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Monday, February 21, 2011

Marriage Equality Wrap Up and Other News From 20 States

Marriage Equality Wrap Up and Other News From 20 States

Marriage equality and equal rights legislation news has been arriving fast and furious. Not surprising, since it's the season when state legislatures are in session, but it's almost impossible to keep it all straight (no pun intended, but I'll go with it). After all, how does one distinguish hate-filled legislation in a big western state starting with 'W' from a discriminatory bill in another one starting with 'M'? They all look alike to me.

To help you out, here's a roundup of state actions on equality, proceeding from sea (the Bangor Sea) to shining sea (the Oahu Sea), in a generally westerly direction. I'm sure there's stuff I've missed. You can fill me in on it in the comments.


A federal district court ruled that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) had to reveal its donors from the 2009 campaign to repeal marriage equality. They will undoubtedly appeal. By the time the Supreme Court orders them to reveal the names in 2013 no one will care... Justice delayed is justice denied in this case.

New Hampshire:

We learned that same-sex marriage will lead to Sharia Law and that Ronald Reagan would have voted for equality, in testimony before the New Hampshire legislature on bills to repeal marriage equality. Clarknt67 and those who showed up to testify gave new meaning to the term Crimson Tide, as supporters of equality outnumbered those against around ten to one.

It is now very likely that these bills will not be acted on by the full Legislature until next year, but some version of these repeal bills will have to, by law, eventually be voted on.


Governor Duval Patrick signed an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. A bill to ban such discrimination statewide is pending before the legislature.

Rhode Island:

Testimony was heard a couple of weeks ago regarding a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, but no movement on the legislation has happened since. The news wires have been quiet -- too quiet, if you ask me -- for the last week. NOM and its allies have been airing television ads against the bill and against Rhode Island's governor, Lincoln Chafee, who supports the bill.

New York:

Governor Cuomo reiterated his support for marriage equality, and his desire to have a vote come to pass in the New York State Senate. The Senate Majority Leader, Republican Dean Skelos, said he thought the Senate would vote on the measure in June. Polls show that clear majorities of New Yorkers now support same-sex marriage. Swing New York legislators will undoubtedly look to upcoming votes in Maryland and Rhode Island to help them make up their minds.


Legislators are expected to introduce an everything-but-marriage civil unions bill next month. Propsects for its passage are not clear. A recent poll taken by PPP for Delaware Right to Marry showed that 48% of Delawareans support full marriage equality while 47% do not.


The Maryland Senate will debate and likely vote on a marriage equality bill this week, and as things stand, the votes are there, if barely, to pass it. The measure is expected to have an easier time in the Assembly, and Governor O'Malley has said he will sign it.

If and when signed, opponents would have to gather approximately 55,000 signatures by July 1 to prevent the law from taking effect and subjecting it to a referendum. Earlier reports had said that the referendum would take place in November of 2012, but now I am seeing references to the referendum being held in November of 2011. If true, that would probably be a very bad thing for marriage equality, because the demographic of the electorate would likely be much less favorable in 2011 than it would be in 2012, 2012 being a Presidential election year.

North Carolina:

A constitutional amendment to ban any recognition of same-sex relationships is in the works. Stymied in previous years by a Democratic legislature, now that Republicans are in control, there is nothing to stop the measure from being put to a vote in the House and Senate -- although 60% of each body must vote for the amendment before it is submitted for a statewide vote.


A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and 'anything similar' passed the House by a vote of 70-26. It now goes to the Senate, and then would have to be approved in the next session of the legislature (next year or the year after) again by both bodies, and then be put to a vote of the people.


Governor Quinn signed a civil unions bill on January 31st; it goes into effect June 1, 2011. The law will provide 'everything but marriage' rights to participants, which may include opposite-sex couples.


A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage passed the Republican-led House 62-37, but Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Grontal has repeated stated that he will not allow it to come to a vote in the Iowa Senate. The legislative session ends May 1, so he has two more months of stonewalling to go. Amendments must be passed by two consecutive legislatures and then by a vote of the people to take effect.


Manhattan, Kansas, recently passed a non-discrimination ordinance including sexual orientation and gender identity. Unfortunately, an effort to nullify that law and any other like it at the state level has been initiated.


A bill to establish civil unions was recently introduced. Its passage through the Democratic-controlled Senate is all but assured, but its prospects in the Republican-controlled House are much less sanguine. However, a recent poll showed 72% of Colorado voters support either same-sex marriage or civil unions. One Republican legislator has a poll about civil unions on her website. Why not vote?

New Mexico:

Measures that would have amended the constitution to ban same-sex marriages and void civil unions performed in other states were tabled in committee a few days ago by 3-2 votes along party lines (I don't have to specify the respective parties, do I?).


The Wyoming House passed a bill banning recognition of same-sex marriages from other states, and the Senate passed it as well, but not before amending it to allow same-sex couples who are civilly joined in other states access to the courts to resolve disputes. Now the bill goes back to the House in its amended form.


A bill similar to the one proposed in Kansas is under consideration:

The House Judiciary Committee heard a bill from Rep. Kris Hansen. The bill seeks to undo protections put in place by local communities to expand on the state's Human Rights Act. This act protects certain protected groups from discrimination in housing, employment and other public accommodations.


The California Supreme Court decided to address a question on standing sent to it by the Ninth Circuit Court in Perry v Schwartzenegger. This will delay a decision in that trial (the Prop 8 case), likely until early next year.

A different lawsuit, challenging DOMA and its denial of benefits to same-sex couples, made headlines when Federal district court Judge Wilken denied a dismissal request by the government. The case will be heard February 24th in Oakland, CA.

In yet another lawsuit, Amber Yust is suing the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the ex-employee who sent her a vicious note telling her to repent of her evil trans ways after she had applied for a revision to her driver's license.


A male student teacher, fired for responding to a student's question as to why he wasn't married (because he wanted to marry his boyfriend, and that was illegal), received a settlement for $75,000 and reinstatement.


A bill to legalize same-sex marriage was introduced last week. It is not expected to make any headway this year. Another bill, which would recognize as valid gay marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships from other states, was also introduced and a hearing was held last week. Washington currently has a law giving same-sex couples everything-but-marriage status.


Both houses of the legislature have now passed an everything-but-marriage civil unions statute, and it awaits Governor Abercrombie's signature. He announced that he would sign the bill this Wednesday, February 23rd. The bill will take effect on January 1, 2012.


Marriage Equality Prospects: Maryland, Rhode Island, New York.
Civil Unions Progress: Delaware, Illinois, Colorado, Hawaii
Bad Things Arisin': New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming
Various Good Stuff: Maine, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico


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