Pride Month

Jun 29, 2021

Susan and Tracy talk about Pride Month and where the law intersects with same sex couples. What is the history and evolution of legal rights for same sex couples in Nebraska and across the country? Learn more about pride, representation, and love for all people in this week’s episode.


Susan Reff: On today’s podcast, we are going to talk about how the law intersects with same sex couples because it’s kind of the end of Pride month, and we’re wrapping up Pride Month in June.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Every month is Pride month, I think. But yes, June is recognized as Pride Month, so we thought we would talk about the topics that relate to same sex couples, the LGBTQ community and all of those things as a homage to Pride.

Susan Reff: I think it’s really cool seeing businesses flying rainbow flags and people doing like their logo or a commercial that maybe indicates that they’re supportive of the same sex. Lgbtq community and we changed our logo for the month to rainbow colors to show that we are supportive of all people.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yes. You know, I think it’s really helpful for our listeners to know that we are progressive law firm. We are progressive women lawyers and that we support the LGBTQ community all year. We really enjoy supporting the Pride Festival and activities in June, but every month is a Pride month for us. Talk about how the law supports, doesn’t support what we can do, but what’s been new with you?

Susan Reff: So I’m trying to. I have a lease on my vehicle and I’m trying to get another lease. And when you lease a vehicle, you get a brand new car and you know, there’s this car shortage. So trying to find the right car, the car that I want, they’re not available and

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Lacking chips, not tortilla chips,

Susan Reff: Right? And you have to, you know, your lease is a contract very legal. So I have a certain amount of time in which to either give them my car back, buy the car from them or start a new lease

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Or start riding your bike to work because you don’t live very far and you like to ride.

Susan Reff: I have been riding my bike to work. I do have a goal of riding my bike, to work one day a month or a week while it’s warm, but now it’s like a hundred. So I don’t really want to do a year.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Let’s start with that.

Susan Reff: I did. I have been investigating some sort of scooter as an interim yes, car issue. Probably. Yeah. So I might be the lawyer who scooters Scooter.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Great. Well, we wanted the Segway. You could get a Segway. Still, no

Susan Reff: Way. You know a Segway. You’ve seen me Segway. That is not going to happen in

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Fall or anything, almost. Well, you would get good at it.

Susan Reff: I don’t think so. Those things are not intuitive. How they’re for for me that no.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So I’ve been taking Spanish classes and recently I’m now doing three activities a week practicing Spanish, listening to Spanish on Monday evenings, Deanna Pina, another lawyer in our office, and I are going to the South Omaha legal clinic. And just chatting with anyone that walks in, it’s a free legal clinic. It’s volunteer time for us. So that’s been really interesting and awesome as a good way to use both our legal skills and Spanish skills to help people. And then we’ve been doing an inner office, Spanish Zoom class with Tara, right, and Deanna and I and just doing some legal Spanish phrases so we can kind of learn that new vocabulary.

Susan Reff: What what legal words have you learned recently? Like, what are three or four legal terms that you learned in Spanish that you didn’t know before?

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Well, something that’s really funny. I think I saw a meme once that and I’m going to get this wrong. So there’s El CourtI and there’s Law Court, so the word quartey either means cut or court. Oh, so it depends on get it right. Yeah, it depends on whether you use the L or the law. And I think it’s like court is the court courthouse and law court is a cut like a stabbing cut.

Susan Reff: Yeah, because you could be committing, you know, a threatening act by telling someone you’re going to take them to court.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So I had a Spanish. Last last night on Zoom, and I was eating applesauce as a just before the class started, so I thought, I wonder how you say applesauce in Spanish? So I looked it up now. I don’t remember what it was, so I wrote it down. I have to.

Susan Reff: Is it apple and sauce or is it like a whole nother word?

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So you actually can say it salsa de Manzano, which is salsa of apple. But there’s an actual word. I think it’s coca. I might be wrong, but anyways, so that’s Spanish has been something, you know, I have a minor in Spanish from undergrad and I really am in a place in my life that I would like to get back up to speed on that. So that’s my goal.

Susan Reff: Did you practice during Cinco de Mayo? No, I do any Cinco de Mayo activities.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I did have nachos on Cinco de Mayo the day that Cinco de Mayo was observed this year, which was in June. So I did have nachos. It was from El Chicano Mexican Bistro. So we like to support local businesses.

