Latest Statewide LGBT Developments
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. GLAAD is ensuring the media is paying attention.
Here is a brief summary:
With Nov. 3 elections approaching soon, LGBT advocates and their allies are hoping that Maine voters vote “No” on Question 1 to ensure that marriage for gay and lesbian couples remains legal throughout the state. On Oct. 28, an hour-long televised debate took place at the University of Southern Maine.
Brian Souchet of Stand for Marriage Maine and Mary Bonauto from Protect Maine Equality engaged in a wide-ranging hourlong debate at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Wednesday.
Bonauto says the referendum is about fairness and allowing gay couples to join the institution of marriage. Souchet says it proposes a "radical redefinition" of marriage that could even lead to gay marriage being taught in schools.
LGBT proponents and allies have received serious support from statewide media. On Oct. 18, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram urged its readers to vote for marriage equality. They shined a light on the “scare tactics” the opposition has used:
The ‘Stand for Marriage: Yes on 1′ campaign has struggled to come up with ways in which allowing this law to take effect would hurt traditional families. Too often they have resorted to inventing scenarios to scare voters.
The most prominent has been the charge that children would be forced to learn about same-sex marriage in school. All it takes is a quick reading of the law to see, however, that there is no mention of education in it. Curriculum in Maine is approved by local school boards, and those elected officials would be under no obligation to add lessons on marriage law to their areas of study.
But that’s not to say that children would be kept in the dark. They are smart, and they should be expected to notice that some of their classmates have two moms or two dads instead of one of each. This is not a function of the law, however, it is a reflection of reality. A ‘yes’ vote won’t make those couples go away. It would only make their lives more difficult.
For more information about protecting marriage equality in Maine, please visit the ‘NO on 1/ Protect Maine Equality’ website here'.
District of Columbia: Marriage
Earlier this month, Councilperson David A. Catania introduced a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to legally marry in the District of Columbia. On Oct. 26, Washington D.C.’s council committee had an open forum to discuss the bill with its residents. Officials estimated that hundreds from both sides of the debate signed up to testify ―making this hearing the largest the council had ever moderated.
The Associated Press wrote that the language of the bill and other potential changes to the bill were discussed:
Take the terms "bride" and "groom" off D.C. marriage licenses and replace them with the word "spouse."
That's one change being suggested as supporters and opponents of a proposed bill to allow same-sex marriage in Washington take a hard look at the bill's language. The bill was introduced earlier this month and had its first hearing in a city council committee Monday. Part of the reason for the hearing is to rigorously examine the bill's language and propose changes.
Witnesses from a range of groups testified they have concerns about some of the wording. The bill, which is expected to be voted on as early as December, would let same-sex couples from both inside and outside the district marry in the city.
The Washington Post reported the hearings were emotional, especially for members of the LGBT community and straight allies who shared their personal stories and emphasized the need for this legislation to get passed.
More than 100 people showed up Monday night for a legislative hearing on the bill, which was co-sponsored by 10 of council's 13 members.
Several same-sex couples broke into tears as they talked about the prospect of being allowed to get married. Marisa Levy went to the hearing to support her gay brother.
"Pass this bill and finally make my brother's partner of 15 years my brother-in-law," Levy said.
A second hearing took place on Monday before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. This hearing discussed whether or not they should be able to try to put a measure on the city ballot that would give voters the option of banning same-sex unions.
The Board of Elections began meeting Monday to hear testimony on an initiative that would go on the 2010 ballot. It would ask voters to decide whether they want "only marriage between a man and woman" to be valid in the city.
The two-member board won't vote Monday on whether the measure meets requirements to go on the ballot. At Monday's hearing, the board members seemed particularly concerned that the initiative may violate the city's Human Rights Act, which among other things prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to D.C. elections law, a referendum cannot appear on the ballot if it violates the city's human rights laws.
Earlier this year after Washington officials passed a law to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, the board rejected an effort to hold a referendum on the new law, citing the Human Rights Act.
It is believed the D.C. council will pass the bill before Christmas of this year, but if a proposed ban gets on the ballot and receives a majority of the vote, it would overturn any law supporting the right for gay and lesbian couples to be legally married.
Six months ago, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided to extend marriage equality to committed gay and lesbian couples. Although this is a definite cause for celebration, these newly awarded rights are tenuous, as evidenced by the struggle in California. As the legislative session is gearing up to begin in January, anti-gay candidates are setting their sights on ending this freedom for devoted couples to marry. That’s why it is important to start garnering support now in order to continue the vital conversations regarding marriage equality.
One Iowa, the leading LGBT rights group in Iowa, is hosting public forum panel discussions around the state in order to represent and share the experiences of community members, giving the cause a local perspective with the aim of maintaining respectful dialogue around an issue that affects all of us. The first of the series of sixteen scheduled conversations will be held on Nov. 5 in Washington, Iowa.
Michigan: Nondiscrimination Ordinance
The Kalamazoo Gazette, Kalamazoo, Michigan’s largest newspaper, encouraged its readers to “stand for equality” and vote “yes” in its official endorsement of the City of Kalamazoo Ordinance No. 1856, a November ballot initiative that would make it illegal for employers, housing authorities as well as public accommodations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell, the YWCA, NAACP and the League of Women Voters are all supporting the ordinance.
Read more here.
Washington State: Domestic Partnerships
Ref. 71 will be decided by the residents of Washington State. Ref. 71―the referendum that will decide whether domestic partnership will remain legal―has been supported by numerous Washington-based newspapers, celebs and organizations throughout the state. All ballots are due by November 3rd.
GLAAD will continue keeping up with the latest developments on legislative LGBT issues around the country.