Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Policy Matters - June 28, 2011

Front Page Headlines

An Unlikely Mix of Force Behind NY Marriage Equality. The story of how the Marriage Equality Act became law in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from LGBT couples who wish to be wed. But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and LGBT equality advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition. And it was about a Democratic governor, himself a Catholic, who used the force of his personality and relentlessly strategic mind to persuade conflicted lawmakers to take a historic leap. [New York Times]

Census Shows One-Quarter of Same-Sex Couples Raising Children: Recently released data from the 2010 census reveals that approximately 25 percent of same-sex couples are raising children. The 2010 census was the first-ever census which included same-sex couples and their families. While some statewide statistics about same-sex families have been released, this is the first comprehensive look at same-sex couples and their families nationwide. [ABC News]

California Judge’s Ruling on Prop. 8 Upheld: On June 15th, California Chief Judge James Ware upheld the ruling that Judge Vaughn Walker made, which stated that the ban on same-sex marriage in California (Proposition 8) was unconstitutional. Judge Walker’s ruling was called into question by “traditional marriage” advocates after he retired from the bench in February, and announced that he had been in a long term, same-sex relationship. Lawyers for supporters of Proposition 8 argued that because Judge Walker could stand to benefit from the ban being overturned, he should have recused himself. However, Chief Judge Ware stated that there was no evidence that Walker had any plans to marry and that, more importantly, minority justices cannot be expected to remove themselves from cases that would impact that minority. The case has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. [New York Times]

United Nations Passes LGBT Rights Resolution: On June 17th, the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council passed a resolution which affirms equal rights for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the first U.N. resolution dealing specifically with LGBT rights. It was introduced by South Africa, and passed with 23 votes in favor (19 voted in opposition and three abstained). While the U.S. State Department, which had lobbied extensively for the resolution, called it a “historic step,” some other African nations expressed strong disapproval. With its passing, the resolution commissions a report on the difficulties LGBT people face worldwide. [CNN]


Public Policy Watch

New York State Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill: On June 24th, the New York State Senate approved the Marriage Equality bill, with a vote of 33 to 29. With a Republican majority in the Senate, the fate of the bill was uncertain up until the moment of the vote; in the end, four Republicans joined all but one of the Democratic Senators to approve the bill. A similar bill in New York failed just two years ago, when the Senate was controlled by Democrats. Many are crediting the victory to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who made passing the bill one of his top priorities for 2011, strongly pushing the Senate to approve it. [New York Times]

Defense Secretary Unlikely to Certify DADT Repeal before Retirement: The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, will retire on June 30th. With that date fast approaching, officials say it seems unlikely that he will certify a repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, which prohibits openly lesbian, gay and bisexual people from serving in the military, before his retirement. Gates has stated previously that he would certify the repeal if leaders from all branches of the military gave their recommendations, but it appears that this will not happen before June 30th. If Gates does not okay the DADT repeal before his retirement, his successor, Leon Panetta, will need to certify the repeal before it goes into effect. The repeal will only go into effect 60 days after the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Secretary give their certifications. [Politico]

Massachusetts Transgender Advocates Push for Antidiscrimination Bill. Advocates for transgender equality in Massachusetts continue to push for legislation that would include transgender people in statewide anti-discrimination laws. Members of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and the Transgender Equal Rights Coalition rallied at the State House in an effort to persuade representatives to debate their anti-discrimination proposal. While the bill has the support of Governor Deval Patrick and over half of the Massachusetts House and Senate, it has not previously been able to get past the Judiciary Committee. [Boston.com]


A Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

Now that marriage equality has passed in New York, what is in store for other states that still have state-wide constitutional bans on same-sex marriage? On the federal level, do you think it will help lead to the Congress repealing DOMA?

Sincerely,

Darcy

Dear Darcy,

Thank you for contacting Policy Matters. After New York’s historic vote, same-sex marriage is now legal in six states, plus the District of Columbia. This means that there are now roughly 35 million people in the United States living in places where same-sex marriage is legal. While there are many varying opinions on what passage of the Marriage Equality Act in New York means for the rest of the country, there are some states that are more likely to follow New York than others. Here’s a rundown:

  • Rhode Island could revive a same-sex marriage bill which died in the legislature earlier this year.
  • Maine and Oregon are likely to be the focus of activists who want to introduce ballot initiatives to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage.
  • Maryland could revive legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage. Democrats were reluctant to pursue the bill earlier due to concerns that it lacked support.
  • California could also introduce ballot initiatives to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage, but because Prop. 8 is being appealed through the court system, many activists think it wiser to let the appeals process run its course.
  • Delaware and New Jersey have Democratic-controlled legislatures, which mean that same-sex marriage advocates are likely to push for legalization there.

It is notable that the decision in New York follows recently revealed results of the Gallup Poll, which indicated that 53 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. government should recognize same-sex marriages; the decision in New York is likely a result of this shift in public opinion. Hopefully, the legalization of marriage equality in New York will provide the momentum needed to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples who do not yet live in a state where they can legally marry.

Thank you for moving equality forward,

Policy Matters

P.S. Have you downloaded your new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2010 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit. www.pflag.org/btmh for more information now and please be sure to review our 2011 version later this season.

And please join us for the 2011 PFLAG National Convention, where you can join us for a Lobby Day in Washington, DC!

Please note that Policy Matters will return on July 12, 2011. If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than July 8, 2011.

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