Susan Reff: So our nachos really a Mexican food. I don’t, I don’t know. Or is it like an American Americanized version? You know, I don’t know. I mean, nachos is my favorite food group. Yeah, I love nachos. It’s basically a salad. Yes. With cheese and

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Chips, but no meat for you.

Susan Reff: No, no. But certain people put put some people put meat on their nachos.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I do not eat all the meat. So Pride month. Yeah, we’re also going to be a sponsor at the Pride Festival, which is the Heartland Pride Festival. It’s actually being held in July. So we’re really excited about that. We think we are going to be in the parade. I shouldn’t announce that, but now we have to be. So here we are. We’re going to be in the parade

Susan Reff: And this is our third or fourth year sponsoring.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So we have a really cool giveaway at our table. So all of you listening? Make sure you come to the actual festival with the booths because we are going to have fun activities and a giveaway that I would like. So if no one comes, I’m keeping it,

Susan Reff: And it’s a pretty cool way to meet some of our staff too. I mean, I don’t know who’s all going to be there this year, but we all will go and hang out at the booth and meet people and introduce ourselves and

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Remember pre-COVID, so it would have been twenty nineteen. We gave away sunglasses,

Susan Reff: Sunglasses, rainbow. Yes, Rainbow, single. I still have a pair in my pool bag that’s like my pool sunglasses.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: They were amazing. I love those sunglasses and I think we had five hundred.

Susan Reff: They were. They were very popular at the Pride Festival because a lot of people gave away cruises or keychains or kind of like the same old, same old.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: A lot of different areas of the law relate to same sex couples and how they are or are not different or treated differently now. And obviously, Obergefell came down in twenty fifteen fifteen perfect when Obergefell came down. That was the law from the United States Supreme Court that said same sex couples can marry. That was a long time coming. It supported a lot of things that same sex couples then now have the benefit of like inheritance, non inheritance tax, the ability to adopt and things like that. But one of the areas that’s been really interesting in our office that we kind of have a little bit of a niche of expertise is surrogacy.

Susan Reff: I wouldn’t even say a little bit. I would say a lot. I mean, this is a pretty complicated area of the law. And surrogacy isn’t just for same sex couples, it’s for a lot of people enter into a surrogacy agreement that, you know, aren’t in a same sex relationship, but for some, for, you know, two men to have a child together, they need, obviously they either adopt or they use a surrogate, right?

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And. When we have same sex, two women who either one is the carrying mother or the they use a surrogate. Sometimes that happens as well. There’s still some adoption procedures, maybe not adoption procedures. There’s been some really interesting updates in the law that actually our office had a huge part in with the Legislature that created what’s called an acknowledgement of maternity. And that really was created based on all surrogacy, but has benefited and will benefit same sex couples as well.

Susan Reff: So do you want to explain because you really are probably the most experienced attorney in our office about what had to happen before this change in the law? Briefly, and then like how the change in the law? Made makes surrogacy a little bit easier in Nebraska.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, so prior to the law change two years ago when a child was born of a surrogacy. The biologically related parent, so typically the mother was the non carrying parent had to adopt her own child, so you had a surrogate who was carrying an egg and sperm. You know, if an embryo and then gave birth to the child? Well, what happens in Nebraska? Slightly non-progressive state was whoever the baby’s

Susan Reff: Slightly

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Whoever the body the baby came out of was listed as the birth mom on the birth certificate. And so ultimately, what would happen is the biologically related mother whose egg created the baby had to adopt her own child. Then what happened was the adoption has to take place or had to take place six months after the child was born. So here we have a new mom who just so happened to have another person carry their child has no relation to the child until the child turns six months old. So you think about all of those. A medical appointments and things like that that you have to have your birth certificate at and your name is not listed on that birth certificate. So with the change in law, we created a acknowledgement of maternity form. So the surrogate, the surrogate woman carrying the child then just acknowledges that it’s biologically related. Mother signs the acknowledgement of maternity and then the actual biological mom gets put on the birth certificate. So if we have same sex female couples, we can use that acknowledgement of maternity as well,

Susan Reff: And that negates the need for a adoption.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: It can, although now our office will still recommend an adoption as a very ironclad seal to a relinquishment of the sperm donors rights. If there if there hasn’t ever been a relinquishment before, so if sperm come from what most people know as a sperm bank, typically that person has already given up their rights or relinquished. If it has not been provided from a sperm bank, then we often will still suggest an adoption so that that person who provided the sperm no longer can say later, Hey, I’m the biological person of this child and claim any rights to the child.

