What’s Brewing: Anti-gay bill clears Montana House; Maryland Senate takes up marriage

Nathan Bowen

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Montana House approved a bill that would nullify local LGBT discrimination protections. “Missoula’s Democratic legislators were infuriated by the passage of House Bill 516, by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre. Her bill passed 60-39 and faces a final House vote before heading to the Senate. Sixty Republicans voted for it. All 32 Democrats voted opposed it, joined by seven Republicans. One Republican was absent.”

2. The president of a GLBT center in Enid, Okla., is accused of sexually molesting a 15-year-old. “According to EnidGLBT.org, Nathan Bowen is President of the Enid GLBT Community Center located in the 1300 block of S. Van Buren Street. According to the police report, Bowen and the victim began texting each other sexual messages after the victim met Bowen on Friday. The molestation incident happened on Sunday after Bowen allegedly picked up the minor at a park and took him to a home in the area.”

3. The Maryland Senate will begin debate on a marriage equality bill today: “Debate on the contentious measure to allow same-sex couples to marry is expected to run into Wednesday evening and carry over to Thursday. Miller has told senators to clear their weekend schedules in case an expected filibuster extends into Saturday. The bill, which would repeal Maryland’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, is widely expected to clear the Senate — but there are no guarantees. Twenty-four senators have declared their support for the measure, the minimum needed for final passage.”

—  John Wright

Marriage equality battles ramping up across U.S.

N.H. Republicans working to repeal marriage law; other states offer mixed bag in legislative actions

DANA RUDOLPH | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

Two New Hampshire legislators have recently introduced bills to repeal that state’s marriage equality law, even though Republican leaders said Jan. 13 that such a repeal is not a party priority in 2011.

And several other states saw legislative moves toward or away from equality in recent weeks.

New Hampshire: State Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, and 11 cosponsors filed a bill that would repeal marriage equality and prevent New Hampshire from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples contracted outside the state. New Hampshire same-sex couples that married in the state before the bill became effective would continue to be recognized as married.

Same-sex couples that married in another state would no longer be recognized.

State Rep. Leo Pepino, R-Manchester, and five cosponsors filed a separate bill that would repeal marriage equality and prohibit civil unions or any other form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. The Associated Press reported Jan. 25, however, that Pepino will ask the committee hearing the bill “to retain it until next year when they have more time.”

Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed the original marriage equality bill into law, has said he would veto a repeal bill. But Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in both houses.

Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, said in an interview that she thinks marriage equality supporters can sustain the governor’s veto by finding supporters among older, more libertarian-leaning Republicans.

“The public is solidly on our side,” Baxley asserted, but he cautioned, “We can’t just presume that we’ve got the votes . . . .We’ve got to be full throttle out there.”

She said state Republicans also plan to introduce a bill next year for a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. With a spotlight on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, she said, a ballot fight in 2012 could help motivate a stronger conservative turnout.

Maryland: Marriage equality bills were introduced into both the Senate and House in the past week. Democrats have a majority in both chambers. Gov. Martin O’Malley, also a Democrat, has said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Cosponsor Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, said in a press briefing Jan.y 21 that he expects a fight on the Senate floor and will need 29 votes out of 47 to break a filibuster. An up-or-down vote on the bill, after the filibuster is broken, will require 24 votes. Democrats have a 35 to 12 majority in the Senate. A public hearing on the Senate bill is scheduled for Feb. 8.

Hawaii: The full Senate on Jan. 28 passed a bill to legalize civil unions for same- and opposite-sex couples. It now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, has said he will sign it.

Illinois: Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed a civil union bill Jan. 31 giving same- and opposite-sex couples many of the same rights as married ones.

Iowa: The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill Jan. 24 that would allow voters to decide on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. In the Senate, however, Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola, attempted to bypass Senate rules and bring to the floor a vote on the Senate version of the bill. Democrats, who hold a 26-24 majority, voted down the attempt.

New Mexico: Three bills were introduced in the House and one in the Senate that would variously put before voters a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and ban New Mexico from recognizing such marriages enacted outside the state.

Wyoming: The House passed a measure Jan.y 25 to prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages contracted elsewhere. The next day, the state Senate passed a bill that would allow voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A civil union bill introduced by openly gay State Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, failed by one vote to make it out of committee Jan. 28.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: R.I. gay marriage bill, sports columnist comes out, Neil Patrick Harris

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. On Wednesday we told you how Rhode Island’s new governor, Lincoln Chafee, called for marriage equality during his inaugural address. Well, it turns out that Rhode Island legislators plan to introduce a same-sex marriage bill today, and Chafee’s support is crucial to their strategy. The Human Rights Campaign says Rhode Island is one of three states — along with Maryland and New York — where marriage equality is possible this year. At the same time, there’s been a marriage equality bill introduced in Rhode Island’s Assembly every year since 1997, but none has ever made it to a floor vote.

