Lesbian Rights a Hot Issue in State Legislatures

By Hays, Barbara | National NOW Times, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Lesbian Rights a Hot Issue in State Legislatures


Hays, Barbara, National NOW Times


One of the most important challenges that NOW and our allies currently face is how to address the flood of legislation on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered issues. This is sure to be a key consideration at NOW's Lesbian Rights Conference next year. There is a real advantage in coordinating information among states about which strategies are working, and this conference will be a great opportunity to network and make those vital connections with other activists.

In the meantime, almost 150 pieces of state legislation affecting lesbians and gay men in 33 states and Puerto Rico have been introduced across the country during the current legislative session. These assorted bills covered a broad range of HIV and other health issues, civil rights, domestic partnership and marriage, hate crimes, education and sodomy repeal.

In some cases, NOW members saw a silver lining in the cloud of confusion. Facing a lesbian/gay anti-discrimination bill, a pro-marriage bill, an anti-marriage bill and a bill allowing birth certificate changes for transgendered individuals, Kathy Nieberding-Ryan, Maryland NOW's lobbyist said, "We faced a challenging session, but we also had a great educational opportunity to discuss a broader range of L/G/B/T issues with legislators!"

Same-sex marriage continues to dominate the landscape. A Superior Court in Alaska has rejected the state's request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two men for the right to marry. Ruling that marriage is a fundamental right, the judge said that the state must show a compelling reason to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. As in Hawaii, anti-gay forces in the legislature have introduced a bill to prohibit same-sex marriage in their state. These measures either state a condition or definition of marriage. This scenario has been played out in at least 26 other states that have adopted same-sex marriage bans. …

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