A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Potpourri

The Realities of Same-Sex Divorce

By Joseph James Gianetti

On March 26 and 27, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in United States v. Windsor — the case which addresses the constitutionality of Defense of Marriage Act. The question is whether Section 3 of the Act, which defines the term “marriage” as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” deprives same–sex couples who are lawfully married under the laws of their states (such as New York) of equal protection, as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

In 2007, Edith Windsor, a New Yorker, married her same–sex partner of over 40 years, Thea Spyer, in Canada. Dr. Spyer died two years after the marriage and left her entire estate to her wife along with a hefty federal estate tax bill of $363,000 — a tax that Ms. Windsor would have avoided had she been married to a man.

And then there are problems for gay people on the other end of the marriage spectrum. New York Magazine recently published an article that addresses same-sex couples who are unprepared for the legalities involved in divorce.

LASIS further develops the consequences of both the marriage and divorce issues that lie ahead for same sex–couples.

Consider this: Boy from Alabama meets Boy from Florida (two states whose constitutions ban same–sex marriage) while vacationing in the Big Apple. The two fall madly in love and decide to get married right then and there. Is this even possible in light of the fact that both of them live out–of–state and are merely passing through New York? Yes! While New York may have been the sixth state to approve gay marriage, it was the first not to include any residency requirements for marriage. This means that any same–sex couple may travel to New York State and enter into a legally binding marriage. But this boy meets boy story isn’t over just quite yet…

After the vacation is over, boy and boy head back to their respective states, pack up all of their belongings and head for Texas (another state whose constitution bans same–sex marriage) to start their new life together. All is well during the honeymoon phase, but before long the boys realize that they rushed into their marriage, made a terrible mistake, and all things being equal, want a divorce. They rush down to the courthouse only to find that the doors are closed… Texas doesn’t recognize same–sex marriages and will not grant them a divorce.

The couple then hurries to the airport and hops on the next flight to New York.

Surely the state that married them will divorce them, right?

Wrong.

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The Great Maple Syrup Showdown

By Meghan Lalonde

Did you know: one gallon of maple syrup sells in excess of $70 in the United States? In other words, that the stuff is liquid gold?

We’re guessing you don’t.

You may also not know that the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has a huge impact on the price of maple syrup stateside. The Federation controls the cost of syrup much like the way the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) regulates the price of oil. In 2012, millions of gallons of syrup were stolen from a reserve facility owned by the Federation. Altogether, the stolen syrup is worth an approximate $18 million. That’s the largest agricultural theft in history. The shortage could mean a change in price controls governed by the Federation as well as higher prices for syrup in the United States.

Thankfully, the Lalonde family (my parents) tap their own trees and operate a small maple syrup business, the McIntyre Maple Company, in Northern New York during sugaring season – a period of four to six weeks between March and April when maple trees produce sap. Sap is a sugar water that, when boiled, becomes syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup. So far this season, my family has collected and boiled more than 2,400 gallons of sap. The process is extremely time consuming and is heavy on manual labor. It also calls on one’s  ability to drive a tractor up steep hills and through epic amounts of mud without getting stuck. That alone takes talent.

I made the mistake of mentioning the family business in class one day. That’s when Mr. Ryan Morrison had the brilliant idea for a taste test and dared me that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Aunt Jemima and the maple syrup I’d made with my own bare hands (mostly my Dad’s bare hands, I’m just taking most of the credit).

Big mistake, Mr. Morrison.

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Life as a Six-Year-Old Body Double

By Nicole Rowlands

From “Toddlers and Tiaras” to “Dance Moms,” we’ve seen parents subject their children to outrageous, and sometimes demeaning, situations. But in February, we read about a little girl who is used as a body double for Suri Cruise, TomKat’s uber-famous daughter, as she travels around New York City. This was taking things, we think, (more than) a bit too far.

The press reported that Katie Holmes and Suri hopped into an SUV heading downtown.  Shortly after that, an SUV pulled up outside a Tribeca eatery, and out came an unknown woman carrying Suri, who was covering her face with her ubiquitous stuffed animal.  The paparazzi snapped their shots, and everyone was happy.  Until it turned out that little Suri was already downtown with her nanny, and Ms. Holmes met up with her daughter a bit later.

The news spread like wildfire. Suri Cruise – the most famous child on earth (at least until Prince William and his wife have their child this July) – comes fully equipped with a doppelganger.

