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State Of Equality Round-Up: March 7-11, 2011

March 07, 2011 10:57 am ET by Equality Matters staff

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


Friday: Final House Vote Expected Later Today. Maryland's marriage equality bill is scheduled to come to a final House floor vote today. The bill remains several votes short of the 71 needed for passage but a "healthy handful" of delegates have yet to disclose their voting plans. If the bill passes, it is expected to go to a public referendum before being signed into law. 

Fri. Update: Marriage Equality Stalls In House, Effectively Dead Until Next Session. Maryland's marriage equality bill stalled in the House today after being sent back to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration. The move effectively kills the bill for the remainder of this legislative session. 

Thursday: Marriage Equality Debate Postponed Until Tomorrow. The final session of debate on Maryland's marriage equality bill SB116 won't begin until tomorrow morning. If no amendments are added onto the bill, itshould come up for a final vote before the weekend.

Thursday: House Committee Debates Transgender Rights Bill. The House Committee on Health and Government Operations held a hearing yesterday to discuss the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, a bill which would protect Marylanders from employment and housing discrimination based on gender identity. One of the few opponents testifying against the bill was a transgender activist who called for the bill to include discrimination in public accommodations. Opponents of the bill asserted that it would empower pedophiles and rapist by allowing them to enter women's bathrooms. 

Tuesday: Debate Over House Bill To Begin Wednesday. The debate over Maryland's marriage equality bill is expected to begin in the House tomorrow, setting up a critical full House vote sometime later this week. In the run up to the floor debate, six openly gay delegates have sent their colleagues a letter urging them to support the bill. The vote will be close, but there is reason to believe that personal appeals from gay and lesbian delegates will have a positive impact on the bill's support.

Monday: Marriage Equality Still A Few Votes Short In House. A bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples if Maryland to marry is still several votes short of the 71 needed for passage. According to Tom Shanker, an equality advocate in Maryland: "We have nearly 68 delegates willing to support the measure. We only need a few more to guarantee that gay and lesbian couples in Maryland receive the same rights as straight couples." A full floor vote is expected to come as early as this week. 

Rhode Island

Thursday: Senate Hearing Begins Tonight. A Rhode Island Senate committee will hear several hours of testimonyfrom opponents and supporters of a proposed marriage equality bill. Senate proceedings are crucial the bill's prospects for passing there are the gloomiest. The House committee reviewing the bill could vote to send it to the House floor as early as next week.

Monday: House Judiciary Committee May Vote On Marriage This Thursday. The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee may vote on legislation to legalize marriage equality as early as this Thursday. The Roman Catholic Church and National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are both working overtime to derail the bill's passage. In good news, Congressman Jim Langevin, who was previously reluctant to support marriage equality, has announcedthat he now fully supports the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

New York

Thursday: Governow Cumo Meets With Gay Leaders To Enact Marriage Equality. Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo met with several leaders of the LGBT community, including Equality Matters' own Richard Socarides, to discuss the effort to fight for marriage equality in New York. Socarides praised the meeting, saying "I've been to lots of meetings where presidents or governors call people in to say that they're with them, and this one was really extraordinary." 

Tuesday: NYC Ensures Transgender Marriage Rights. New York City recently adopted a new policy that would provide transgender New Yorkers with easier access to marriage licenses. The new policy, which arose in response to threatened legal action, would prohibit the city clerk from requesting proof of an applicant's sex other than the required photo ID.


Thursday: Lawmakers Fight To Keep Sodomy Laws On Books. Earlier this week, the two Kansas House representatives announced their intention to keep a law criminalizing gay and lesbian sexual relationships on the books. The law is still unenforceable, as the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) found state sodomy laws to be unconstitutional.  


Wednesday: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Attempting To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage. A Hennepin Country judgedismissed a lawsuit that attempted to prove Minnesota's 13-year-old Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The judge wrote that she was bound by a previous Minnesota Supreme Court decision that said the Legislature has the power to limit the definition of marriage.

Monday: DFL Party Vows To Stop Anti-Gay Marriage Amendments. In an email to party activists, Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party promised to fight against attempts by the state GOP to put constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage up for a vote in 2012. 


Tuesday: Legislature Considers Hate Crimes Bill For Gender Identity. Yesterday, the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 180, which would change state law to include "gender identity or expression" in the list of "aggravating factors" than can result in harsher penalties for people convicted of violent crimes. The hearing ended without a vote.


Tuesday: Civil Unions Bill Passes Senate Committee. SB 172, Colorado's bill to legalize same-sex civil unions,passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in a 6-3 vote. The bill now moves to the Finance Committee. The bill is expected to pass the Senate but its prospects in the Republican-controlled House are still unclear.

Monday: Openly Gay Man Elected Democratic State Party Chair. Rick Palacio, who is openly gay, was chosenyesterday to lead the Colorado Democratic Party as the state party's chairman. Palacio will resign from his current position as deputy director of member services for U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md).

Mon. Update: Hearings Begin For Civil Union Bill. Today marked the beginning of hearings on a bill legalizing civil unions and providing same-sex couples with similar rights as married couples. SB 172, which is expected to clear the State Senate easily, was introduced by Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Mark Ferrandino earlier this year.


Monday: Proposition 8 Judge Replaced. Judge Vaughn Walker, the judge who presided over Perry v. Schwarzeneggerand deemed California's Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional, has been replaced by Chief Judge James Ware.Judge Walker stepped down on December 31 and returned to the private sector at the end of February. If the legal challenge to Prop. 8 ever returns to federal trial court in San Francisco, Ware will oversee the trial.

West Virginia

Monday: Two Bills To Protect LGBT West Virginians Die In Legislature. Two bills, SB 226 and HB2045, which would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, have died in the West Virginia legislature after not being moved into committee. Acting Senate president Jeff Kessler said: "For this year, it's obviously dead."


Monday: House Votes To Recognize Out-Of-State Same-Sex Marriages. The Washington State House voted 58-39 to recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state as domestic partnerships in Washington. The bill, HB 1649, now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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