Posted on May 23, 2011 by David Cohen

Without a Budget in Place, Legislature Wastes Time on Social Issues
Source: The Human Rights Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), admonished the Minnesota legislature for ignoring the real needs of Minnesotans and instead placing an anti-marriage am endment on the 2012 ballot.  The state House passed the proposal by a 70-62 vote, following Senate action last week.

“At a time when all Minnesota families are sharing concerns over the economy, it is appalling that the legislature would seek to harm a segment of those families rather than pass a budget,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “We are confident, however, that when November 2012 arrives, Minnesotans will reject these divisive tactics.”

HRC has been working closely with OutFront Minnesota, Project 515, supportive legislators, labor and other progressive organizations in the state to oppose this measure in the legislature.  Together, the group has been planning a winning campaign to defeat this amendment with the newly formed coalition, Minnesotans United for All Families.

“Minnesota voters are being asked to amend our constitution to ban same-sex marriage.  In 2012, Minnesota will vote “NO” on this anti-family ballot question.  In Minnesota, we treat others like we want to be treated,” said campaign spokesperson Donald McFarland.  “Our campaign is hitting the ground running and we plan on using every resource available to defeat this anti-family constitutional amendment.  I invite every Minnesotan to take the first step in defeating this measure by visiting www.minnesotansunitedforallfamilies.org and signing up to volunteer.”

Currently, 29 states have constitutional amendments prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples. However, a recent Star-Tribune poll showed the majority of Minnesota residents oppose the amendment.
 
 
Posted on April 14, 2011
by David Cohen

Bill Providing Critical Family Protections Moves to Governor Who Has Pledged to Sign

The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Delaware, Delaware’s statewide coalition of LGBT advocates, congratulates the Delaware House for passing civil unions by an 26 to 15 vote. The bill now goes to Governor Markell for his signature.

“Today, we celebrate a victory for all Delaware families who will have the tools to protect themselves in good times and in bad,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We look forward to Governor Markell signing this bill into law and thank Senator Sokola and Representative George for their leadership on this bill, and Equality Delaware for their tireless dedication.”

“We are tremendously proud that the Delaware House as passed civil union legislation,” said Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman. “The fact that the Delaware General Assembly passed civil union legislation on the first attempt is a great testament to how far public opinion has come on equality issues. This is a great day for equality in Delaware.”

SB 30 will allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions giving them all of the rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage under state law, but would not allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. Religious institutions may choose not to solemnize civil unions.

Delaware will be the 8th state to offer civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnerships. After the bill is signed into law, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. Currently, five states have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, without offering marriage.  California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Earlier this year, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed into law civil unions bills. Couples in Illinois can begin applying for civil union licenses on June 1, 2011 and in Hawaii couples can begin applying on Jan. 1, 2012.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.

Source: Press Release
 
 
Posted on April 8, 2011
Source: HRC press release

WASHINGTON– today, The Human Rights Campaign,, and Equality Delaware, Delaware’s statewide coalition of LGBT advocates, applauds the Delaware Senate for passing a civil unions bill by a 13 to 6 vote. The bill now goes to the Delaware House of Representatives for consideration.

“Today, we applaud the Delaware Senate for valuing all Delaware families,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We call on the Delaware House to swiftly send the bill to Governor Markell for his signature.”

“We are delighted by today’s Senate vote and look forward to strong support from our sponsors in the House,” said Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman.

SB 30, was introduced by Senator David Sokola and Representative Melanie George. The bill would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions giving them all of the rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage under state law, but would not allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. Religious institutions may choose not to solemnize civil unions.

Currently, five states have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, without offering marriage.  California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Earlier this year, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed into law civil unions bills. Couples in Illinois can begin applying for civil union licenses on June 1, 2011 and in Hawaii couples can begin applying on Jan. 1, 2012.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state. For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.


 
 
Posted on March 25, 2011

The bill will next be considered by the House of Representatives
Source: HRC Press Release

Washington–The Human Rights Campaign commends the Colorado Senate for passing a comprehensive civil unions bill. The legislation passed by a 23 to 12 vote, and now moves to the House of Representatives.

“Legislators in Colorado have taken an important action to advance equality for all Coloradans,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We call on the Colorado House to swiftly follow the Senate’s lead on this crucial legislation.”

SB 127, introduced by Senator Pat Steadman, would allow both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions giving couples all of the rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage under state law, but would not allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses.

Currently, five states have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples, without offering marriage.  California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Earlier this year, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed into law civil unions bills. Couples in Illinois can begin applying for civil union licenses on June 1, 2011 and in Hawaii couples can begin applying on Jan. 1, 2012.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  For an electronic map showing relationship recognition in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.

 
 
Posted on January 28, 2011

Senate sends strong message to swiftly pass civil unions legislation.

HONOLULU – Equality Hawaii and the Human Rights Campaign, today applauded the Hawaii State Senate for passing SB 232 by a 19-6 vote.  The bill provides that the equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii be available to thousands of same-sex couples in the state.  The Senate now sends a strong message that the time is now to lay this issue to rest.