I can (sort of) understand the obsession with security if your child is as famous as Suri Cruise. But what parent in her right mind would allow her daughter to serve as a body double? I mean, if Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were so worried for their daughter’s safety, why would parents subject their own daughter to any danger or threat that the real Suri Cruise was trying to avoid?

Is employing your daughter to act as a body double or decoy even legal?

The press didn’t say. LASIS will.

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Wanna’ Bet?

By Jennifer Williams

A bet was made. A game was watched. Money exchanged hands.

This didn’t take place in a seedy underground location amid whispers and slips of paper discretely changing hands. No, I’m talking about a bet I made recently from the couch in my living room. I was betting that the U.S. would beat Mexico in an impending fútbol match and I was making my bet loudly, sure and proud that I would emerge victorious.  My husband, by the way, is from Mexico, and he was backing his bet with as much fervor and pride as I did (which means a tied match was the best possible outcome in the Williams-Alvarez household).

I never thought twice about the laws that might punish me for such a gamble. That is until The New York Times introduced me to Nelson Urena. Arrested on March 13, Mr. Urena had 38 slips of paper in his jacket, $1,024 in his back pocket, and was charged with promoting gambling.

From a basement apartment on East 115th Street, Mr. Urena engaged in “playing the numbers”, an illegal form of gambling involving hundreds of little sheets of paper, numbers jotted on chalkboards, and a runner who goes around to take bets from others.

As of 2008, one in six Americans reportedly gambled on sports. It’s easy to see why.  Even a long and scoreless Mets game can be made exciting if you’ve got a bet on it.

And surely the bet I made was different than Mr. Urena’s, right? No runner. No jotting down. No basement.

But was my wager on the outcome of a soccer game against the law? What about Super Bowl bets, NBA gambling, or bets on the Oscars? LASIS investigates.

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Skating Over Legal Terminology

By Asher Hawkins

Dressing up in spandex and sequins. Strapping on a pair of ice skates. Performing a carefully choreographed routine to the smooth-jazz stylings of Kenny G. Sound embarrassing?

For a professional figure skater, that’s just another day at the office. In fact, the pro-skater would probably object if it were suggested that she had agreed to engage in such a performance, but then pulled a no-show at the last minute. A couple of stunts like that, and suddenly you’re the LiLo of the skating-show world.

Earlier this month, Ukraine-born former Olympian Oksana Baiul sued NBC and a skating-show production company whose events apparently are regularly broadcast by the network, in state court in Manhattan, alleging that her name and likeness were used in promotional campaigns for a pair of recent skate shows, even though she had never officially signed on as a performer for the events.

Reports about Ms. Baiul’s suit by the Associated Press, New York Daily News, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and others described the gist of her allegations, and readers would be forgiven for thinking, after reading these accounts, that Ms. Baiul’s claims primarily involve contract or defamation law.

As it happens, the key doctrine on which her complaint actually relies is a legal concept commonly (and sometimes inaccurately) referred to as “right of publicity.”

Some background:

Do you even remember Ms. Baiul? At the age of 16, she overcame injury during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer to beat out American sweetheart Nancy Kerrigan for the gold. Her unfortunate hairstyle and outfit choices may have made Tonya Harding look like a fashion icon by comparison, but oh, how she could lutz!

Ms. Baiul’s post-Olympic career has had its ups and downs; in the late 1990s, national media regularly reported on her apparent struggles with alcohol abuse. Still, she continues to perform in skating shows.

According to her lawsuit, in mid-2011 skating-show production company Disson Skating contacted an agent with whom she was affiliated and offered to pay Ms. Baiul to star in two upcoming shows. The first show was to take place in December 2011 in Greenville, S.C., and feature the progressive-rock band Styx (of “Mr. Roboto” fame.) The show with Kenny G was to take place in January 2012 in the saxophonist’s hometown of Seattle. Ms. Baiul claims that although she never signed a contract with the production company – and ultimately turned down the offer – the shows’ organizers launched a print-and-radio marketing campaign that included Ms. Baiul’s name and likeness and suggested that she would be appearing in the shows. Because that didn’t happen, and because the defendants never issued a correcting press release, Ms. Baiul was left looking like a two-time no-show, and suffered irreparable damage to her reputation, her lawsuit contends.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If something disparaging is said about a Z-list celebrity, has any harm been done?

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