Susan Reff: Holy cow. That’s complicated and right. We also have surrogacy contracts, which we can talk about later. But if anyone same sex couple or otherwise is doing, would, you know, is thinking about getting pregnant through surrogacy? We would suggest that you contact an attorney who’s experienced in this area.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, absolutely. So a surrogacy contract is typically the actual thing that the clinic requires, so they will require a contract between the surrogate and biological parents before they will do an embryo transfer.

Susan Reff: Another way that isn’t quite so complicated that we support the LGBTQ community at our law firm is that we take, you know, lots of cases involving same sex couples like divorce cases or adoption cases or guardianship cases, which they run exactly the same, whether the whether it’s a same sex couple or an opposite sex couples. So if same sex couples married and they decide they want to get divorced, you know the process is exactly the same. There’s no difference. There’s no. You know, there’s no scarlet letter on the case, like this is a same sex divorce, and a lot of times the judges don’t even really realize it. I think when we’re going through a case unless we’re in court and the two people have to come in and testify.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Absolutely. And you know, oftentimes we find that people will call our office and either already know that we are LGBTQ friendly or they specifically ask that question because they do not want to be represented by an attorney who is not supportive of the LGBTQ community. And we are very clearly allies of the community. Some of our employees identify as queer. And so when we’re in representing our our clients that are of the LGBTQ community, they’re treated the same. And with respect and as a client just like anyone else.

Susan Reff: And yeah, the case will will go the same. And I was really excited when Obergefell passed for the ability of same sex couples to adopt. Yes, because they’re there’s there’s just a lot of there are children that live with people who aren’t their parents in, you know, through foster care, through familial relationships or just, you know. A capable family is taking care of a child that isn’t their child. And once there’s an adoption, there’s a legal protection for that child and for those parents to solidify the relationship that’s already there. So in Nebraska, before Obergefell to unmarried people couldn’t adopt, so like, for example, Tracy and I couldn’t decide to adopt a child together. We’re not married, but if we got married as a same sex couple, we could now adopt a child together.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: We are partners in business, not life. But yes, as that example. So, yeah, when same sex couples couldn’t marry prior to Obergefell, they also then couldn’t adopt because two unmarried people can’t adopt. So, you know, with surrogacy issues and things like that, none of that was possible before as well.

Susan Reff: Another area where, you know, a married couple gets a benefit that now same sex couples just naturally get. After Obergefell was through inheritance,

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Obergefell allowed same sex couples to marry, which also meant that same sex couples who are married don’t have to pay a higher inheritance tax because when one spouse dies, they get to inherit information or they get to inherit assets from their spouse

Susan Reff: And maybe information.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And yes, sometimes you inherit information after a divorce you didn’t know before so or after a death, right? So that was a really huge piece of Obergefell that either was going to allow same sex couples to marry or recognize their marriage as a marriage in the state that they lived in, because inheritance tax can be very high for unrelated or non married people. So that was a really huge benefit that in our estate planning department, in our office, you know, we can really take into consideration just the same as any heterosexual couple in their estate plan as well.

Susan Reff: One of the things, too, that I think it just recognizes that. Just because someone is in a same sex marriage that they shouldn’t be treated differently, they get the same rights and, you know, it’s that idea. It’s kind of a privilege thing, right? The same sex couples had to work really hard and get creative and do different things to be able to inherit from each other. And not everyone has the money to go to a great estate planning attorney and get this really complicated estate plan that. Opposite sex couples didn’t ever have to even think about they didn’t have to maybe jump through all those hoops. So the idea that everyone is entitled to the same thing, the same rights under under the law is is pretty powerful.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So another piece that Obergefell helped is most employers, especially in Nebraska, didn’t recognize same sex couples as unmarried for health insurance purposes. So now for all married couples and most employer plans, you can be on your family plan because you are recognized as married. And so when we look at divorce situations, we look at health insurance plans just the same way as child support calculators or, you know, ex-spouse post decree coverage. All of those things as we look at health insurance, just the same in any divorce situation.

Susan Reff: What was that term that was being used before Obergefell? That was it was it wasn’t common law marriage. It was like life part civil union, civil union. That’s it.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And there were some employers in Nebraska that would recognize a civil union for health insurance purposes, but not many.

