Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade, legal scholars and civil rights advocates have warned same-sex marriage rights could be the next target.
That notion has elevated the anxiety within some members of the LGBTQ+ community, but a partnership between a Lawrence church and attorney aims to educate families on measures they can take to safeguard their legal rights.
Attorney David Brown has practiced law in Lawrence for 30 years. During a two-hour workshop Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Church led by Brown, he hopes to empower queer parents and LGBTQ+ community members with a “practical, step-by-step approach” to protect their families and arm themselves against threats to their rights.
Part of the opinion that reversed the federal right to abortion in June also suggested the U.S. Supreme Court should reconsider Obergefell v. Hodges — the case that established the right for same-sex marriage.
“I just attended the LGBTQ+ legal convention in Los Angeles. It’s called Lavender Law. There was a great deal of discussion about this and a great deal of debate about what the Supreme Court might do and what effect it might have,” Brown said.
If Obergefell v. Hodges was overturned by the Supreme Court, Kansas law would govern. That presents a problem for same-sex couples, Brown said, because state statute and the Kansas Constitution define marriage between a man and a woman. Kansas law also still criminalizes sex between consenting adults of the same sex.
Then there are myriad legal considerations for families raising children.
“The effect could be that parental rights are nullified, marriages are nullified, all the rights and protections of marriage could be nullified. And that’s pretty drastic,” Brown said. “I want to address all the concerns I have for parents of children — steps parents need to take to protect their rights and to protect their children’s rights.”
Brown said although he couldn’t predict the actions of the courts, he could help continue educating members of the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom hold misconceptions about their rights. The workshop will dispel some of the myths that have misled some families into thinking “there’s nothing they can do,” Brown said.
”And so I think in that respect, that will be informative, and perhaps eye-opening for some people.”
The workshop’s agenda includes rights related to parenting, property, inheritance, wills, powers of attorney for financial and health care decisions, living wills, and contracts related to parenting and finances. Brown will take questions to help address concerns voiced by attendees, who are invited to attend either in person or virtually.
The Very Rev. Rob Baldwin, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church, said he started organizing the workshop after he signed on to officiate two same-sex marriages this summer.
He said those he consulted recommended the seminar be led by Brown, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Kansas School of Law who has written and lectured extensively on privacy, family law and ethics.
Congregation members share in his excitement for the endeavor, Baldwin said.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of the whole thing. And honestly, a chance for us to go out into the community and say, ‘There are Christians, there are churches, there are denominations that favor, promote, encourage, nurture LGBT marriages and families. And even though that’s not well known, we exist.’”
The Episcopal Church, he said, has not only advocated for inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community but also for women’s rights, environmental stewardship and racial reconciliation. Baldwin has encountered a few people outside the church who were surprised it would host an event advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
“There are people out there who don’t know that there are Christians who support this, and they do so because they think it’s the right, loving thing to do. And that belief is informed by their Christian discipleship and the teachings of Jesus, and that’s how we understand it. So there’s a little bit of trying to put another kind of face on Christianity out there in the community as well, when it comes to this very hot-button issue right now.”
The workshop takes place from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 13, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vermont St. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required for those attending in person. Register via the online form on the event’s Facebook page or phone the church at 785-843-6166.
For those who can’t attend the live event, a recorded version will be posted later on the church’s Facebook page.
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