2. Longtime Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley came out as gay in a column published today. Buckley says he regrets that he told his mother he would come out seven years ago, but then she died and he kept putting it off — until now. “It’s my hope that from now on I’ll be more involved” in the LGBT community, Buckley writes. “I’m not really sure what I mean by being ‘involved,’ but this is a start: I’m gay.”

3. Neil Patrick Harris wins People’s Choice Award, recognizes husband and kids on stage (video above).

—  John Wright

New Mexico may recognize same-sex marriage

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King says same-sex marriages performed elsewhere may be valid in his state.

“A comprehensive legal analysis by my office concludes that valid same-sex marriages in other states would likely be valid in New Mexico,” King said.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the opinion hasn’t been tested in court. However, an attorney general’s opinion carries quite a bit of weight.

New Mexico’s new governor, Susana Martinez, opposes same-sex marriage. Her predecessor, Bill Richardson, was unsuccessful getting a marriage-equality bill through the legislature.

Maryland’s attorney general has issued a similar ruling. New York and Rhode Island both recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

—  David Taffet

Top 10: DADT repeal capped 17-year fight

Flash2
A PROMISE FULFILLED  | President Barack Obama gives a thumbs up after signing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 on Wednesday, Dec. 22, at the Interior Department in Washington. Most agree it’s unlikely Obama will sign another pro-equality bill before 2013. (Associated Press)

No. 2:

View all of the Top 10

Anyone who was paying attention in 1993 knows what a devastating setback the community suffered with the codification of the military’s ban on gays. The community itself had asked the newly elected Democratic President, Bill Clinton, to end the military’s long-standing policy banning gays from service.

But instead, Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Georgia, orchestrated a parade of testimony and innuendo to suggest that the mere presence of gays would violate the “sexual privacy” of heterosexual servicemembers.

One female Naval petty officer testified that, “You are asking me to sleep and shower with homosexuals. You are asking me to expose my sexuality …”

Not surprisingly, 56 percent of the public opposed allowing “homosexuals” to serve “openly” in the military in 1993.

In December 2010, only 21 percent of Americans felt that way. And Democratic President Barack Obama, using a strategy of sticks and carrots that sometimes angered the LGBT community, helped drive through passage of a bill that will eventually lead to a dismantling of the ban.

What does that say about 2011?

Given the shaky economy, high unemployment, and intense partisan divide in Congress, there is little likelihood the Obama administration will take on another piece of pro-LGBT civil rights legislation in 2011.

The presidential election campaign of 2012 begins in earnest now and President Obama must tend to a wide variety of constituencies, as well as Middle America in general.

But he has shown — even before repeal of DADT — that his administration is willing to use its power to adopt more LGBT friendly regulations and policies that will advance the LGBT civil rights ball down the field.

And that is likely to be where the action will be, for the Obama administration, in 2011.

— Lisa Keen

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Roberto Alonzo files insurance nondiscrimination measure; no anti-gay legislation reported yet

Rep. Roberto Alonzo

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, has filed one of the earliest pro-equality bills of the 2011 legislative session — and he didn’t even wait outside the clerk’s office for two days to do it.

Alonzo’s HB208, filed Monday, would add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the nondiscrimination provisions of the Texas Insurance Code, according to Equality Texas.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said Wednesday morning that while there’s been a flood of legislation related to immigration and abortion, no anti-gay bills have been logged since the pre-filing period began Monday.

Some feel there is a danger of anti-gay attacks in the biennial session that begins in January, now that Republicans have a nearly two-thirds majority in the House, but Smith reiterated what he told us last week.

“It is untrue to assume that all Republicans are wingnut homophobes,” Smith said. “Some of them are, but I don’t know that there is a will certainly at the leadership level to gay-bash. I think their own polling numbers probably tell them what we see as well, which is that it doesn’t necessarily play well.”

—  John Wright

Ecuador is latest South American country to consider marriage equality; Bolivia may follow

A bill to allow civil marriage will be introduced in Ecuador’s National Assembly on Thursday, according to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.

In 2008, Ecuador adopted a new constitution that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bolivia has a similar provision in its new constitution called “The Law Against Racism and All Types of Discrimination.” The LGBT rights group Equidad participated in a presentation and analysis of the Bolivian provision chaired by a member of the National Assembly. Recommendations will be made this week, and they’ll presumably include a marriage equality law.

This summer, South America has been a hotbed of equality legislation. Marriage equality passed in Argentina. An upgrade from civil unions in Uruguay, which have been legal for several years, is being debated. Civil union bills also have been introduced in Chile and Peru.

Chilean Senator Fulvio Rossi, who introduced the bill there, doesn’t expect it to pass. El Mercurio doesn’t predict what the chances are for passage of the bill in Ecuador.

Translation assistance by Miguel Flores.

—  David Taffet