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A Blanchard Family Christmas



Derek Penton joins our family of contributors today. Derek will give us an insider’s view on his lawsuit asking Louisiana to recognize his marriage.

On a December night just prior to Christmas in 2009, friends were gathering, families were snuggling, and New Orleans Saints fans were preparing for possibly the best Christmas gift Santa could bring – a Black and Gold Super bowl.  In the middle of all this Christmas cheer, a family I now love and hold dear was just starting to take shape.

Nadine and Courtney Blanchard met, fell in love, and were living what seemed to be the perfect life.  They had good careers, a stable relationship, and a home for themselves just like countless other couples. They soon began to realize that their goals and how they saw the future were pretty much in sync.  After two years of being a happy couple, they wanted to complete their family with a child.  In November 2011, after weighing all the options and deciding what would work best, they sought a doctor to help make their dreams a reality.  The couple underwent in vitro fertilization using Courtney’s egg, an anonymous sperm donor, and Nadine’s uterus as the vessel. The decision for Nadine to carry the child was an important one, not only because they both wanted to have a part in the creation of this child, but also because it would have legal complications down the road.

On May 2, 2012, the couple got the news that many couples dream. Their hopes of a child were coming into shape.  They were PREGNANT!  In the coming months, like normal expectant parents, the two soon-to-be moms would begin that old-fashioned parenting skill passed down from generation to generation without fail: They would begin to worry.  They worried about having a healthy child.  They worried about being good parents.  They worried, as a lesbian couple, how the child would fare out in a society and community in south Louisiana that doesn’t always accept “non-traditional” families.  As a paramedic, seeing the many family situations I have seen, I can attest that stability isn’t traditional or non-traditional, nor is family.  Like many people of my generation, I am a product of divorced parents; people tend to turn out just fine, no matter the family unit, when they are raised right! But I digress.

On May 19, 2012, Courtney and Nadine had a private ceremony in their hometown in Louisiana to solidify their family unit in front of friends and family.  Ask Courtney about her wedding dress if you get a chance and how much she LOVED wearing it.

As fall became winter (as much as that actually happens down here in Louisiana), Courtney and Nadine would receive the best present just five days after Christmas.  On December 30, 2012, they delivered a beautiful baby boy.  As the new baby was settling into his new life, and the moms were realizing that their own lives had changed forever and for the better, the bitter realities of what families like this go through every day begin to surface.

Courtney’s egg had produced this beautiful child who, by all biological appearances, blood, genetics, and mere spitting image was hers. Nadine carried the child to term and, in the eyes of the law, is the legal mother of this child.  Under Louisiana law, Nadine’s name was the only one that would be allowed to be on the birth certificate. Joint adoptions are possible in situations like this, but we are talking about the state of Louisiana, where you can marry your cousin, but two women cannot be on the same birth certificate. Louisiana does not allow same-sex marriage, nor does the state recognize the marriages of same-sex individuals from other states.  Joint adoption is out of the question, so Courtney has no legal say whatsoever in her child’s life.

Louisiana Civil Code Article 3520:

A. A marriage that is valid in the state where contracted, or in the state where the parties were first domiciled as husband and wife, shall be treated as a valid marriage unless to do so would violate a strong public policy of the state whose law is applicable to the particular issue under Article 3519.

B. A purported marriage between persons of the same sex violates a strong public policy of the state of Louisiana and such a marriage contracted in another state shall not be recognized in this state for any purpose, including the assertion of any right or claim as a result of the purported marriage.

Acts 1991, No. 923, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1992; Acts 1999, No. 890, §1.

courtney and nadine blanchard  2

Nadine and Courtney had always felt that they would not be satisfied until they had a legal marriage, whether recognized in certain locations or not.  Knowing that a piece of paper does not confirm or validate love or a family, and that Louisiana would not recognize it, the couple still wanted a legal marriage. Fate seemed to step in.  In late August 2013, with some days off around Labor Day, the couple remembered they had a trip planned to Chicago to visit Nadine’s niece.  They decided to search for states near Illinois to find the closest one with legal same-sex marriage.  The couple discovered that the neighboring state, Iowa, had legalized same-sex marriage in 2009 and, with that in mind, they decided to make a day trip to a small county just across the state line.  Having in tow the two witnesses required for the marriage license, Nadine’s niece and a friend of Courtney’s from high school, along with their son, they had a ceremony that legalized their marriage.

