Since we took the week off last week with Equality in the News, I’ll make sure to make this week’s entry a little “meatier,” than usual to cover events that occurred last week. -Jennifer
North Carolina Senate News…
On November 17th, the North Carolina Senate elected Martin Nesbitt Jr. (D-Buncombe) to replace former Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand. Ian Palmquist, executive director of ENC also feels that Nesbitt has been a “good ally,” and states, “We are definitely monitoring to see who gets appointed to the other key positions [held by Rand] like Rules chair, which have a big impact on which bills come to the floor---both positive and negative.” Read more about Sen. Martin Nesbitt Jr. and more thoughts from Ian.
Domestic Partner Benefits in Mecklenburg County
Since January of this year, and at the request of county commissioners, Mecklenburg County has been looking into whether it can offer domestic partner benefits to county employees. Diane Juffras of the UNC School Government stated that adding benefits to domestic partners would serve as a “recruiting and retention tool” for employees.
Currently six N.C. governments offer benefits and many private sector employers do as well. So far, it isn’t clear when the county’s human resources staff will bring the issue back to commissioners.
Boseman Not Running for Fourth Term
At the end of last month, State Senator Julia Boseman--the first openly gay person elected to the General Assembly--stated that she won’t run for a fourth term, due to family responsibilities. She will however, serve the remainder of her two-year term in 2010.
This year, Senator Boseman successfully pushed legislation for the School Violence Prevention Act. Ian Palmquist, the executive director of ENC states, “Senator Boseman taking the lead on this bill made all the difference in the state Senate.”
Boseman also cast the only vote against a General Assembly resolution honoring the late U.S>. Senator Jesse Helms because of his long opposition to civil-rights legislation and increased funding to fight AIDS.
New York, New Jersey
On Wednesday, December 2nd, New York senators voted 38-24 to reject marriage equality. Governor David Paterson and other legislative sponsors who have been pushing for the bill were surprised at the result. The result comes as a disappointment, but New York’s neighbor to the south will emerge as the next battleground state. On December 7th, a New Jersey Senate panel will vote on the measure and it may come before the full chamber as early as December 10th. A New Jersey Law already gives same-sex couples the ability to enter into civil unions that provide them with the same rights at the state level. December 7th is just around the corner, so let’s keep our ears and eyes towards New Jersey.
Georgia Elects Nation’s first Lesbian African American State Lawmaker
The past few weeks have been a monumental in the election of LGBT citizens into politics. On Tuesday, Georgia citizens elected Simone Bell to the House of Representatives, making her the NATION’s (not just the state’s) first openly-lesbian African-American state lawmaker (you, go girl!). Bell will become the second LGBT congressperson in Georgia’s legislature, following Representative Karla Drenner also of Atlanta. Bill received 56 percent of the vote to her opponent (Asha Jackson) who only received 44 percent.
On Tuesday, the Washington D.C. Council voted 11-2 in favor of equal marriage! It was the first of two votes on the issue allowing equal marriage in D.C. Ten out of the thirteen council members supported the bill’s (which was sponsored by Councilman David Catania) introduction. The final vote is expected later this month and Mayor Adrian Fenty already stated that he will sign the bill. Equal marriage will start in D.C. as soon as the bill passes a period of Congressional review. Congress isn’t expected to alter the law.
In not-such-positive news, The Archdiocese of Washington has threatened to withdraw millions in funding for D.C. social services if equal marriage is legalized in D.C..
Newly Elected Politicians
This week Alex Wan (of Atlanta, G.A.) and Evan Low (of California) were elected to high ranking political posts. Alex Wan is the first openly gay man elected to District 6 in Atlanta City Council and now sits in a position that has been occupied by a gay person for the past 12 years, but never by an Asian American.
Evan Low (at 26) is the nation’s youngest openly gay and youngest Asian American mayor. In additional to his role as mayor, he also works full time as a senior district representative to Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), as well as pursuing a M.A. in Public Administration from San Jose State University. At this rate, Low will be presidential material in no time!
Debate on Equal Rights Bill in Ireland
Irish lawmakers have opened debate on a bill to grant “marriage-style” rights to LGBT couples. This open debate comes as a milestone in a country that has long been observant of Roman Catholic opposition to equal marriage and rights for the LGBT community. Did you know that Ireland considered being a LGBT citizen a criminal offense until 1993? (How outdated!) The bill would give couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples such as property ownership, inheritance, medical care and access to state benefits and also the right to go to court and seek financial support from higher-earning partners in the instance of a failed relationship. If passed, the bill will create, “civil marriage in all but name” for LGBT citizens.
Buenos Aires Couple's Wedding Thwarted
This past Tuesday (December 1st), Buenos Aires officials decided to block the wedding of a same-sex couple because of conflicting judicial rulings. The couple was attempting to unite in Latin America’s first same-sex marriage. After waiting for hours on a final decision, lawyers in the debate announced that the city would not allow the marriage until the Supreme Court had ruled on the case. This decision obviously upset the citizens of the city stating, “The city government has decided to ignore the city judge’s ruling.”
Alex Freyre and Jose Maria are hopeful that they will be able to marry soon. The couple originally planned to marry on Tuesday (World AIDS Day) in an attempt to help raise awareness about the issue, as both are HIV positive.
A bill that would legalize equal marriage was introduced to Congress in October, but has stalled without a vote since. Currently only seven countries in the world allow equal marriage: Canada, Spain, South African, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The Kill Bill
Uganda is likely to pass a bill criminalizing homosexuality. The bill is a growing campaign against LGBT citizens in Uganda. Critics claim the aim is to divert attention from corruption and other political issues ahead of the 2011 national vote. The author of the bill, David Bahati—a member of the religious group “The Family”--claims the bill, “promotes family values” (or teaches open discrimination, in my opinion). The bill is expected to pass and if passed will proscribe the death penalty for “serial offenders.” Equality NC is encouraging individuals to contact American members of “The Family,” asking them to speak out against the bill.
A prominent member of the Ugandian Anglican church, Canon Gideon Byamugisha, has denounced the bill, saying that it would lead to “state-sponsored genocide.”
O.K. folks, I’m off to start my long and drawn out preparation of studying for my finals. I can see many cups of coffee and sleepless nights in my immediate future.
Have a Great Weekend!