In Brief: October / November 2023

Michigan Supreme Court Rules in Favor of NASW Brief

michigan supreme court gavel

NASW and its Michigan Chapter submitted an amicus brief earlier this year to the Michigan Supreme Court in the case Pueblo v. Haas, which asked the court to determine custody rights for separated, unmarried LGBTQ+ couples.

The case concerns Carrie Pueblo and Rachel Haas—partners in a committed same-sex relationship—who chose to have a child together using assisted insemination, with Haas carrying the child. The relationship ended in 2014—before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage—but they continued to share custody and parenting of the child.

In July, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in NASW’s favor of granting unmarried people in same-sex relationships the right to seek custody and parenting time with their children even if there was no genetic connection.

In this decision, the Michigan Supreme Court overruled a previous holding that refused to apply the equitable-parent doctrine to same-sex couples who were unable to wed. NASW said one caveat to this ruling is that the same-sex couples need to show that they would have married before the child’s conception or birth if there had not been a ban on same-sex marriages.

NASW Disappointed in New Jersey Supreme Court Ruling

NASW, along with 26 other organizations committed to civil rights, filed an amicus brief in the New Jersey Supreme Court in support of Victoria Crisitello, an elementary school art teacher who was terminated by her employer, a Catholic elementary school.

Crisitello was fired after she became pregnant while unmarried. The Catholic school argued that despite Crisitello’s actual job duties as an art teacher, the “ministerial exception” to workplace civil rights laws under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applied. Crisitello did not teach religion or religious texts or counsel her students in prayer or other religious activities.

In the brief, NASW argued that the Catholic school’s application of the ministerial exception was overbroad and would provide a roadmap for the more than 600 New Jersey schools with religious affiliations to evade workplace civil rights laws. The amicus brief was filed in 2021.

In August, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a decision agreeing with the Catholic school and upholding the religious tenets exception to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. This expansion of the ministerial exception risks threatening the civil rights of thousands of New Jersey employees.

NASW said it had hoped the court would understand that certain groups would be at risk for further discrimination in the workplace through this unwarranted expansion of the ministerial exception.

Brief Asked Court to Affirm Texas Injunction on Gender-Affirming Care Case

NASW, its Texas Chapter, and 18 other groups joined an amicus brief in the Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin in the case Abbott v. PFLAG Inc., in support of appellees PFLAG Inc.

The brief is in response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive that defines gender-affirming care for minors as “child abuse” and mandates investigating all allegations of gender-affirming care.

The 201st Judicial Court, in Travis County, Texas, placed an injunction on the governor’s directive. NASW is asking the court to affirm the injunction.

The brief says gender-affirming childcare is not child abuse, and there is no evidence that such care causes injury to a child. The definition of child abuse and neglect is well-established and well-defined as actions resulting in harm to the child. Treating gender-affirming care as child abuse means ignoring the existence of gender dysphoria. Gender-affirming care helps transgender youth handle the risks of bullying, depression, anxiety, and suicidality, the brief explains.

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