Upon returning to Louisiana, the couple’s marriage was by all intents and purposes nothing but a piece of paper. See Frustrating Louisiana Civil Code Above.  The couple decided it was time for a change and time to stand up for what they believed was right and just.  One night on their local news they saw a story of a married couple in New Orleans that was suing to have their out-of-state marriage recognized and the fire started to burn. They contacted acting counsel Scott J. Spivey and joined a federal lawsuit, the lawsuit my husband and I brought, Robicheaux v Caldwell .  Knowing that this process could take years, they were up to the challenge.  They knew that the road was long and bumpy, but wanted to join a cause that touched them personally.

Courtney has said, “So, you ask me why we are fighting for our rights here in Louisiana? The answer is simple.  My family is no different than yours.  We make decisions together, we live together, and we love together.”

We have been told time and time again by both friends and strangers alike that it is not time here in Louisiana, and that to do this in a state that is so socially conservative is ridiculous. So as we wait for what the future brings for our case and our families, we ask you this:  What is your bottom line? Where do you draw your line in the sand? Will it be when something so terrible happens and you have no protection under the law? “Wills” and “powers of attorney” are not always enough to cover every situation. What time is the right time for Louisiana to recognize your family?

For my husband, Jon, and me – NOW IS THAT TIME, NOW IS THAT HOUR.  For Courtney, Nadine, and their son – NOW IS THAT TIME, NOW IS THAT HOUR. We will not wait until we are granted permission by organizations and public opinion to do what is best for our family.  We will fight for our family and all LGBT families in Louisiana, until the right side of history is in the books.  We hope that every one of you will join us on the journey.  You deserve no less.  We deserve no less.  Courtney and Nadine’s son deserves nothing less.

To keep up with our case, watch for my updates here every other Saturday. You can also visit us on Facebook or check out our website.

Editor’s Note: If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to catch up with Derek’s original piece for the New Civil Rights Movement: Robicheaux vs. Caldwell – Why We Are Suing To Be Married In Louisiana  

Photo via the Courtney and Nadine Blanchard

  derek penton

Derek Penton, 35, is a native of Mississippi and a longtime resident of New Orleans.  He holds degrees in computer information systems and paramedicine.  After more than five years together, Penton and his husband, Jonathan Robicheaux, were legally married in Iowa on Sept. 23, 2012.

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‘Flying Monkeys on a Mission for the Wicked Witch’: Raskin Rips Republicans Over Impeachment ‘Inquiry’



U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, blasted members of the House GOP at the opening of their first, televised, impeachment “inquiry” into President Joe Biden Thursday morning, declaring, “If the Republicans had a smoking gun or even a dripping water pistol, they would be presenting it today but they’ve got nothing on Joe Biden.”

Ranking Member Raskin noted he full House did not vote to hold an official impeachment inquiry, which he said violates the ruling of the Dept. of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

Congressman Raskin, a former constitutional law professor who served as the lead prosecutor for the second impeachment of Donald Trump, told the Committee, “like flying monkeys on a mission for the Wicked Witch of the West, Trump’s followers in the House now carry his messages out to the world: shut down the government, shutdown the prosecutions. But the cultmaster has another command for his followers, which brings us here today.”

Raskin added that Republicans “don’t have the votes because dozens of Republicans recognize what a futile and absurd process this is. Now, the title of the hearing is ‘The basis for impeachment inquiry of President Joseph Biden,’ and yet they present us no basis at all today. Even after eight months of investigation.”

READ MORE: Poll Finds Majority Oppose Impeachment Inquiry as House GOP Kicks Off Hearings Two Days Before Likely Shutdown

“They’ve invited three witnesses to testify. Not one of them is an eyewitness to a presidential crime of any kind. Not one of them is a direct fact witness about any of the events related to Ukraine, and Burisma. Not one of them has participated in the eight months of investigation, in which our distinguished Chairman has publicly boasted that he received 100% of everything he asked for, and I quote, ‘every subpoena that I’ve signed as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, over the last five months, we’ve gotten 100% of what we’ve requested, whether it’s with the FBI, or with the banks, or with Treasury.'”

