Super Bowl Ad Features Dads and Daughters

BarristerWho could have imagined that an ivory tower academic scholar could influence a major corporation to produce a television ad that relied on her research about the relationship between dads and daughters? That’s what hair product company Pantene has done as they debut their Super Bowl ads this weekend, giving due credit to Dr. Linda Nielsen, a leader and expert in parenting issues. Their tag line? “Girls who spend quality time with their fathers grow up to be stronger women”.

The “Strong is Beautiful” campaign is a fusion of pop culture and cutting edge research that shows that fathers can do anything moms can do and their influence is pivotal to the successful development of their daughters. The ads feature Dallas Cowboy’s Jason Witten, Pittsburgh Steeler’s DeAngelo Williams, and Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints, each of them creating hairstyles for their cute-as-a-button offspring. The dichotomy of these big guys gently braiding, combing, and pony tailing their youngsters with the help of Pantene products, is charmingly heart-warming.

The clear message is that men who care about their kids are both strong and sexy…it’s a marketer’s dream…. combining cute kids with virile football players, all that’s missing is a cocker spaniel!

As for Dr. Nielsen, her work has gone viral and her voice is respected worldwide. In a recent interview she said:

“ Are you worried about teenage pregnancy? Are you worried about whether your daughter will get a good job someday and be able to support herself? Are you worried about your daughter picking boyfriends and husbands who are going to be emotionally and physically abusive to her? Are you worried about boys taking sexual advantage of her? All of these things, research shows, are connected more strongly to her relationship with her father than to her relationship to her mother.”

Kudos to Pantene… now if our family court judges could embrace the reality that children need two parents if they are to be successful adults.

Pantene ad:     http://www.refinery29.com/2016/02/102454/pantene-super-bowl-commercial-2016

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Is Transgenderism a Fad?

GeorgiaLeeLang100The media circus surrounding Caitlyn Jenner (aka Bruce Jenner) has introduced transsexualism and transgenderism to a public that has been largely unaware of the nuances of these forms of gender dysphoria.

I can’t remember a time when there was such open discourse about gender identity and with this transparency comes articles, movies, TV shows, and public policy discussions.

A recent article in Britain’s Daily Mail describes an American family with two children, a girl and a boy, each of whom had researched transgenderism on the internet. Their youngest daughter who appeared to be a happy teen, albeit a tomboy, was the first to advise her parents she was transgendered and wished to transition to a male. Meanwhile, her older brother, who was bullied at school for his feminine manners and appearance came out to his parents one month later.

Both mom and dad unconditionally support their teenagers’ decisions, and surgery and hormonal treatments are underway for both, in fact, their mother wishes they had come out sooner so they each could have avoided the consequences of puberty, which complicates their gender switch.

Is this gender phenomenon on the uprise? That’s hard to say because research in this area is scant, however, if newspaper articles, daytime talk shows, the implementation of legislation in various jurisdictions to protect transgendered persons, and the development of children’s gender clinics is a sign, then the answer is “yes”.

Dr. Alice Dreger, a well-regarded American bioethicist, whose research includes intersex and sex development disorders, is not afraid to challenge the politics of gender dysphoria, while supporting social justice issues that effect this community. She opines that gender identity issues may be a symptom of other family problems.

“The dirty little secret is that many of these families have big dysfunctional issues. When you get the clinicians over a beer, they’ll tell you the truth. A lot of the parents aren’t well in terms of their mental health. They think that once the child transitions, all their problems will magically go away, but that’s not really where the stress is located.”

Experts and clinicians won’t say these things publicly, she says, because they don’t want to sound as if they’re blaming gender problems on screwed-up families.

Likewise, Dr. Joseph Berger, a consulting psychiatrist in Toronto, who is past Chairman of the Toronto district of the Ontario Medical Association, and past President of the Ontario branch of the American Psychiatric Association, believes that people who identify as transgendered are mentally ill or simply unhappy. He says that what they need is treatment for delusions, psychosis, or emotional problems, not surgery and hormones.

What is irrefutable from the research are the scores of transgendered persons who have attempted suicide, although linking suicide attempts to mental illness is problematic given the challenges faced by transgendered persons including discrimination in housing and the workplace, loss of family, homelessness, poverty, and other significant social factors.

