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Best Week, Worst Week: Same-sex parental rights gets another look; Travel web sites might have to pay more in Md.

Same-sex partners who seek parental rights of custody and visitation after a divorce got some good news this week while travel web sites booking deals in Maryland soon might have to pay a little more to do business in the state.

Legal affairs writer Steve Lash reported Tuesday that Maryland’s top court agreed to decide if the former same-sex partner of a child’s mother has the parental rights of custody and visitation because the decision to conceive the child was mutual and the couple married – but later divorced – after the child’s birth

The Court of Appeals said it will review lower-court decisions that Michael Conover lacks parental standing and thus has no right to visitation or custody of the child, 5-year-old Jaxon. In the petition for high-court review, Conover, a transgender man, is referred to by his former name, Michelle, and by feminine pronouns.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld in September a circuit court ruling that Conover is a third-party who can visit the son against the wishes of the mother, Brittany Eckel, only by showing the mother is an unfit parent or that exceptional circumstances exist to override the mother’s choice about whom her child spends time with.

Conover, in successfully petitioning the top court to hear his appeal, argued that Maryland law contains a “presumption of parentage” for individuals who assume the duties of parenting but are neither a biological nor an adoptive parent of the child. Conover argued the Court of Special Appeals ignored the presumption of parentage, which holds that visits can be denied only upon a showing that they would not be in the child’s best interest.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s Senate president said Monday he’s confident Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill designed to ensure that third-party travel websites pay all of the state’s sales tax is headed toward an override vote.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said in an interview with The Associated Press that there are enough Senate votes to override the Republican governor’s veto when the legislative session begins next month. Miller noted opposition to the governor’s decision from Marriott Chairman Bill Marriott and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Supporters argued that the bill simply closes a loophole. Opponents contended it amounts to a new tax on travel websites.

Kathleen Snyder, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, wrote Miller this month that online travel companies only remit a portion of the state’s 6-percent sales tax actually collected from the consumer, based on the lower, discounted price that they paid the hotel for the room. She wrote that the measure simply clarifies that the state’s tax code should apply in the same way to online travel companies as it does to all other retailers in the state.

When Hogan announced the veto in May, he wrote that the current law about whether accommodations intermediaries are required to collect and remit sales taxes on the amount paid by the consumer is being litigated by the state’s comptroller’s office. The case is still in litigation.