Raskin kicked off his remarks with remarks of Republicans attacking other Republicans for holding an “impeachment drive.”

“So let’s get it straight,” Raskin began. “We’re 62 hours away from shutting down the government of the United States of America. And Republicans are launching an impeachment drive based on a long debunked and discredited lie. No foreign enemy’s ever been able to shut down the government of the United States but now MAGA Republicans are about to do just that. But they don’t want to cut off public services to people and tonight, paychecks to more than a million service members, without first launching impeachment drive, even when they don’t have a shred of evidence against President Biden for an impeachable offense. You think I’m being harsh? Here’s what some Republicans have had to say over the last week about the actions of the Republicans, as they watch up close ‘the dysfunction caucus at work,’ in the words of our GOP colleague from Nebraska, Don Bacon, ‘clown show,’ ‘foolishness,’ ‘terribly misguided,’ ‘stupidity,’ ‘failure to lead,’ ‘lunatics,’ ‘disgraceful,’ .new low,’ ‘pathetic,’ ‘enabling Chairman Xi,’ ‘people that have serious issues,’ ‘those folks don’t have a plan,’ ‘show just how broken they are, and ‘individuals that just want to burn the whole place down.'”

“Now, if I said any of these things, they’d probably take my words down, but these are Republicans talking about Republicans. So let’s be clear. This isn’t partisan warfare America’s seeing today, it is chaotic infighting between Republicans vs. Republicans. It’s MAGA versus extreme MAGA, as if anybody in the real world could tell the difference between the two.”

“What a staggering failure of leadership. Speaker McCarthy’s invertebrate appeasement of the most fanatical elements of his conference now threatens the well-being of every American. Now some people think the members of the GOP caucus aren’t interested in anything logical. They just want to see the world burn, as Alfred Pennyworth put it in ‘The Dark Knight,’ but I see a method in the madness.”

READ MORE: ‘Poof’: White House Mocks Stunned Fox News Host as GOP’s Impeachment Case Evaporates on Live Air

“A week ago Donald Trump posted a comment saying that a government shutdown ‘is the last chance to deep fund these political prosecutions against me and other patriots.’ You get it? To delay justice Donald Trump would cut off paychecks to a couple million service members and federal workers and furlough more than a million workers and pay them later for having not worked. They would halt food assistance to millions of moms and kids and keep NIH in my district from enrolling any more patients in life and death clinical research trials. Trump’s convinced if you shut the government down his criminal prosecutions on 91 different felony and misdemeanor charges will be defunded in delayed long enough to keep him from having to go before a jury of his peers before the 2024 election.”

“On August 27, he posted this edict: ‘Either impeach the bum or fade into oblivion. They did it to us.’ Of course the standard for impeachment is not whether ‘they did it to us,’ but whether the President committed treason or bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. But the Constitution is irrelevant to them. What counts is what Donald Trump wants. As Republican Representative Ken Buck, a Freedom Caucus member, told CNN the other day, President Trump has gone on his social media accounts and said we should be impeaching President Biden. Kevin McCarthy said we have an impeachment inquiry. You draw the conclusion directly or indirectly. This impeachment inquiry was a result of President Trump’s pressure.”

“So we move from a Trump-ordered government shutdown to a Trump-ordered impeachment process, and yet back into reality-based world the majority sits completely empty-handed with no evidence of any presidential wrongdoing. No smoking gun, no gun, no smoke. In fact, we have had to slide awkwardly into a House impeachment process without the benefit of the floor vote that Speaker McCarthy insisted was absolutely imperative and necessary when Donald Trump was impeached.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘I Feel a Little Bit Dumber for What You Say’: The Nine Worst Moments of the GOP Presidential Debate

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Poll Finds Majority Oppose Impeachment Inquiry as House GOP Kicks Off Hearings Two Days Before Likely Shutdown



A just-released NBC News poll finds a solid majority of registered voters are opposed to House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden, which kicks off Thursday morning, just two days before House Republicans are likely to shut down the federal government.

