Press

Legislative Update 4/16/1997

Date: 
April 16, 1997

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) today released its bi-weekly update of gay and HIV-related legislation in US state capitals. In the update, NGLTF tracks measures ranging from making schools safe for lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth to banning gay and lesbian couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents.

Of great concern is a North Dakota bill recently signed into law making it the first state to legalize the confinement of people suspected of having HIV. According to the law, emergency personnel, including police officers, firefighters, patients, health care workers and others may secure a court order confining individuals to whose blood they have been "significantly" exposed. Persons may be confined for up to five days and no criminal charges need be filed to be imprisoned.

"This is one of the most chilling and dangerous laws enacted this year," said Kerry Lobel, NGLTF executive director. "It flies in the face of accepted medical and public health policy regarding HIV. This law will do more harm than good for the people of North Dakota."

Critics of the new law say the fact that HIV tests of others does not determine one's own HIV status seems to have been lost on North Dakota law makers and the governor. The law goes into effect July 1. For more information, contact Keith Elston of the ACLU of the Dakotas at 701-255-4727.

Hate crimes legislation continues to move forward in a few states, buoying hopes that the number of states with hate crime laws inclusive of gays and lesbians will increase by year's end.

"Hate crime laws are of great importance in deterring violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," stated Lobel. Four of the states with such bills currently have hate crime laws excluding crimes based on sexual orientation. Lobel underscored the importance of having sexual orientation included in these laws, "hate crime laws excluding sexual orientation send a dangerous message that while hate crimes are wrong, anti-gay bashing is acceptable."

A complete copy of the legislative update and accompanying chart is available by calling NGLTF at 202/332-6483 x3214. This and previous editions of the update are available for downloading at table416.gif or in Acrobat format at table416.pdf

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Legislative Update

April 16, 1997

As of April 16, 1997, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force tracked 227 gay or HIV/AIDS- related state legislative measures. Over half, 116 are considered unfavorable or hostile. The remaining 111 are considered favorable to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. For a detailed breakdown of these measures, see the attached chart.

MARRIAGE:

Approximately 61 bills banning same gender marriage have been introduced in 32 states. In Rhode Island and West Virginia, the defeat of anti-marriage bills last week was celebrated. This brings to six the number of states (MD, NH, NM, RI, WV, WY) where marriage bans were defeated this year. Anti-marriage bills remain pending in 20 states (AL, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IN, IA, LA, MN, MT, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OR, TX, VT, WA, WI). In five states (IL, MD, NE, RI, WA), pro-marriage bills were introduced. Only those in Illinois and Washington remain alive.

This year, marriage bans have been signed into law in five states (AR, ME MS, ND, VA). Marriage bans have become law in 21 states since 1995. (AK, AZ, AR, DE, GA, ID, IL, KS, ME, MS, MI, MO, NC, ND, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA)

In Hawaii, a proposed anti-marriage constitutional amendment passed the House but was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee. A Senate constitutional amendment to permit the legislature to restrict marriage, provided it does so without denying civil rights based on a person's sex, was passed by the Senate but rejected by the House.

A House-Senate conference committee has been meeting to try to reach agreement but was unable to do so by the original deadline they had been given. The Governor extended the deadline by one week. An anti-marriage amendment bill has been paired in these discussions with a domestic partnership recognition bill as a "compromise." The House version of the domestic partnership legislation is weaker than that of the Senate. Discussions in conference committee continue. If the legislature passes the anti-marriage constitutional amendment, the issue would be before the voters in 1998.

In Nebraska last week, anti-marriage foes were unsuccessful in bringing the anti-gay marriage bill to a vote. During debate, an amendment was introduced to prohibit people three times convicted of assault on a spouse from obtaining a marriage license. The amendment failed, 17 to 15. It is possible the bill will not be rescheduled for another vote.

In Indiana the LGBT community is battling its fourth anti-gay marriage bill of the year. Three House bills were killed earlier in the session. The newest bill is a House amendment to a welfare-to-work bill. The full House will be voting on the bill in the near future. In Washington state, a bill remains alive that, if passed, provides for a ballot measure on the issue by as early as June of this year.

CIVIL RIGHTS:

Approximately 24 bills favoring basic civil rights for lesbians and gay men, including making discrimination in areas such as the workplace, housing and public accommodation illegal, have been introduced in at least 18 states. These measures remain alive in 11 states (AZ, CA, IL, LA, ME, NE, NH, NY, OR, TX, WA). West Virginia's died in committee last week. Including West Virginia, civil rights measures are now dead in seven states (AR, CO, MD, MT, NM, VA, WV).

In Washington, the group Hands Off Washington continues its signature gathering to put a pro-gay employment non-discrimination measure on the ballot in November.

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP:

At least 15 measures have been introduced in seven states and five remain alive (CA, HI, IL, MA, and MN). These measures range from providing a mechanism for lesbian and gay couples to register as domestic partners, providing at hospital and prison visitation rights, to extending benefits such as health insurance to same-gender partners. Domestic partner measures were killed in Colorado and Virginia. An anti-domestic partnership bill is moving in Colorado. The bill, which would prevent state colleges and universities from offering domestic partner benefits to its employees, passed a Senate committee.