“For years we have strived to secure equal rights for all families in Hawaii and today we are one step closer to realizing that dream,” said Alan Spector, Co-Chair of Equality Hawaii.  “We thank the Hawaii State Senate for recognizing the importance of this bill and for advancing the cause of equality in the Aloha State.”

Except for some technical corrections, SB 232 is identical to HB 444, the civil unions bill passed in 2010.  That bill passed the House and Senate, with near supermajorities, before Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed it.  No override vote was held.

“The Hawaii Senate has sent a strong message that discrimination against families headed by same-sex couples is wrong,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.  “All people of Hawaii deserve to be treated with equal dignity and respect under the law, and no child should ever have to grow up feeling that their family is somehow less than that of their friends and neighbors.”

The legislation now moves to the state house for its consideration.  The house also has its own version of the bill, HB 1623, which incorporates updates to the previous bill.  The updated bill addresses concerns raised in 2010 over the implementation of civil unions.  The House may consider their own version, the Senate version or amend the senate bill to reflect their changes. Action is expected to proceed in the House next week.  Following final passage, newly elected Governor Neil Abercrombie has pledged to sign the bill into law.
 
 
Posted on December 3, 2010
by David Cohen

This week is a week to remember in Illinois gay history. On Tuesday, the Illinois House passed the civil union legislation and on Wednesday the Senate with a narrow victory voted to legalize it.

When Gov. Pat Quinn signs the legislation, it will become a new law but the opposition to the new law is still there.

Governor Pat Quinn said Wednesday he will sign Senate Bill 1716, which creates civil unions and passed the state Senate on a 32-24 vote. “I think this is a proud day for the people of our state,” Quinn told reporters in his office after the vote. “It’s everybody in and nobody left out.”

But Don Blasing, the current president of the Evangelical Ministerial Association of Greater Peoria has a different opinion “We feel it violates the Biblical standards God established for human relationships and marriage”

Personally I believe we are on the right path to equality and it is a step in the right direction. The law will give gay couples some of the same rights as heterosexual couples have, including health insurance to the partner of a gay employee in a civil union. Unfortunately, we would not be able to file joint federal tax returns because the federal government does not recognize civil unions as a real marriage.

I hope this will change in time, This is a new era for the state of IL, an era of prosperity, growth and acceptance . We are moving forward toward freedom and equality. There is nothing more beautiful then seeing two people in love regardless of their color, race or sexuality.
 
 
Posted on July 9, 2010
by David Cohen

Today we all should praise the decision of Judge Joseph Tauro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services, declaring the denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully married Massachusetts couples under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. Judge Tauro, who was nominated to the bench by President Richard Nixon, held in Gill that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws, concluding that “indeed, Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit.” These decisions are likely to be appealed by the Department of Justice to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“Today’s decision is a confirmation of what every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender American knows to be a basic truth – we, and our families, are equal,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “This is an important step forward, but there is a long path ahead before we see this discriminatory law consigned to the dustbin of history. We thank our friends at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, their courageous plaintiffs and Attorney General Coakley for standing up on behalf of married same-sex couples across the country and for their continued commitment to equality as these cases move forward. Judge Tauro’s decisions make clear that there is no constitutional justification for DOMA, despite the Department of Justice’s contentions in defending the statute. While we expect the Department to continue to defend DOMA on appeal, we urge the Obama administration to push Congress to repeal a law that we know, and Judge Tauro recognized, serves no purpose but to denigrate our families.”

“Today’s decision is an important step forward for marriage for same-sex couples. There are thousands of same-sex couples lawfully married in the five states and Washington , DC that currently allow them the freedom to marry. Today’s ruling recognizes that the federal government has literally no justification for refusing to respect those marriages. To finish the job, Congress should pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which is pending in Congress and would completely repeal DOMA. We applaud this decision and congratulate GLAD and the Massachusetts attorney general for their work in bringing the cases.” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project:

In March 2009, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed Gill v. OPM on behalf of eight married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts who have been denied federal rights and benefits available to spouses, but denied to them because DOMA, a federal law adopted in 1996, defines marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman. In July 2009, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed its own suit challenging the federal government’s requirement that in operating federally-funded programs, including Medicaid and the administration of veterans’ cemeteries, the state must treat some of its married citizens differently than others. There over 1,000 rights, benefits and responsibilities tied to marriage under federal law, including Social Security survivors’ benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among others.

 
 
Posted on July 9, 2010
by David Cohen

The Governor’s veto is a sad setback in the ongoing fight for equality.

On the other hand, last night Republican Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii broke a promise of 2002 and dismissed the will of Hawaiian citizens as she vetoed HB 444, which would have allowed both same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions with all the rights enjoyed by married couples.