“56% of registered voters say Congress should not hold hearings to start the process of removing Biden from office, while 39% say it should,” NBC News reports. “The House Oversight Committee is gathering for its first hearing in the inquiry, which Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced two weeks ago to investigate Biden’s ties to his son Hunter’s business dealings, probing what McCarthy described as ‘allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption.'”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s “own conference was divided over the impeachment inquiry, and so are voters — who are also, unsurprisingly, divided along party lines when it comes to proceedings aimed at removing Biden from office,” NBC News adds. “An overwhelming majority of Democrats (88%) oppose the hearings, while 73% of Republicans support them. Six in 10 independents oppose the hearings, and 29% say Congress should move forward with them.”

READ MORE: House GOP Shutdown Demands Include Gutting Billions From Dept. of Education, Costing Over 200,000 Teachers Their Jobs

The Congressional Integrity Project, a group of Democratic strategists, have published what it calls a “regularly updated rundown of Republican commentators, Members of Congress, and media personalities” who have indicated there is not sufficient evidence to initiate an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. It includes recent statements from Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Rep. French Hill (R-AR), Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), and Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY).

At midnight on Saturday the federal government will shut down, unless the House passes legislation to fund the government, the Senate passes the House’s legislation, and President Joe Biden signed it into law.

READ MORE: ‘I Feel a Little Bit Dumber for What You Say’: The Nine Worst Moments of the GOP Presidential Debate

The shutdown, which has yet to begin, may already have cost the American taxpayers possibly a billion dollars, well-known economist Justin Wolfers casually suggested:

“This week you and I are paying over a million federal employees over a billion dollars to put aside their regular work to plan for a pointless shutdown, and that shutdown will grind the government to a halt which will also cause untold disruption through the private sector.”

Earlier this week, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi said, “A MAGA shutdown drains billions of dollars from our economy. It says to our men and women in uniform — you’re not getting paid. To women and children depending on food assistance — you’re not eating. All 3 recent shutdowns were under REPUBLICAN House Speakers. Irresponsible.”

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‘I Feel a Little Bit Dumber for What You Say’: The Nine Worst Moments of the GOP Presidential Debate



The second Republican presidential debate was mired in in-fighting and personal attacks by the candidates,  a vow to wage physical war against Mexico, hate against LGBTQ people, an insistence the U.S. Constitution doesn’t actually mean what the words on the page say, and a fight over curtains.

Here are nine of the worst moments from Wednesday night’s debate.

The debate itself got off to a rough start right from the beginning.

Multiple times candidate cross-talk made it impossible for anyone to make a point, like this moment when nearly half the candidates talked over each other during a nearly two minute segment as the moderators struggled to take control.

READ MORE: ‘I Don’t Think So’: As GOP Debate Kicks Off Trump Teases Out the Chances of Any Candidate Becoming His Running Mate

Vivek Ramasway got into a heated argument with Nikki Haley, leading the former Trump UN Ambassador to tell him, “Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”

Ramaswamy launched an attack on transgender children.

Moments after Ramaswamy attacked transgender children, so did Mike Pence, calling supporting transgender children’s rights “crazy.”

He promised “a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical surgery anywhere in the country,” and said: “We’ve got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.”

Former New Jersey Governor Cris Christie described the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, who has dedicated her life to teaching, as the person President Biden is “sleeping with.”

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, as CNN’s Manu Raju noted were “one-time allies,” after “Haley appointed Scott to his Senate seat,” until they started “going at it at [the] debate.”

“Talk about someone who has never seen a federal dollar she doesn’t like,” Scott charged. “Bring it, Tim,” Haley replied before they got into a fight about curtains.

Senator Scott declared, “Black families survived slavery, we survived poll taxes and literacy tests, we survived discrimination being woven into the laws of our country. What was hard to survive was [President] Johnson’s Great Society, where they decided to take the Black father out of the household to get a check in the mail.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, currently leading over everyone on stage, said practically nothing for the first 15 minutes. He may have said the least of all the candidates on stage Wednesday night. But he denounced Donald Trump for being “missing in action.”

Watch all the videos above or at this link.




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