California Leads All 50 States In Passage Of Pro-GLBT Measures In 1999, NGLTF Update Shows
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
With almost all state legislative activity finished for 1999, California legislators passed more legislation that advances equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people than any other single state, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's final legislative update of 1999.
"From civil rights to domestic partnership to safe schools legislation, California legislators have passed groundbreaking measures to combat anti-GLBT discrimination and harassment and to promote economic equity and legal parity for same-sex couples," said NGLTF Executive Director Kerry Lobel. "That's the good news. The bad news is that in the past year, only one state — Missouri — has enacted a strong hate crimes law inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. And only one state — Nevada — has enacted a civil rights measure covering GLBT people. The latest legislative update shows us not only the importance of hard work and organizing — but also that hard work and organizing can pay off, as it did in California, Missouri, Nevada and New Hampshire, where legislators repealed a ban on same-sex adoption."
Some of the highlights of California's recently completed legislative session include passage of the following bills:
- AB 1001, which would ban sexual orientation-based discrimination in employment and housing accommodations.
- AB 26, which would establish a statewide domestic partnership registry for same-sex couples and allow the Public Employees' Retirement System to grant health benefits to the registered domestic partners of state and local employees.
- SB 75, which would establish a statewide domestic partnership registry for same- and opposite-sex couples and add domestic partners to existing conservatorship, statutory will and hospital visitation laws.
- AB 208, which enhances penalties for those convicted of first-degree murder if the victim was selected because of their sexual orientation, gender (which includes gender identity) and disability. (The measure is an enhancement of California's already existing hate-crimes law and was signed into law Thursday, Sept. 30.)
While progress was achieved in California this session, some of the bills fell short of supporters' original hopes. For example, AB 26 originally included a provision requiring all health-insurance companies to extend benefits to unmarried partners regardless of gender, but was amended at the request of Governor Gray Davis to cover only same-sex domestic partners of state employees. And AB 1001 bans employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity.
Throughout the year, NGLTF has tracked 541 GLBT-related bills in state legislatures throughout the United States. Of these, 309 were favorable and 232 were unfavorable, the first time since the Task Force began its comprehensive tracking that favorable measures outnumbered unfavorable ones. "Legislative activity throughout the states reflects a checkerboard reality," said NGLTF Political Director Rebecca Isaacs. "Not only do we see favorable legislation and unfavorable legislation advancing at the same time in different states, but we often see both good and bad bills advancing in the same state legislature. This demonstrates a need for enhanced resources and better training so that our allies on the ground in every state capitol may lobby with greater sophistication and therefore, greater success."
The need for better, more sophisticated advocacy led NGLTF this summer to unveil its Legislative Lawyer Project. Under the project, NGLTF State and Federal Legislative Lawyers Hector Vargas and Blake Cornish and Field Organizer Dan Hawes are working with local activists to draft legislation and devise strategies to further the cause of GLBT equality at both the state and federal level. Earlier this month, for example, Hawes, Vargas and Cornish participated in a conference call with activists from 12 states that focused on the conflict between religious protection legislation and GLBT civil rights. Future conference calls will look at hate crimes, non-discrimination bills, and safe-schools legislation.
Go to the October 1 State Legislative Update
Chart of all state bills as of October 1, 1999
Chart of bills signed into law as of October 1,1999
Download a hard copy of the October 1 State Legislative Update
For a complete review of 1998 activity, reference "Capital Gains and Losses," a state by state review of GLBT and HIV/AIDS-related legislation at http://www.ngltf.org/cgal98. The next edition of "Capital Gains and Losses" will be published in December.
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 movementís 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.
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