whole new set of rights and also responsibilities,” says Allen Tullar, chair of the matrimonial and family law group at Gross McGinley in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “The things you have to think about are whether you need a prenuptial agreement, what marital property is, and issues like spousal support and alimony. That’s all uncharted territory.”

In the year since Obergefell, courts have begun resolving these issues, though some answers are as yet elusive. For instance, how to divide property accrued during a long-term relationship of a same-sex couple divorcing after only a year of marriage? And what happens when a party asserts rights under federal or state religious freedom laws to decline to engage in activities for or related to parties in same-sex marriages?

Excerpt from ABA Journal of Law Article written by G.M. Filisko.  Read full article at

Dallas Protest Shooting

DALLAS (AP) — Gunmen shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven others during a protest over fatal police shootings of black men in other states, authorities said. It appeared to be the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Thursday’s bloodshed, which unfolded just a few blocks from where President John F. Kennedy was slain in 1963, also evoked the trauma of the nation’s tumultuous civil rights era.

Police Chief David Brown blamed “snipers” and said three suspects were in custody. Mayor Mike Rawlings said a fourth was slain by police in a downtown parking garage where he had exchanged gunfire with authorities.

“We don’t exactly know the last moments of his death, but explosives did blast him out,” Rawlings told The Associated Press. Police said the man had told negotiators he intended to hurt more law enforcement officials.

Police did not identify any of the suspects. The police chief said the dead suspect had declared before his death that he was upset about recent shootings and wanted to kill whites.

The shooting began about 8:45 p.m. Thursday while hundreds of people were gathered to protest the week’s fatal police shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Brown told reporters the snipers fired “ambush style” on the officers. Two civilians were also wounded, Rawlings said.

Read the full article by Terry Wallace of the Associated Press at

Doctor Assisted Suicide in California

Physician-assisted suicide is about to become legal in the nation’s largest state.

The California End of Life Option Act takes effect on Thursday. The law allows terminally ill adults in California with less than six months to live to get a doctor’s prescription for a lethal dose of “aid-in-dying” drugs.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation in October after it cleared both houses not without with some opposition from lawmakers.

The law makes California the fifth state to legalize doctor-assisted dying. Oregon, Vermont and Washington have enacted similar “end of life” measures. Montana’s highest court in 2008 ruled that terminally patients have a right to terminate their lives with the help of a physician.

Excerpt from article written by Jacob Gershman on The Wall Street Journal Law Blog.  Read full article at:

House Approves Changes to Drug, DUI Penalties

The state House yesterday approved a measure (HB 1478) that would lower the legal penalties for repeated drug possession, WLPN reports. Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. William Lambert, R-Cottontown, drug possession would become a misdemeanor. The legislation also heightens the penalties for driving drunk in an effort to make people with numerous DUIs serve more time behind bars. The state Senate could vote on the proposal next week.

written by Amelia Ferrell for TBA Law Blog

For more information on HB1478 click the link embedded in the summary.

Apple, Inc. v. Federal Government

Apple Inc.’s dispute with the federal government over access to a passcode-protected iPhone seems to hold a little interest for everyone.

The case strikes at the heart of the debate over privacy and security, posing what FBI Director James Comey has described as “the hardest question I’ve seen in government.” (And he’s seen a lot, one assumes.) Add to that a centuries-old law, one of the largest companies on earth and the deadliest terrorists attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Apple plowed into another area of contested law on Thursday: whether and to what extent computer programs are protected speech under the First Amendment.

The company is challenging a Feb. 16 ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordering the company to help investigators bypass a security passcode function on the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook. Along with his wife, Mr. Farook shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

Apple says in its latest brief that the order violates its First Amendment rights against compelled speech. The arguments build on a string of older cases. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which would hear any appeal from Apple, held that computer code was protected expression in a 1999 case that could loom large in the iPhone dispute.

Excerpt from article written by Joe Palazzolo. To read more go to

Colorado May Ease Student Health Privacy Rules

School personnel in Colorado would have wider access to medical treatment records of students under a proposed bill whose proponents say would help tip off educators to warning signs of a potential school shooting.

In Colorado and other states, private therapists and counselors treating a student may share with schools confidential treatment records about a patient who poses a specific, imminent safety threat.

The Colorado bill would permit therapists to tell school officials about a student who may not represent such an immediate risk. School personnel could be alerted about behavior that “creates a dangerous environment in a school that may jeopardize the safety or well being of students, faculty, staff, parents, or the general public,” says the legislation summary.

The actual bill text defines that standard as an “articulable and significant” threat. “Disclosures may only be made to appropriate school district personnel and must remain confidential,” it states.

Therapists directly employed by school districts are already permitted such latitude under a federal law that governs education records.

Excerpt from article written by Jacob Gershman on The Wall Street Journal Law Blog.  To read the full article go to