Michael Sargeant, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, issued the following statement in response to Governor Lingle’s veto of the civil union bill: ”We at the DLCC are disappointed in Governor Lingle for ignoring the will of Hawaiian citizens as expressed by the Hawaii legislature’s passage of this landmark legislation. Governor Lingle also broke her campaign promise not to veto a civil union bill if passed by the state legislature. She has denied Hawaii the opportunity to become the latest example of states leading the way on equality.”

Democratic legislators did their part and voted their conscience on “that legislation,” after a marathon 18 hours of earnest debate. But their work was undone by the Governor’s broken promise.

And in breaking her promise, Governor Lingle denied hundreds of thousands of her own citizens a right she probably takes for granted.

One day, America will look back on the struggle for equal rights and wonder why it was so difficult. Governor Lingle will be one of the reasons.

 
 
Posted on July 9, 2010
by David Cohen

From: GLAAD President Mr. Jarrett Barrios, and I would like to share it with you.

Dear Friend of GLAAD,

We’re writing today to thank you for speaking out about NBC Today Show’s “Modern Wedding Contest.” This afternoon after GLAAD met with NBC executives and shared our community’s concerns, the network agreed to open the contest to same-sex couples.

The announcement comes a week after GLAAD learned that the contest had excluded gay and lesbian people. Good As You blog first alerted us to the problem after discovering the contest’s application included only “bride” and “groom” as options for applicants to choose.

After we called the network with concerns, NBC argued that it was excluding same-sex couples because “the couple must be able to be legally married in New York, which is where the wedding will take place.”

GLAAD questioned the validity of that argument since New York State legally recognizes same-sex marriages licensed in other states. Same-sex couples can now legally obtain marriage licenses in Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington D.C. NBC mistakenly equated the marriage license with the wedding celebration. Same-sex weddings are entirely legal in New York State.

Our Call to Action prompted thousands of you to write to NBC and urge the network to give our community the same opportunity to share our stories of love and commitment and allow us the chance to participate in the contest.

This afternoon NBC and the Today Show did just that.  Following a meeting between GLAAD and NBC executives, NBC announced that after listening to community concerns it will open the contest to same-sex couples and extend the submission deadline until Monday, July 12. Couples now have until then to apply.  Finalists will be announced later this year and the wedding takes place live on the Today Show this October.

We’re thrilled that Today Show’s ‘Modern Wedding Contest’ now recognizes what most fair-minded Americans have already concluded – a wedding celebrates love and commitment, whether the spouses are straight or gay. NBC heard the thousands of viewers who contacted them and they have moved to make their contest a truly modern wedding where any couple can share their story. NBC is living up to its own high standard of fairness and for this, we applaud them.  We encourage qualified same-sex couples to submit their applications before Monday, July 12 and we look forward to next year when same-sex couples will have the ability to apply to the contest from the beginning.

Thanks to the thousands of people who sent emails to the Today Show, blogged about it, and shared the Call to Action on Twitter and Facebook.  We could not have done it without you!

Lastly, we encourage you to support GLAAD today with a donation, so we can continue launching successful campaigns that amplify the voice of our community.

Jarrett Barrios, GLAAD President
 
 
Posted on May 7, 2010
by David Cohen

Equality Hawaii, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, today applauded the Hawaii State House for passing HB 444 by a 31-20 vote.  The bill provides that equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii be afforded to thousands of non-married couples in the state – including same-sex couples. The bill now heads to Governor Linda Lingle for her consideration.
    “Equality Hawaii is proud of the actions taken by the fair-minded majority in the Hawaii State House to pass HB 444,” said Alan Spector, legislative affairs co-chair for Equality Hawaii. “This bold declaration that all of Hawaii’s families should be treated equally under the law is commendable and long overdue. We thank all those who have worked long and hard in this struggle for equality and urge Governor Lingle to immediately sign this bill into law.”
    Earlier this year, in a move chided by supporters and opponents alike, Speaker Calvin Say pushed through a motion to indefinitely postpone the bill. The final vote in the House came after supporters passed a motion to suspend the rules, allowing for a simple majority vote to consider the legislation. Without the suspension of the rules, the bill’s supporters would have needed a two-thirds majority vote to consider the legislation.
    “The Human Rights Campaign congratulates the Hawaii House of Representatives for recognizing that all families in Hawaii need the same protections,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “We have been a partner with advocates for equality in the Aloha State for decades and today we celebrate this victory with them. We strongly urge Governor Lingle to sign this bill into law to protect all Hawaii’s families.”
    The Human Rights Campaign has worked closely with Equality Hawaii since 2008 to build both public and legislative support for HB 444. Through this joint effort, thousands of phone calls, emails, postcards and handwritten letters have been generated urging legislators to approve this legislation. HRC and Equality Hawaii are launching action alerts to our members in the state encouraging them to urge the Governor to sign the bill. More on HRC’s work in Hawaii is at www.hrcbackstory.org/category/states/hawaii/.
    The bill now moves to Governor Linda Lingle’s desk where she may sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature after 45 days Equality Hawaii is dedicated to securing equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their families in Hawaii. We envision a Hawaii in which LGBT people and their families have full equality in all areas of the law.