In Illinois a bill was introduced mandating municipalities to extend domestic partner benefits to same-gender couples and to extend them to unmarried heterosexual couples as well. While the intent of this law is to undermine the provision of domestic partner benefits to same-gender couples recently approved by the Chicago City Council, NGLTF classifies this measure as favorable. Historically, domestic partner measures included same and opposite sex partners, reflecting a progressive approach to the reality of families in the United States. NGLTF continues to support broad definitions of domestic partners in these measures.

HATE CRIMES:

Twenty nine hate crime bills including crimes based on sexual orientation were introduced in at least 19 states (AZ, CO, DE, GA, IN, LA, MA, MN, MT, NE, NM, NY, PA, RI, SC, TX, VA, WV, WY). The Indiana, Montana, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming bills are dead. Bills in Colorado and Nebraska moved out of committee last week and the Texas bill made it out of committee yesterday and now goes to the full Senate. A measure in Georgia missed the deadline to be heard this year but can still be considered next year. Georgia has a two year legislative session.

Of the bills still being considered, four states (CO, NY, PA, RI) would add sexual orientation to existing hate crime laws, while six of the states (AZ, DE, GA, LA, NE, SC) have no enhanced penalty hate crime laws on the books. In Texas, while there is a hate crimes law on the books that includes sexual orientation, the law is crafted such that prosecutions under it are nearly impossible.

In Arizona, a major showdown over the hate crimes bill unfolded last week. Governor Fife Symington, who vetoed similar legislation last session, attempted to attach an amendment eliminating specific categories of hate crimes. Such an amendment would have made the bill meaningless. House members rejected the language and passed the measure in its original form. Symington says he will veto the measure. The bill is now in the Senate.

FAMILIES:

All 3 pro-family bills introduced remain alive. In California, a bill is pending to prohibit discrimination on the basis of marital status in state adoptions. The second California bill would require certain health insurance companies and HMOs to provide health insurance coverage to lesbian and gay couples. In Georgia, a bill strengthening the role of durable power of attorney was introduced. In the absence of marriage rights, the durable power of attorney is an important legal protection for gay and lesbian families.

Six anti-family bills were introduced so far in five states (KY, MS, MO, SC, TN). All remain alive except the Mississippi measure. These bills generally concern adoption and foster parenting, except one of the two Missouri measures and the Kentucky bill. The Missouri bill would declare gays and lesbians unworthy of the custody of children under 16 years of age.

In Kentucky, bill sponsors are waiving the ever popular and ever false banner of special rights. A bill was pre-filed that would prevent judges from issuing protective orders to victims of same-gender domestic violence. According to press reports, one Senator stated, "If violence among homosexuals is so profound that they need special protection, the gay community needs to come forth and explain what its problem is." Protective orders for victims of heterosexual domestic violence are apparently not a special right. Like heterosexual couples, domestic violence exists in some same-gender relationships.

SCHOOLS/CAMPUS:

Last week, California's Dignity for All Students Bill passed in the Assembly Education Committee. Speaking for the bill were numerous gay and lesbian youth and a mother who's son took his own life because of severe harassment and abuse from his classmates at school for being gay The bill would prohibit bias based on sexual orientation in school employment, curriculum and the treatment of students on campus. A measure that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in schools is pending in Connecticut, and in Rhode Island there is a measure that would repeal a law passed last year that lets parents take their children out of AIDS education and sex education classes.

In four states (MO, FL, NH, WA) anti-gay bills concerning curriculum were introduced, and in three states (CA, CT, NC) anti-gay bills concerning military recruitment on campuses are being considered.

SODOMY:

Five sodomy repeal measures were introduced in four states (AZ, MA, RI, VA). The Rhode Island and Virginia bills are dead. In California, efforts are underway to remove those prosecuted under a now extinct sodomy law from a bill requiring sex offenders to register.

As reported in NGLTF's April 1 Legislative Update , twelve anti-gay measures involving sodomy were introduced and killed in Kansas.

TRANSGENDER:

Missouri is considering a measure hostile to transgendered people. It would make transgender status of a parent an issue in determining child custody.

HIV/AIDS:

At least 26 bills favorably addressing HIV/AIDS issues have been introduced in at least nine states (AR, CO, FL, GA, IN, MN, NM, RI, VA). At least 20 measures deemed unfavorable have been introduced in fourteen states (DE, FL, GA, ID, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, ND, OK, VA, WA). In New York State there is a bill in the General Assembly that would eliminate what's left of confidentiality protections for persons with HIV.

Of particular concern is the chilling North Dakota measure allowing confinement and forced testing for any individual with exposed blood in the proximity of, among others, health care workers. A court order can be secured confining individuals to whose blood they have been "significantly" exposed. Persons may be confined for up to five days and no criminal charges need be filed to be imprisoned. The fact that HIV tests of others does not determine one's own HIV status seems to have been lost on North Dakota law makers and the governor. The law goes into effect July 1.

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Media Note: Contact information for state activists and organizations working on legislative issues is available from NGLTF Media Director Mark Johnson at 202/332-6483 ext. 3314.

This information was gathered by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force from a variety of sources, including news reports, activists, various organizations, and state legislative libraries. Due to the often fast pace of the legislative process, some of this data may be incomplete or quickly out of date. This legislative update is intended to provide an overview of the type of pro and anti- gay activity happening in state capitals. NGLTF will release a final accounting of pro and anti-gay bills later in the year in our 1997 edition of Capital Gains and Losses. Individuals with information on legislative activity not in this report should contact the NGLTF Field Department at 202/332-6483, extension 3303.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.