Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Policy Matters 3/14/12

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Front Page Headlines
Experts say NC’s anti-marriage ban could hinge on black vote: Voters in North Carolina will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 8 to decide whether the state will enshrine discrimination in the state’s constitution. More than 20 percent of voters are expected to be African-American, enough to swing the vote either way. [WSOCTV]
Older LGBT New Yorkers Get a Drop-In Center of Their Own: The SAGE Center, run by the nonprofit group SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders), believes this drop-in center to be the first of its kind in the nation. It is to open officially on Thursday, but dinners were served throughout February, Mondays through Fridays, as a preparatory exercise. [NY Times]
Veiled Witness in Rutgers Case Tells of Noticing Webcam: The man known as M.B. testified on Friday in the Dharun Ravi trial. M.B. discussed his meetings with Tyler Clementi in the dorm room shared by Clementi and Ravi. M.B. also said he noticed Ravi's webcam pointing at Clementi's bed during one of their encounters: “I just happened to glance over. It just caught my eye that there was, you know, a camera lens looking directly at me.” [NY Times]
Pitt, Clooney, Sheen Headline Marriage Equality Play: Martin Sheen commanded the stage with his impassioned portrayal of an attorney arguing for marriage equality rights; Jane Lynch inspired instant response as a vehement same-sex marriage opponent; Brad Pitt dazzled as a judge. It was all part of the star-studded West Coast premiere of "8," a play about the 2010 federal court fight against Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage that California voters approved in 2008, which was recently judged unconstitutional—for a second time—by the Ninth Circuit Court. [NY Times]

Policy Watch
Maryland Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Marriage Equality: Maryland's governor signed into law Thursday a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, although opponents vowed to rally voters to reverse the change this fall in a referendum attempt that's anticipated by advocates of the new law. [NY Times]
Idaho Senator to Push LGBT Human Rights Bill From the Outside: Out Idaho state Sen. Nicole LeFavour announced she will not seek re-election, but has joined a campaign urging the state legislature to pass an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination bill. [NY Times]
Obama allies, foes speculate on a big — and hypothetical — second-term agenda: Some LGBT advocates believe President Obama will announce his support for marriage equality if he is elected to a second term. [Washington Post]
Suffolk to Revise Plan for Ban on Gender Non-Conforming Clothing : A proposal for a student dress code that prompted a flood of criticism and threats of legal action last month is back before the School Board this week, though the limits on gender non-conforming clothing will be tweaked, school officials say. [Virginia-Pilot]
Marriage equality backers find success emphasizing love and family: Proponents of marriage equality, who traditionally frame the cause as a matter of fairness and civil rights, are increasingly invoking something else: family. And the tactic seems to be working. In February three state legislatures passed statutes making marriage equality legal, and in each case the appeal to family connections was a central feature. [LA Times]

Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,
I am from Omaha, Nebraska where there are currently no state or local protections for LGBT people. In 2010, City Councilman Ben Gray proposed an ordinance that would protect people against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That ordinance unfortunately did not pass because of a 3-3 tie vote. The councilman has now introduced a new proposal that is very similar to the one that deadlocked, but with only a few changes in language.

What is the likelihood that the ordinance will pass this time around when it failed last time?

Thank you,
Dear Carolyn,

Thanks for the question! As you point out, if passed this ordinance would be the City of Omaha would be the first to provide locality in the state of Nebraska to offer protections for LGBT people. Our LGBT loved ones deserve to have equal opportunities in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit. This would be a huge step forward in moving towards equal rights for all in the state.

Although it does seem more likely that the ordinance will pass this time around, it is not a sure thing. The changes in the proposal will offer religious leaders enormous flexibility in complying with the law, easing some of the councilmembers previous concerns that hopefully will lead to a positive outcome.

To ensure that the vote comes out favorably for LGBT individuals, you can help! If you are from Omaha City, you can contact your City Councilmen telling them why you believe it is important to pass this ordinance. Call, send an e-mail, or arrange a meeting and tell personal stories of why this is important to you and our city. The vote could come up as early as Tuesday, March 13, so don’t wait. Educate and advocate so that the LGBT community in Omaha City will be protected against discrimination.

Thanks for the great question!

Policy Matters
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