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State Of Equality Round-Up: February 28 - March 4, 2011

February 28, 2011 12:04 pm ET by Equality Matters staff

To check out last week's State of Equality Round-Up, click here.

Maryland

Friday: House Committee Approves Marriage Equality Bill. Maryland's House Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 to approve HB 175, a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples in the state to marry. Although one of the bill's initial supporters changed her vote, the chairman of the committee, who doesn't support marriage equality, chose to vote for the bill at the last minute. The bill now moves to a full vote on the House floor, which is expected sometime next week.

Thursday: House Committee Postpones Marriage Equality Vote Again. A House Judiciary Committee vote on Maryland's marriage equality bill has been postponed yet again. House leaders have had trouble securing the necessary number of votes to get the bill out of committee and to the House floor.

Political Pressure Forces Delegates To Drop Trans Public Accommodation Protections. Delegates are expected to receive a wave of criticism for their decision to remove a provision banning public accommodation discrimination from a broader transgender discrimination bill. The compromise was made in order to secure enough votes for the bill's passage. 

Wednesday: Marriage Equality Bill May Stall In House Committee. Maryland's marriage equality bill is in danger of not getting out of committee. Delegate Jill Carter, who's vote is needed to move the bill to the House floor, is holding the bill hostage, using her vote to gain "leverage" on a number of unrelated pet projects. A committee vote on the bill was delayed yesterday, and is not expected to come up again until tomorrow. 

Wed. Update: Delegate Jill Carter Agrees To Vote "Yes." After delaying a committee vote on Maryland's marriage equality bill, Del. Jill Carter has announced that she is now "content and ready to vote for the bill." With Del. Carter and Del. Alston now back on board, it appears that, barring any new defectors, the bill will make it out of the House Judiciary Committee as early as tomorrow with exactly 12 votes, the minimum needed for committee passage. A final House vote on the bill is likely to come sometime next week.

Tuesday: House Committee Vote May Be Delayed Until Tomorrow. The House Judiciary Committee vote on Maryland's marriage equality bill has been delayed until later today or tomorrow. From a March 1 Metro Weekly article:

Maryland's House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on House Bill 175, the House version of the marriage bill which was approved on the Senate floor last week, this afternoon, March 1.

But the vote was delayed. In an e-mail sent to Metro Weekly, Del. Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), who is gay, confirmed that the committee vote has been delayed.

"It will be rescheduled to after the bill hearings that were previously scheduled for today," he wrote. "Precise time is unknown." Asked if that vote would happen on March 1, Clippinger added, "hearings sometimes go very, very late."

According NBC Baltimore, the vote was delayed because two delegates, and supporters of the bill, were absent.

Monday: House Opposition To Marriage Equality Bill Strengthens. Proponents of marriage equality in Maryland are warning their supporters not to become complacent, citing major efforts by the opponents of the same-sex marriage bill. From a February 26 Washington Blade article:

"There's an effort to derail this bill like none I've seen before," said gay State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), the author and one of the lead sponsors of the marriage equality bill in the Senate.

In a telephone news briefing on Friday, Madaleno said the mainstream media have repeatedly reported an earlier assumption that support for the bill was greater in the House than in the Senate, and approval of the measure in the Senate guaranteed its passage in the House.

With opponents, including the Maryland Catholic Conference and the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage, applying enormous pressure on wavering delegates, Madaleno and Equality Maryland officials said support in the House might be in jeopardy.

New Hampshire

Thursday: House Committee Unanimously Vote Down Marriage Repeal Bill. The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted 15-0 to take two bills repealing same-sex marriage off the table for the remainder of this legislative session.

Monday: House Judiciary Committee To Vote On Marriage Equality Repeal Bills. The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee will vote tomorrow on two bills that would repeal the state's marriage equality laws. The committee can choose to either hold onto the bills until next year or recommend that the full House act on the before the end of March. 

Michigan

Thursday: Senate Committee Approves Bill To Slash Same-Sex Partner Health Benefits. Yesterday, Michigan's Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee approved a resolution overturning a Civil Service Commission ruling that extended benefits to same-sex partners. The move was done in order to reduce costs and address the states $1.4 billion budget shortfall.

North Carolina

Thursday: Gay Marriage Ban Is Low Priority In Senate. North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger has yet to schedule a vote on a bill that would ask voters to write a ban on gay marriage into the state's constitution. According to a March 3 Raleigh News & Observer article:

Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, has co-sponsored same-sex ban bills in past years, including in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He said last week that hearings on the new bill haven't been scheduled because the Senate will deal with the budget and redistricting first.