What about sex-change regret? Numerous articles and websites discuss this issue and lawsuits against surgeons have been launched around the world, particularly in Australia. But who better to speak to regret than Rene Richards, the tennis icon who transitioned in the 1970’s:

“If there was a drug that I could have taken that would have reduced the pressure, I would have been better off staying the way I was—a totally intact person. I know deep down that I’m a second-class woman. I get a lot of inquiries from would-be transsexuals, but I don’t want anyone to hold me out as an example to follow. Today there are better choices, including medication, for dealing with the compulsion to cross dress and the depression that comes from gender confusion. As far as being fulfilled as a woman, I’m not as fulfilled as I dreamed of being. I get a lot of letters from people who are considering having this operation…and I discourage them all.” —Rene Richards, “The Liaison Legacy,” Tennis Magazine, March 1999.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Must Follow the Law Despite His Personal Beliefs

GeorgiaLeeLang100Under international media scrutiny and political pressure Utah judge Scott Johansen reversed his recent decision to remove a 9-month old foster child from the home of  April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce, a married lesbian couple in Price, Utah.

Ms. Hoagland and Ms. Pierce had fostered the baby for three months and expected to adopt the child. They had the approval and consent of the child’s mother and the local department of child welfare. During the initial hearing when Judge Johansen ordered the child welfare authorities to remove the child within seven days, he  remarked that he had read literature stating that children were better off being raised in a home with a mother and a father.

But the intervention of Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert and the media maelstrom, including tweets from Hilary Clinton and a variety of anti-discrimination organizations led to a follow-up ruling from Judge Johansen who amended his original order and scheduled a hearing on December 4, 2015 to determine the best interests of the infant.

Judge Johansen is no stranger to controversy. In 1995 while interviewing a 16-year old young offender in his chambers, he slapped the youth after he tired of the boy’s belligerent insults. More recently, in 2012 a female child appeared in juvenile court for cutting the hair of a 3-year old child. Her punishment included cutting off the juvenile’s own pony tail, a sanction that led to the filing of a complaint by the juvenile offender’s mother.

While judges have significant discretion, where a legislature passes laws legalizing same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, it is not open to a judge to inject his personal views into the decision. Only the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of the United States can do that, although if asked, I suspect they would vigorously deny it.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Gay Couple Need Adoption Annulled In Order to Marry

GeorgiaLeeLang009
In the not-so-distant past it was not unusual to hear about gay couples who arranged for one to adopt the other to gain rights of inheritance and other family benefits. I recall a case I handled 20 years ago where a wealthy, elderly gentleman adopted his younger partner, much to the distress of the adopting partner’s other biological children.

A gay couple in Pennsylvania did the same thing, convinced that during their lifetime the law would never recognize or legalize their relationship. But to their delight the United States Supreme Court did, a happy event that was marred by the realization that as father and son they faced a hurdle to become lawfully wedded spouses.

Nick Esposito, age 78, adopted his partner, Drew Bosee, age 68, in 2012, two years before same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. The couple had been together for over 40 years. They determined that they would not allow the adoption to stop them from their goal of marriage and filed a Petition in Allegheny County seeking to annul the adoption. They learned that judges in other states had granted such orders in situations like theirs.

But Allegheny County Judge Lawrence O’Toole ruled that state law barred him from doing the same. He ruled that while same-sex partners could marry, parents could not marry their children. Of course, that makes sense, except that Mr. Esposito and Mr. Bosee were never really parent and child; the adoption was intended to ensure that upon death family benefits would be available to them. Judge O’Toole suggested that it would take a higher court to rule on the issue and provide guidance to lower courts.

The couple have appealed and are also finding political support from Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator Bob Casey who has written to United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to intervene in the case.