Susan Reff: I think the Omaha Police Department recognized

Tracy Hightower-Henne: The City of Omaha. I think they did.

Susan Reff: Yeah, yeah, before. And but I think it got pushed pretty hard by maybe the the Omaha Police Union. So that’s kind of one area. Maybe, you know, we’re a little bit more progressive.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Maybe that’s why I said slightly slightly.

Susan Reff: Yeah. Well, and that’s Omaha. That’s not the state of Nebraska.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Another area that I really enjoy helping people is specifically with transgender folks and name changes. So when we have a transgender client who wants to use a preferred name to for their preferred gender, we can help them with the name change. The process is exactly the same. Oftentimes, the name change process can be pretty simple for someone to do pro say on their own without a lawyer, but that can be really scary, especially if you’re going into court. You know, talking about the reason you want to change your name is because your preferred gender is different than your birth gender. Some judges aren’t as progressive to understand why that’s happening, and so we we really enjoy helping those clients in that situation and saying, you know, I’m going to be there with you in the courtroom. It is a very quick, short hearing. Sometimes it’s less than five minutes. But we know going to court can be scary for the people that don’t go to court all the time and that we can walk in and we know exactly where to go. And this is easy. We know the judges. But I think that that can be a really scary process that I really enjoy helping our transgender friends go through that name change process. And then from there, they will have their new name on their birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license. And we just had a client who posted that she is now using her name on her voter registration card, and I thought that was so cool. Like, I hadn’t thought about that. You get to change your name on your voter registration, too. How cool? So love is love. We support Pride Month, where we’re it’s so great seeing all the the rainbows everywhere because who doesn’t like rainbows in general?

Susan Reff: I love rainbows.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I mean, if you had a unicorn, that’s even better.

Susan Reff: But those were my favorite lucky charm. The rainbow.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: The rainbow marshmallows. Yeah, yeah. Did they taste better, too?

Susan Reff: I kind of wonder if they all tasted the same. They were all just exploded sugar with different colors.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So also, listeners should know that Susan likes sugary sugar, sugar, things I do and gummy things. So most of those things come in rainbow colors.

Susan Reff: I saw that they you can buy the Lucky Charms. That’s just the marshmallow. Oh, that would be a little much, but I do think there should be more marshmallows to charm to the cereal pieces. The ratio, the ratio is totally off. Yeah. Here’s a funny quick story that we can end on about rainbows. Sort of. My brother is a prankster, and growing up we did not have sugared cereals unless it was like a special occasion. And every once in a while, my mom would buy us like a full size box as a treat. And my mind was Lucky Charms and my brother got to pick his and I think he liked like a chocolate one like cocoa puffs. Yes, he opened the bottom of the Lucky Charms and split the bag open and dumped it out and sorted all the mushrooms out. Mushrooms, marshmallows

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Are their mushroom marshmallows, and

Susan Reff: They know that’s a whole different cereal. But I went so the top hadn’t been opened and I was like, Oh, I’m going to get my treat cereal. And I poured myself a bowl and there was no marshmallows, so I was like, Oh, that’s weird. And I shook up the box a little. I poured another bowl and I was like, Oh, I totally take it. You know, where’s my marshmallows? They’re stolen, whatever. I mean, I didn’t think my I had no idea that that’s what had happened.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: I don’t eat product defect.

Susan Reff: That’s what I thought it was.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: And that’s why you became a lawyer. Good story.

Susan Reff: No. But yeah, that I think, he confessed. I did not end up getting a replacement box.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So or that’s why you wanted to become a brain surgeon?

Susan Reff: No, I think that’s it, either. But yeah, that’s my story about rainbows and childhood. But I still, you know, love rainbows and lucky charms.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So come find us at the Pride Festival, which is July 10th. We will be in the parade. We’ve now said we are going to. So we need to promise on that. And our our slogan and motto this year is be loud and be proud, so come find us. Engage in our fun games at our booth.

Susan Reff: And if any listeners out there are need and LGBTQ friendly attorney, we are a proud ally for any time of the year, any type of

Tracy Hightower-Henne: Case, all the time.

Susan Reff: One hundred percent.

Tracy Hightower-Henne: So thanks for listening to our Pride episode and Happy Pride Month.

Announcer: Thank you for listening to the lady Lawyer League Podcast. Be sure to like and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts, if you would like to learn more about firm, Hightower-Reff Law, please visit our website at HR Law We’ll see you next week.

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