"I'd say later rather than sooner," Berger said. "No decision has been made."

Wednesday: Gay Marriage Ban Likely To Pass House And Senate. Supporters of a bill that would put a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to a vote believe the bill's prospects for passage are the best they've been since 2004. From the March 1 News & Observer:

Sen. James Forrester, a Gaston County Republican, has filed the bill consistently for nearly a decade, but the proposal never made it to a full vote. Democrats held control of both the House and Senate for most of those years.

With Republicans now controlling the legislature, Forrester is looking forward to hearings and a victory.

"I think we have enough votes to get it passed," he said. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers, and similar bills in past years have drawn bi-partisan support.

Tuesday: Majority Of Residents Support Legal Recognition For Same-Sex Couples. A survey conducted by Elon University and released yesterday found that a majority of North Carolina resident support some form of same-sex recognition. From a February 28 Associated Press article:

An Elon University survey released Monday found that only 35 percent of respondents opposed all legal recognition, down from 44 percent when the question was asked two years ago.

The poll says 29 percent support civil unions or partnerships for same-sex couples but not full marriage rights. About 28 percent of people support marriage rights.

Wyoming

Thursday: Senate Votes Down Ban On Recognizing Out-Of-State Gay Marriages. In a 16-14 vote, Wyoming state senators rejected a compromise version of House Bill 74, which would have prohibited the recognition of gay marriages performed out-of-state. The Wyoming Supreme Court may now have to resolve a conflict in the state's law concerning out-of-state marriages. 

Wednesday: Civil Unions Dropped From Anti-Gay Marriage Bill. A legislative conference committee voted yesterday to narrow a bill in the Wyoming House that would ban recognition of out-of-state marriages between gay and lesbian couples. From the March 1 Casper Star Tribune:

However, the six-member committee punted on the two most contentious issues surrounding the bill - civil unions and court access for same-sex couples.

By a 4-2 vote, the committee narrowed House Bill 74 to only invalidate same-sex marriages from other states and countries.

The changes must now be approved by the House, then the Senate.

Monday: Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Dies In House. A proposed constitutional amendment that would specify the state wouldn't recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages died Friday in the Wyoming House after missing a procedural deadline. House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Tom Lubnau (R-Gillette) said he didn't want to spend time debating a bill he didn't have the votes to pass.

Kentucky

Thursday: Proposed Amendment to Anti-Bullying Bill Allows Condemning LGBT Students On Religious Grounds. House Republican Make Harmon introduced an amendment to an anti-bullying bill this week "would allow students to condemn other students' sexual preferences as long as that expression of a religious belief". From a March 2 WHAS11 article:

Harmon has filed an amendment that would allow students to condemn other students' sexual preferences as long as that expression of a religious belief does not include physical harm or damaging property.

"If someone, just in conversation, said, 'You know, I think homosexuality is a sin,' well we don't want that child to be bullied because they have a certain moral or religious belief," said Harmon, "And we don't want them, certainly don't want them to be labeled a bully just because they have that particular belief."

"What this bill is about is making a school a safe place to go," said [the anti-bullying bill's] sponsor, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville), "a learning center and a place that our kids can feel safe."

Marzian says she has no problem with a different amendment that reasserts basic freedom of speech rights, but contends that Harmon's amendment may actually encourage gay bullying.  

"It's a very cynical amendment," Marzian said, "I would ask Mike Harmon, 'What would Jesus do?'  Would He bully people based on religion?  I don't think so."

Rhode Island

Thursday: Marriage Equality Bill May Get Committee Vote Next Week. Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox has announced that he is committed to getting a marriage equality bill moved quickly through the House. According to a March 3 The Providence Journal article:

He acknowledged that a vote in the House Judiciary Committee could come as soon as March 10, the day that the Senate has scheduled a hearing on the Senate version of the legislation.

"That's a potential," Fox said. "The potential's there but nothing has been set in stone at this point."

Fox said he's talking with House members to see where concerns lie. House leaders have also looked at what's been introduced in Maryland and in other states.

But he said that no amendments are in play at this point, and that the proposal as currently worded has "strong support" in the House.

Ohio

Thursday: Senate Passes Bill Voiding Domestic Partnership Benefits. As Box Turtle Bulleting reports, the Ohio Senate has passed a bill to balance the state's budget that includes a provision reiterating that state's opposition to same-sex marriage and voiding any benefits granted to "non-marital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes."

