Press

Equality Begins at Home: Day 4!!

Date: 
March 25, 1999

Maryland Civil Rights Bill Passes House of Delegates; Lobby Days and Vigils Mark Mid-Week Activities; Latest on Equality Begins at Home

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

The Maryland House of Delegates' passed a bill Wednesday to amend that state's civil rights law to include sexual orientation. Also Wednesday, record numbers of participants attended lobby days in Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio, while vigils and meetings were held in many other states. The events were part of Equality Begins at Home, one of the largest grassroots mobilizations in the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) movement.

More than 350 events are taking place throughout the country during the week. The following highlights describe some of the actions that took place yesterday.

In Annapolis, Maryland, the state's civil rights bill, HB315, passed out of committee last week and went to the floor of the House of Delegates, where Wednesday it passed on its third reading and will be considered by the Senate. Activists with the Free State Justice Coaltion are heavily lobbying the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee, where a vote is expected later this week. The bill has gained national attention because of the unprecedented lobbying effort by Governor Parris Glendening, who will join local officials at an Equality Begins at Home reception Friday night.

Openly gay representatives Steve May and Ken Cheuvront introduced more than 100 participants at Arizona's lobby day into the House gallery. May read a petition supporting GLBT equality into the official record and spoke eloquently about the importance of Equality Begins at Home efforts in that state. Sitting nearby was Representative Karen Johnson, who has earned a reputation for mean-spirited anti-gay actions and verbally attacked May on the House floor several weeks ago. Citizen lobbyists delivered more than 1,000 petitions from every legislative district in Arizona demanding that the legislature repeal the state's sodomy law, pass nondiscrimination legislation, and stop a bill that would strip local governments of their ability to enact domestic partnership policies.

In Springfield, Illinois, more than 300 people attended the state lobby day and rally at the capitol. Earlier this week, the Illinois House fell just one vote short of passing anti-discrimination legislation. Organizers in Illinois used their $5,000 Equality Begins at Home grant from NGLTF to support the work of local groups in the state, which resulted in ads in Champaign, billboards in Decatur and many other projects.

In Boston, Massachusetts, 60 people participated in a lobby day for two key issues: the passage of a statewide domestic partnership benefits bill for all public employees and the defeat of that state's first anti-marriage bill.

Nearly 60 activists attended a lobby day in Columbus, Ohio, where hate crimes and employment nondiscrimination legislation are top priorities. Representatives met with every member of the Senate and half of the House.

In Hartford, Connecticut, the rainbow flag continued to fly above the state capitol despite objections from conservative legislators who likened the rainbow flag to the symbols of other groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. State officials have stood firm in their support of the flag. "To take that flag down would be a mistake," said Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann. "For many individuals who have known a lifetime of oppression, the raising of the rainbow flag was deeply meaningful. Removing it would be a slap in the face to those individuals."

In New Mexico, 50 activists attended an AIDS vigil at the state capitol. About 60 NAMES Project Quilt panels were hung this week in the Capitol. Speakers included Rabbi Malka Drucker, who prayed the Kadish, and Rev. Dick Murphy of St. Bede's Episcopal Church, where the rainbow flag flies year round.

In Lexington, Kentucky, hundreds attended a cultural event followed by a vigil against hate crimes. The events were part of the Rainbow Tour traveling throughout the state of Kentucky during Equality Begins at Home.

In New York City, 75 people attended a SpeakOut on Ageism, co-sponsored by Senior Action in A Gay Environment (SAGE), the NGLTF Policy Institute, the Hetrick Martin Institute, and Gay Men of African Descent. Panelists spoke about their personal experiences with ageism, and then audience members also shared their experiences. Another meeting was set to establish an ongoing dialogue on ageism in the GLBT movement.

In Washington, D.C., about 100 people attended a town meeting with Mayor Anthony Williams. The mayor acknowledged Equality Begins at Home as an important action for the rights of D.C. residents. He pledged to address a number of concerns raised, including an investigation into the D.C. government's appeal to dismiss the Tyra Hunter judgment. In 1998, the D.C. Fire Department was found guilty of negligence in the wrongful death of Hunter, a transgender person, who was denied care after paramedics discovered her transgender status. Williams also pledged to assist with lobbying Congress to stay out of District matters on same-sex adoption, medical marijuana, needle exchange funding, and the implementation of D.C.'s domestic partnership registry. Because the District of Columbia is controlled by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. House and Senate must approve all D.C. laws.

This weekend, more than two dozen states will hold events, including rallies, marches, and town forums. A full schedule of events is available online at http://www.equalitybeginsathome.org.

Equality Begins at Home is coordinated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and organized by the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations.

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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 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.