Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Policy Matters 2/22

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Front Page Headlines

Pelosi Endorsement of Marriage Equality Plank Raises Stakes for Democrats: A move to put same-sex marriage in the Democratic Party platform at this year’s convention could prove problematic for Democrats as they seek to keep the election-year conversation focused on their efforts to right the economy. [The Hill]

Maryland Senate Committee Approves Marriage Equality Bill: A Maryland Senate committee approved a gay marriage bill on Tuesday, sending the issue to the full Senate and moving Maryland closer to becoming the eighth state to legalize same-sex nuptials. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 7 to 4 in favor of the bill - supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley - and the full Senate was expected to vote later in the week. The bill was approved last week by the lower house. [Reuters]

Lesbian Minister at Crux of Presbyterian Divide: The highest court of the U.S. Presbyterian Church will convene in Texas on Friday to consider whether a lesbian minister violated ecclesiastical law when she blessed the weddings of same-sex couples in California. [New York Times]

Policy Watch

Cheltenham Approves Human Relations Commission Protecting Against Discrimination due to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; Joins 26 Other Communities Statewide: Cheltenham Township became the 27th community in PA last night to adopt an ordinance protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, in addition to other protected categories already covered by state and federal law. [Citizens’ Call]

Christie Keeps his Promise to Veto Marriage Equality Bill: Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a newly passed bill on Friday that would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey, setting a difficult path for advocates who vowed to fight “with every last breath” to override him. The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide same-sex couples the same protections that marriage would. [NY Times]

West Virginia Bill Would Extend Legal Protections of Marriage to Same-Sex Couples: A West Virginia lawmaker introduced a bill Thursday that would give  same-sex  couples the same legal protections as heterosexual married couples. [The Republic]

For Maryland’s LGB Legislators, Moment of Truth Looms on Same-Sex Marriage: This week, the lesbian, gay and bisexual delegates in Maryland’s State House heard testimony from podiatrists, studied urban and rural poverty rubrics, debated septic-tank regulations and wrangled over community college budgets. Meanwhile, one of the biggest legislative battles of their lives — a historic bill legalizing same-sex marriage that would have a profound impact on each of them personally — loomed in the hallways, in the news and on their minds. [Washington Post]

Washington Marriage Equality Debate Not Yes or No, but Both: Opponents of Washington state's new marriage equality law want voters to select "no" on the November 2012 ballot. And also "yes." That seeming paradox stems in competing efforts launched this week by two groups dedicated to the cause of keeping Washington from joining six other states and the District of Columbia from legalizing same-sex matrimony. [Reuters]   

Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

The Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment or House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6) passed through Indiana’s House and Senate last session. Unfortunately, it is on track to become the first time in Indiana’s history where our Constitution is amended to take way rights rather than to grant them. I know the attention for measures like these is focused on North Carolina and Minnesota, but how can local, state and national LGBT communities and their allies work to prevent the measure from advancing now?

Thank you,

Matthew
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Dear Matthew,

Thank you for your question! As you note correctly, Indian’s state legislature must pass legislation again this session to put forward a constitutional amendment before the voters in 2014. Unfortunately our movement is no stranger to constitutional amendments that limit our full civil rights and responsibilities in terms of relationship recognition. In fact, we have seen these actions in 29 different states, and have lost every time. We are actively working in North Carolina and Minnesota to prevent similar uniformed public policies from advancing. As you’ll note from the failed
  • The good news is that you have time to help defeat this measure – the key is to start early, build coalition, and educate communities all over the state about the real harms of HJR-6. As you know, if the measure passes, the amendment would have a dramatic effect on same-sex couples in the state. Depending on interpretation, the amendment could do the following:
  • Prevent any future attempts to allow for same-sex marriage
  • Eliminate health care benefits for same-sex partnerships
  • Eliminate legally binding documents for same-sex couples that are “substantially similar to marriage” such as wills and trusts
  • Eliminate inheritance laws from being applied to same-sex couples.
  • Eliminate hospital visitation rights

We know that HJR-6 must pass through the House and Senate again in 2012 and 2013. If it passes, unaltered, it will be on the ballot in 2014. This means that Hoosiers will cast their vote either for or against HJR-6 as it is written today.

In order to defeat HJR-6, please consider taking the following actions today: 
  • Make Your Voice Heard! Call and email your legislators today – NOW – telling them to, “Nix Six!” Share with them your reasons why this matters. To find out who your legislators are, please visit our action alert center here.
  • Discuss HJR-6 with your family, co-workers, and friends. Lots of people are not even aware this is happening. It is OUR job to talk with them, to engage them in conversation. It is very difficult to argue against one’s personal experience. Ask them: “If there is a vote to amend Indiana’s constitution to take away the rights of LGBT people, will you vote against it?”
  • Your Story! Ask your legislator to have lunch or coffee with you. You can do it! If you need some help, take a look at the tremendous leadership of Annette Gross, a PFLAG leader from our Indianapolis Chapter. They work for us! Let them get to know you for who you are; better yet, bring your mother or your kids with you!  Find your legislator here.
  • Contact allied organizations in your area such Equality Indiana, local Pride committees, open/affirming churches, GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliances), straight allied organizations, or other like-minded groups.  Find allied organizations here.
  • Share information with PFLAG National regarding the events in your part of the state by sending it to Brooke Senter, your Regional Field Manager, at bsenter.org.
  • Share your personal story, anonymously or not, in writing or on video. Share it with us by sending it to Liz Owen, lowen@pflag.org
  • Attend local meetings sponsored by PFLAG Chapters across the state, and be sure to check out Equality Indiana’s homepage for constant updates regarding HJR-6.

As always, PFLAG National is a great resource! For any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us by contacting our Policy Director, Rhodes Perry, at rperry@pflag.org. .

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters
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P.S. Have you downloaded our new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2011 version of
the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit PFLAG nationals' website
for more information now!

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 Friday, March 2,, 2012.

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