Illinois

Wednesday: State Officials Investigate Anti-Gay Religious Groups. Illinois state officials are investigating several publicly-funded religious agencies accused of breaking anti-discrimination laws by refusing to license openly gay parents for foster care. From the March 1 Chicago Tribune:

If they are found in violation, Lutheran Child and Family Services, Catholic Charities in five regions and the Evangelical Child and Family Agency will have to license openly gay foster parents or lose millions of state dollars, potentially disrupting more than 3,000 foster children in their care.

California

Wednesday: Supreme Court Refuses To Expedite Prop. 8 Hearing. Yesterday, the California Supreme Courtrefused to expedite a hearing concerning the standing of anti-gay groups defending Proposition 8. Proponents of marriage equality hoped to have the hearing moved to May, but it remains scheduled for September of 2011. 

Tuesday: Attorney General Calls Asks Federal Court To Allow Same-Sex Marriages. California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined the lawyers working against Proposition 8 in asking a federal appeals court to allow same-sex couples to continue getting married as it considers an appeal involving the proposition. 

Monday: Government Clerk Attempts To Resolve Proposition 8 Standing Question.  On Friday, an Imperial County clerk-recorder asked the 9th Circuit panel handling the appeal of last year's Proposition 8 decision to allow him to step in as the Proposition's primary defendant. From a February 25 Associated Press article:

In a declaration accompanying his motion, Storey, a 57-year-old Republican, said he should be allowed to intervene because his office is responsible for issuing and recording marriage licenses in Imperial County, where 70 percent of voters approved Proposition 8 in November 2008.

[...]

Walker overturned the gay marriage ban in August as a violation of gay Californians' civil rights. He also ruled that Imperial County was ineligible to be part of the case.

The county subsequently appealed to the 9th Circuit, reiterating its argument that staff members who issue marriage licenses and perform weddings had a direct stake in the fate of Proposition 8. But the court also dismissed the request, asking why the head county clerk at the time, Dolores Provencio, wasn't part of the case.

[...]

San Francisco Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart believes it's too late for Imperial
County to intervene, even though it now has a clerk willing to defend Proposition 8.

The deadline for appealing Walker's ruling passed in September, she said.

[...]

The 9th Circuit court currently is mulling the constitutionality of Proposition 8. But the
three-judge panel said in January it can't reach a decision until it knows if ballot proposition
sponsors have legal standing to step in when the attorney general and governor refuse to
defend voter-approved initiatives in court.

In the meantine, the lawyers challenging Proposition 8 have asked the 9th Circuit to lift the stay on same-sex marriages and allow gay and lesbian couples to get married while Judge Walker's decision is appealed. Today, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial in support of the lawyers' position:

Every day that the case drags on, gay and lesbian couples who would like to marry are being deprived of their civil rights. That's not our wording; the federal trial judge decided that issue, at least for now. The denial of constitutional rights, even temporarily, is a deplorable situation that must meet high legal standards to be allowed to continue. In our view, those conditions have not been met.

Utah

Tuesday: Anti-Discrimination Bill Blocked In Senate. A bill prohibiting employment and housing discrimination against gay and transgender Utah residents has failed to even receive a hearing in the Utah Senate. The effort to bring the bill to a hearing failed on a 21-7 vote.

New York

Tuesday: Gay Rights Activists Rally For Marriage Equality. Gay rights activists blocked traffic in New York City this morning while protesting New York's discriminatory marriage laws. Eight protesters were eventually arrested for refusing to move from the intersection at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue, including three drag queens.  

Iowa

Tuesday: Poll Shows Voters Would Reject Constitutional Gay Marriage Ban. A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released on Sunday revealed that a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would likely lose by a few percentage points if put up for a vote. From a February 28 article in The Iowa Independent:

The poll, which found that a large chunk of Iowa voters simply don't care or are undecided on the gay marriage issue, found 38 percent who said they would vote against amending the constitution to change marriage law. Thirty-five percent said they would vote in favor, and 27 percent said they wouldn't even vote. The poll of 800 Iowa adults was conducted Feb. 13-16 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

In September, an earlier Iowa Poll found 41 percent would vote for a ban, 40 percent would vote to continue gay marriage, and the rest either would not vote or said they weren't sure.

However, even though more people said they would vote against a same-sex marriage ban than support it, 31 percent of those polled said they strongly oppose the Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, 26 percent strongly favor it and 30 percent "don't care."




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