I expect that along with an inevitable surge in same-sex divorce, attorneys will be kept busy obtaining orders for the annulment of same-sex adoptions.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bill Cosby’s Friends Jump the Sinking Ship

_DSC4179 - Version 2Hollywood’s silence over the Bill Cosby rape allegations is hypocrisy at its finest. The celebrity personalities who are usually the first to voice their condemnation, whether asked or not, are either eerily quiet or entirely dismissive of the charges of over thirty mature women. It is scandalous to hear Hollywood feminists like Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad suggest that Cosby’s victims are conspiring to destroy his legacy. It is classic victim-blaming. But worst of all, where is Oprah Winfrey, the queen of scandal?

But the tide is slowly turning against Bill Cosby as his supporters and defenders, silent and otherwise, are jumping ship, including Whoopi Goldberg who just this week resiled from her audacious support of Cosby, under pressure from her employer, the ABC Television network.

John and Jane Doe Public are also taking steps to take Cosby down a notch or two from the revered position he has held for decades.

The non-profit organization “Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment”, a support group for sexual assault victims, has launched a campaign to revoke Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, with an online petition on the White House’s “We the People” page. If they obtain 100,000 signatures by August 7, 2015 the White House is obliged to review and respond to the petition.

Central State University, a black college in Wilberforce, Ohio have covered up Cosby’s name on the university building named for him and his wife Camille, the Camille O. and William H. Cosby Mass Communications Centre. College officials have said they will decide whether to rename the building in the next few months.

In Orlando, Florida Walt Disney World has removed a statue of Bill Cosby that was erected at Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza.

In Cosby’s hometown of Philadelphia a public mural, painted in 2008 celebrating Father’s Day, with Bill Cosby between South African leader Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is now scheduled for removal.

Back in Hollywood, black civil rights leaders have asked the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove Cosby’s star from their Walk of Fame, while industry insiders recognized his tarnished reputation months ago and cancelled a proposed new sitcom on NBC. Network TV Land removed their reruns of the 1980s-era “The Cosby Show” and Netflix cancelled a scheduled comedy special. Several other smaller networks, with an African-American focus, have also jumped ship.

Perhaps the biggest blow to Bill Cosby’s deny-deny strategy was the release this week of a videotape from a court proceeding in 2005 where Cosby drugged and allegedly sexually assaulted a female victim who sued him in civil court. In the video Cosby admits, under oath, that he plied his victim with quaaludes hoping for a sexual encounter.

Mr. Cosby settled the 2005 case for an unknown sum of money, which is the only way he can be punished for his criminal behaviour, since the United States has archaic limitation laws which provide that after a certain period of time an offender cannot be charged with a criminal offence. Canada does not have those restrictive laws.

For example, in Nevada, the locale of several of the current assault allegations, unless a victim files a written report within four years no criminal charges can be brought.

While reformers have lobbied for years to change the limitation laws, California celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred says that legislatures are very reluctant to do so and face powerful interest groups that lobby against it, including shockingly, Catholic clergy organizations.

While civil lawsuits can also face problems related to delay, my wish is that Bill Cosby face the music in civil court as soon as possible so that his victims can be compensated and exonerated where they have been called liars.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Fashion Stylists Say Female Lawyers Lack Pizazz

DSC00507 (2)It was a beautiful day in Vancouver, hot and sunny, and with a little time to spare that day I decided to attend the swearing in ceremony of a newly appointed Court of Appeal judge, taking place at the Courthouse across the street from my office.

As I approached the courtroom I observed a sea of black-suited lawyers and slipped into one of the last remaining seats. As we waited for the proceedings to commence I noticed how many women lawyers were in attendance, more than usual, since the new judge was a well-respected female lower court judge.

Looking around I suddenly felt so out of place. I was wearing a mauve leather swing skirt, a very feminine pink and mauve blouse, and mauve three inch stiletto heels, in stark contrast to my female colleagues who were outfitted in boring black suits, mostly made of polyester, and sensible shoes that resembled oxfords.

After the ceremony an invitation was extended to join the Chief Justice for refreshments. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate to join the fun, but that day I declined, not wanting to “stand out” in the crowd. (That statement may be hard to believe, but true!)

That brings me to a controversial article in a California legal newsletter, The Marin Lawyer, written by fashion stylists Jill Sperber, also a lawyer, and Susan Pereczek, directed at lawyers in Marin County, an affluent area north of San Francisco that boasts the fifth highest income per capita in the United States at over $90,000 per annum.

