Press

State Legislative Update: Civil Union bills; anti-GLBT Boy Scout measures dominate state legislative landscape

Date: 
February 14, 2001

NGLTF releases first legislative update of 2001; hate crimes bills on the move in Arkansas and Texas; New York Assembly approves civil rights measure

Civil unions and the Boy Scouts, two issues that captured headlines in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement during the year 2000, are the focus of legislative attention in a number of states, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reports in this year's first NGLTF Legislative Update.

So far this year, NGLTF has tracked a total of 311 bills in the 48 state legislatures that have opened their sessions. (Sessions will begin in Florida and Louisiana in March.) Of the 311 bills tracked, 164 are favorable and 146 are unfavorable.

"This is the third consecutive year that favorable bills have outnumbered unfavorable bills, which demonstrates the continued growth of our movement," said NGLTF Executive Director Elizabeth Toledo. "However, there is cause for concern. The favorable-to-unfavorable ratio is smaller than it has been during the past two years. This could be attributed to a backlash from right-wing activists who have been emboldened by last November's state and national elections."

Highlights of this year’s legislative activity so far include:

  • Legislators in seven states have introduced some form of civil union legislation. Four bills that would ban the recognition of a same-sex civil union or other same-sex relationship have been introduced in Colorado, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Texas. Vermont legislators are debating a complete repeal of its first-in-the-nation civil union law, while GLBT-friendly legislators in Hawaii and Washington have introduced bills to establish civil unions.

  • Legislators in three states - Arizona, Georgia and Washington - have introduced measures to prevent public entities from denying funding or free use of public facilities to Boy Scouts of America troops, which discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religious belief. In Washington, this anti-GLBT proposal is deceptively titled the "Boy Scouts Protection Act," while in Georgia it is named the "Defense of Scouting Act."

  • Legislators in Arkansas - for the first time ever - have moved a hate crimes bill that includes sexual orientation through the full Senate. The bill awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee. In Montana, activists are trying to revive a hate crimes bill in the wake of several recent, well-publicized hate crimes against gay Montana residents. And in Texas, a hate crimes bill inclusive of sexual orientation has moved through a Senate committee and is awaiting action before the full Senate later in the current legislative session.

  • Legislators in two states - New Mexico and New York - have succeeded in moving civil rights measures through part of the legislative process. In New Mexico, an anti-discrimination bill covering employment, housing and public accommodations has passed the House Judiciary Committee and could come to the House floor for a vote any day now. And in New York, the New York Assembly passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, or SONDA, on a strong 113-33 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.

To read the full NGLTF legislative update, please visit www.ngltf.org/statelocal/leg2001.htm.

To view or download NGLTF's state issue maps, please visit www.ngltf.org/library.

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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.