Anti-Equality Legislation Moving in the States
April 27, 2011 by Jeremy Pittman, Deputy Field Director
With many state legislatures facing adjournment dates in the next few weeks, anti-equality lawmakers around the country are ramping up attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Harmful legislation has already passed in a few states and is advancing in others.
In a blow to children waiting for permanent homes in the Grand Canyon State, Governor Jan Brewer signed legislation this month that gives preference to married couples in the adoption process – at the exclusion of same-sex couples and single adults who wish to provide a loving home to children. The bill applies to public and private adoption agencies. In response to the new law, HRC Family Project Director Ellen Kahn reminds us that, “Child welfare experts agree that adoptive parents should be judged by their character and their ability to raise a child, not on their marital status or sexual orientation.”
Meanwhile in Indiana, lawmakers gave their first approval to place a constitutional marriage ban on the ballot. The proposed amendment to the state constitution would define marriage as between one man and one woman and prohibit the state from enacting civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Hoosiers will vote on this proposed amendment in 2014 if legislators once again approve the proposal in the 2013-14 legislative session.
In Tennessee, HRC has been working with our partners at the Tennessee Equality Project to defend against two bills that take aim directly at LGBT residents. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill (SB 49 / HB 229) would prohibit honest, healthy and age-appropriate conversations about sexuality in Tennessee’s classrooms. This bill passed last week by the Senate Education Committee and is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate on Thursday, April 28th. A second discriminatory bill, the “Special Access to Discriminate” bill (HB 600 / SB 632), would ban Tennessee cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity. This bill is a direct assault on the existing anti-discrimination laws in Nashville and Davidson County, which were recently strengthened to require government contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies. HB 600, which may very likely be unconstitutional (see Romer v. Evans), passed the State House on April 25th and is due to be considered in the Senate State & Local Government Committee on May 3rd. Tennesseans, send a message to your state senator today and ask your friends and family members to do the same!
Texas legislators are considering two bills that would make life more challenging for LGBT Texans. Attempting to reverse a positive legislative change from last year, the Senate is considering legislation that would prevent district clerks from accepting a court order recognizing a sex change as a legal document for a marriage license. In an even more bizarre move, the House passed a budget bill containing a provision requiring public universities with a student center on "alternative sexuality”, i.e. an LGBT center, to provide equal funding to create new centers to promote "traditional values."
And just yesterday, conservative lawmakers in Minnesota introduced three bills aimed at putting an anti-marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2012. With a key deadline this week, these discriminatory bills will be fast-tracked for consideration in the state senate, with committee votes likely this week. OutFront Minnesota and Project 515 are taking the lead to counter this effort. Unfortunately, our opponents don’t have an exceptionally high hurdle. To be placed on the ballot, a proposed amendment requires only majority votes in the state House and Senate; the governor’s signature is not required. Minnesotans, send a message to your legislators today.
Minnesota lawmakers join their peers in North Carolina, where efforts to place an anti-marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot have been underway for some time now. HRC field organizer Jessica Osborn has been on the ground working with Equality North Carolina since March. For more information on volunteering and other ways to get involved in North Carolina, please contact Jessica at Jessica.Osborn@hrc.org.
There have been a few recent bright spots as legislators consider anti-equality bills, though. In Illinois, a senate committee voted down a proposal that would have allowed adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against couples in a civil union.
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