In their article titled “Beyond Black: Revising the Lawyer Dress Code for Women” the stylists opine that “female lawyers in Marin are not winning their cases in the Style Department”, a statement that has elicited critical cries of blatant sexism.

As part of their investigation Ms. Sperber and Ms. Pereczek spent two mornings at the Marin County Courthouse where in their roles as “fashion police” they saw:

“mostly non-descript black pants (we counted a few skirts) with button downs or blouses in white or muted tones. Some didn’t bother with jackets. Few wore accessories.”

On the list of fashion faux pas they identified a lawyer wearing a burgundy velvet blazer on a spring day, and another in a tight knit striped miniskirt with a mismatched stripe blazer over a neon blouse, and teetering mules. It’s not a pretty picture!

Among their fashion “dos and don’ts” they suggest is a move away from black suits to a more colourful palette. They also urge female lawyers to use accessories to brighten up and polish their professional look.

A light-hearted article with good advice…what’s wrong with that?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Is US Court’s Gay Marriage Ruling a Threat to Democracy?

BarristerToday’s gay marriage decision from the United States Supreme Court has the potential to create an even greater divide between America’s already polarized electorate.

In a 5/4 decision, the Court invented a new civil right under the banner of equal protection and due process of the law pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment, by ruling that individual States cannot ban same-sex marriage.

The decision is neither unexpected nor surprising, however the chasm between the slim majority and the minority opinions is startling.

Mr. Justice Scalia characterizes the decision as a threat to American democracy and decries a system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected patrician lawyers, who are strikingly unrepresentative of the people they serve. He notes the Court’s judges all have law degrees from Yale or Harvard, four of the nine are from New York, eight grew up in either east or west coast states, with only one judge from the large expanse between the two coasts, and not a single south-westerner.

He continues his provocative opinion by musing that the majority’s discovery of a new fundamental right in the Fourteenth Amendment has curiously been overlooked by some of the brightest legal minds in America, referring to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and other brilliant jurists of the past.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in a separate dissent, writes that the majority has not just ignored America’s entire history and traditions but actively repudiates it. He laments that the Court’s imposition of its “reasoned judgment”, devoid of legal principles, or as Justice Scalia observes “lacking even a thin veneer of law”, is actually a lost opportunity for the gay and lesbian community who can no longer obtain true acceptance from their neighbours, “just when the winds of change were freshening at their backs”. Here the Chief Justice is acknowledging that only thirteen states now ban same-sex marriage.

Chief Justice Roberts rejects the majority’s view that Americans who did nothing more than uphold their understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman should be criticized for their alleged disparagement and disrespect of gays and lesbians. He describes the Court’s denouncement of citizens who uphold a Biblical view of marriage as a gratuitous assault on their character:

“It is one thing for the majority to conclude that the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage; it is something else to portray everyone who does not share the majority’s “better informed understanding” as bigoted.”

Mr. Justice Alito pursues a similar theme writing that the new law will be used to vilify those unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy, noting that the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment to African-Americans and women, an analogy that he fears will be exploited by those who wish to stamp out any vestige of dissent.

Justice Alito predicts the majority’s imposition of its views on America facilitates the marginalization of traditional Americans who may fall victim to the harsh treatment once afforded gays and lesbians. He says:

“…some may think that turn-about is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.”

Mr. Justice Clarence Thomas sees the majority decision as a threat to religious liberty, as does the Chief Justice who remarks that the “good and decent people who oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith and their freedom to exercise religion is, unlike the right imagined by the majority, actually spelled out in the Constitution.”

Justice Clarence states that the decision on same-sex marriage should have been left to the political process, as the Constitution requires, and had that happened the religious implications would have been considered. He identifies the potential of a ruinous assault on religious freedom.

The chasm between members of the Court is no more apparent than in Justice Scalia’s mockery of the majority’s finding that the marriage bond creates “other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality”, to which he replies “Really? Whoever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms?…The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.”

While there is much to celebrate in the gay and lesbian community, there is a silent majority who are disappointed, even angry, that their rights under the democratic process have been trampled by five elite lawyers.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang