Emergency LGBT legal relief fund launched in Middle Tennessee

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Dear Friends,

I know we are all afraid. In light of the recent election and Trump’s impending presidency, we are scared of what may happen to our marriages and relationships, to our parental rights, and to our ability to change our names and important documents. We are terrified of renewed discrimination in employment or housing.

I’m not going to lie to you, this could get messy and there are a lot of unknowns. I’ve gotten a lot of calls and emails from people seeking answers so here is what I can tell you:

How will it all play out?

I’d like to first reassure and remind you that Donald Trump doesn’t take office until January 20th, 2017. I strongly believe that the relationships and marital rights of those already married are probably safe. It is highly unlikely, and from a legal standpoint nearly impossible, for those marriages to be invalidated.

For couples not currently married, I don’t think you need to rush out and get married. Any significant changes in our current status and right to marry cannot happen overnight. The Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage will not easily be overturned, even if Trump fulfills his promise of appointing judges hostile to our cause.

With that said, I do believe we will see malicious efforts on both federal and state levels to undermine our rights that come with marriage and to add obstacles for those of us trying to exercise the right to marry. It is also possible that the new administration could trim the respect given by federal government agencies to our marriages.

Tennessee legislators made recent attempts to pass several such bills. For example, they tried to pass a bill that would preclude government officials from performing marriages at all, forcing us to seek marriage by clergy members and certainly fanning resentment against us by heterosexuals seeking their own marriages.

Married or not, I strongly recommend taking steps to protect your relationships and your wishes in the event of illness or death. This means completing documents such as powers of attorney, advance directives, wills, hospital visitation, and information release forms

and financial agreements. Do not sleep on this. No changes in state law can undercut these documents.

As far as adoptions, I don’t foresee any efforts to roll back or void what has already been done. I have concerns we could we could see some efforts at the state level to undermine our families, but I see more risks for people going forward than for any adoptions that have already been completed. If you are a same-sex couple raising kids, its IMPERATIVE that both parents have legal ties to your children.

If you have not completed a second-parent or joint adoption, you should immediately consult an adoption attorney. Having both names on a child’s birth certificate is not enough to establish parentage in every state, however, court judgments, by and large, must be respected state- to-state and by the federal government.

If you are transgender and your identity documents don’t reflect who you are, it is a good idea to update your documents, including any state-issued IDs, passport and Social Security record before the new administration takes office. You currently have a right to amend educational records to match your legal documents. Given the current attempts at hostile state action towards transgender individuals, if you fall into this category of those who have not yet completed these steps, I recommend you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

If You Need Help:

An initiative has begun here in Nashville, similar to strategies in many other cities and states, called the LGBT Legal Relief Fund. This is not a new organization—this is an effort, a resource to help as many people as we can, as quickly as we can.

More than 40 attorneys in a variety of legal specialties and in several states, paralegals and notaries have offered their assistance to us in completing paperwork and legal proceedings to protect us and our families during this critical time. We will also be able to provide more in-depth and urgent actions, such as completion of adoptions and name/document changes for trans individuals.

Not all of these services will be free. The demand and time-constraints are often too great. However, we will provide as much free help as is practical and possible. Each of the attorneys who stand ready to help, however, have agreed to drastically reduce their rates for LGBT people seeking individual and family services.

In order to aid you in keeping costs down and protecting yourselves as quickly as possible, within the next few days, we will be posting several documents you can complete yourself without an attorney’s assistance to www.lgbtlegalrelieffund.com for your free download and use. We have notaries on board who are willing to assist you in finalizing those documents at no cost to you.

How Can You Help:

In an effort to help offset legal fees, along with court filing fees (which are out of the control of attorneys), costs, and peripheral expenses, such as home studies for adoptions, we have launched a legal relief fundraiser. Donate and ask your friends to donate at: www.lgbtlegalrelieffund.com/donate. The more we raise, the more we can help each other and lower costs for everyone.

Your best protection is to consult with an attorney and complete the necessary documents and procedures. The information provided here is not a substitute for the legal advice of a licensed attorney. Each person and every situation is different.

If you have questions, please direct them to lgbtlegalrelieffund@gmail.com.

Remaining Strong Together, Sunny Eaton

 

The preceding is not meant to constitute legal advice, but to offer guidance as to legal concerns that may soon face LGBT couples and to point individuals to available legal resources to address those concerns.