Every week at state and local levels, there are numerous developments taking place about the many key issues that deeply affect our community—domestic partnerships, marriage, hate crimes, employment discrimination and DOMA to name a few. The media is paying attention. Here is a brief summary: Maine: Gearing up for Vote on Marriage for Gay and Lesbian Couples Last year, Maine legislators passed LD 1020—a law allowing marriage for gay and lesbian couples—but LS 1020 only stands if Maine residents vote to uphold it this November. So the clock is ticking. The Advocate wrote that in Maine, both sides, marriage and anti-marriage advocates are working aggressively:
Opponents of Maine’s same-sex marriage law have the upper hand financially thus far, raising more than $343,000 compared to [Equality Maine-based] No on 1’s $143,000, according to mid-July filings with the State Ethics Commission. Marriage equality proponents had a total of 501 donors, according to a campaign spokesman, with the largest donation of $50,000 coming from Maine resident Diane Sammer, $25,000 from the Human Rights Campaign, $10,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union, and $10,000 from another state resident Jane Begert. An HRC spokesperson said the organization plans to chip in an additional $100,000 over the next couple months.The Los Angeles Times reported that Maine-based advocates of same-sex marriage are not in this alone--people in California are lending a helping hand:
Equality California, one of this state’s largest gay rights groups, sent out a fundraising appeal urging supporters to send their donations to Maine. The appeal noted that opponents of gay marriage, including many who were active in California’s $80-million battle over Proposition 8, have raised more than twice as much money.View “Together”, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Equality Maine Foundation and the Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation’s new ad for upholding LD 1020. Ohio: Same-Sex and Unwed Partners of Employees to Receive Benefits On August 18, Franklin County commissioners and employees voted unanimously to offer benefits to unmarried and same-sex partners of county employees. The Columbus Dispatch reported on Wednesday that all county offices and independent agencies including Franklin County Children Services, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and Metro Parks are to adopt this new policy. This new policy, which goes into effect January 1st, 2010, could benefit roughly 60 domestic partners and 21 dependants in the area. Tennessee: Metro Council Votes to Ban Workplace Discrimination against LGBT Workers In a 23-16 vote, the Metropolitan Council— the legislative body of Nashville and Davidson County —voted on member Meghan Barry’s proposal to ensure that all gay and lesbian workers were protected from discrimination in the workplace. According to the Nashville Scene, the majority of those who opposed the bill expressed that they wanted a bill that would protect all employees better based on “non-merit” factors. This vote comes six years after a similar 2003 vote that refused to ban this type of discrimination. Texas: El Paso Officials Will Make Public Accouchement on Domestic Partner Benefits Next Week This July, council members in El Paso voted to include benefits for partners of gay and unmarried employees. Kiva.com reported that on August 18, at a city council meeting, both those who support and oppose this new policy spoke out in the allotted public comment portion of the meeting. What exactly was said is unknown to the public, because council members are not allowed to divulge what community members say if it is not the agenda of the meeting. Next Tuesday, council members will officially make a statement about this new measure to the public. Mayor John Cook stated that he will have a special meeting about this as well. Ft. Worth Police Revising Policies After Raiding Local Gay Bar Almost two months after the Rainbow Lounge raid, which resulted in six arrests and one hospitalization, Fort Worth police announced on Tuesday that they are revising some of their policies, reports the El Paso Times:
Chief Jeff Halstead told the City Council that problems happened at the Rainbow Lounge in the early morning hours of June 28 because the department's bar inspection policy lacked specific guidelines, which he said was why no policies were violated. He said a revised policy should be in place by Sept. 1 with rules for a three tiered-system: bar checks, inspections and investigations. A final report should be finished in late September or October, Halstead said. It will include the department's findings on whether allegations against some officers—including excessive force and unprofessional conduct—are justified and any recommended disciplinary actionsThe June raid sparked accusations that police were targeting gay bars in the area. After public protests and marches, the city’s police chief announced the appointment of an interim liaison to the city’s LGBT residents and issued a public apology for the incident. Washington State: Referendum 71 Aims to Dismantle Domestic Partnerships Laws Over the past few years, Washington’s state legislature has passed progressively more inclusive versions of a domestic partnership law. In 2009, the legislature passed Senate Bill 5688, a bill that would make domestic partnerships equivalent to marriage in the state, with the exception of the title of the agreement. Governor Chris Gregoire (D-WA) dubbed the bill, “everything but marriage,” and anti-gay forces have continued repeating the phrase. After contentious fights among leading conservatives in the state on whether it was a good strategy to force a referendum on the bill, a fraction of the anti-gay activists began gathering signatures for Referendum 71 (R-71)—an appeal that could overturn existing law if it wins majority vote this November. On July 25th, Protect Marriage Washington turned in 137,689 signatures from registered Washington State voters supporting R-71--only 120,577 valid signatures were required. The Secretary State’s Office is still verifying all of the signatures on R-71 and will most likely make an announcement later this month. The Seattle Times reported that the Protect Marriage Washington asked the Public Disclosure Commission on Thursday to hold an emergency hearing—they claim that they have received threats of violence. GLAAD will be on the ground in Washington working with local LGBT organizations and media in reporting on this matter. *** GLAAD will continue keeping up with the latest developments on legislative LGBT issues around the country.