Civil Liberties Watch

Article excerpt

A Mandate for Intolerance

The 2000 elections in the United States saw a number of initiatives focusing on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) issues on the ballot across the nation. Two constituted major defeats for equal rights for this segment of U.S. society that constitutes about 4 percent of the overall electorate.

Voters in Maine narrowly rejected an amendment to that state's Human Rights Act that would have made Maine the twelfth state in the United States to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to a 1999 national survey, 74 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of Independents, and 49 percent of Republicans support anti-discrimination laws.

Voters in Nebraska and Nevada overwhelmingly approved measures against GLBT people and their families. In Nebraska, voters approved a proposal to outlaw same-sex marriages, civil unions, and government recognition of domestic partner benefits. In Nevada, voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage. (Under the Nevada constitution, this latter ban must be approved again at the ballot box before becoming law.)

In light of these setbacks, Elizabeth Toledo, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said: "The bad news is that, when the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people are subject to the will of a transitory, election-day majority, we still face uphill battles, sometimes against tremendous odds."

A Defeat for the Right

Despite these unfortunate rejections of equal rights for all, the 2000 elections produced some legislative and political gains. Voters in Oregon defeated a ballot proposal that would have prohibited all positive or neutral mention of homosexuality in that state's public schools.

Measure 9--misleadingly named the "Student Protection Act"--would have required public schools to remove scientific, factual books from school libraries, prohibit counseling and referrals for GLBT students, ban medically accurate AIDS education, and prevented teachers from teaching respect and tolerance for alternative lifestyle choices. …