Del. Advances Civil Unions Bill; Ill. Anti-Gay Bill Loses Traction
The Delaware state senate is expected to deliberate on a bill that would provide civil unions for gay and lesbian families, a March 31 Advocate article reported.
The state senate’s administrative services committee had approved the bill. State Sen. David Sokola sponsored the legislation, which garnered the support of two-dozen co-sponsors, the article noted.
Local newspaper the News Journal reported that the measure sparked "impassioned" commentary from both sides of the debate in the March 30 hearing. One foe of legal recognition for same-sex couples claimed that gays and lesbians "choose" their "lifestyle," arguing that sexual orientation is not "innate" but rather optional. The Rev. Rick Hensley held up his own mother as an example, saying that she had been involved with another woman before returning to heterosexuality. Her former same-sex partner also returned to heterosexuality, he claimed.
"They are wonderful people, and I don’t have anything bad to say about them," Hensley told lawmakers. "I love them. But the lie we are talking about is that [homosexuality] is something innate, unchangeable." The pastor went on to declare that civil unions would be a move toward granting full-fledged marriage equality.
Added Hensley, "Freedom to pursue sexual orientation does not necessitate fundamentally redefining marriage in our society. If you do that, you run a perilous path. And this is a step toward same-sex marriage. We all in this room know that."
Another clergyman, The Rev. Dale Mast, ventured to say that if gays were allowed civil unions, then heterosexual men might want to marry underage girls. Mast also said that one of his best friends had been gay--before adding that when the man contracted HIV, he "went on a sexual rampage out of his anger."
But other men of God argued the opposite stance, the article noted. The Rev. Doug Gerdts shared with the room that his daughter was a lesbian, and said that the news made him "angry"--not at his daughter, but at those who would target her for legal and social exclusion.
"Angry at a yet-to-be identified person or persons who might attempt to make her life painful, simply because of the way God created her," added Gerdts. "Sad that her life would have challenges and struggles that mine doesn’t."
Another man shared a letter from his gay son, arguing that gays should have some access to the protections of family parity. And an openly gay police officer spoke of serving his community, knowing that it might one day mean being killed in the line of duty and leaving his same-sex life partner behind.
"I hold the highest regard for my position in law enforcement," policeman Mike Bouchard stated, before going to ask why he shouldn’t be treated equally before the law.
Testimony might have continued for far longer, but after two hours the state senators needed to return to the larger legislative body. The committee then voted, and the measure passed.
Meantime, a proposed anti-gay amendment to the Illinois state constitution was relegated to a subcommittee--a virtual death sentence for the measure, reported a separate Advocate article on March 30.
State Senate President John Cullerton sent the proposal to the subcommittee on constitutional amendments--a subcommittee without anyone on it. The bill had faced a deadline in April that cannot now be met, the article said.
"Subcommittees are where you put bills to die," noted Rick Garcia, a GLBT equality activist, in comments made to the Windy City Times. "The bill went to committee and it was quickly dispatched as it should have been."
The opposite fate awaited a similar constitutional amendment in Indiana, however: lawmakers there approved an anti-gay amendment, which now must also be approved in the next legislative session. If that happens, the marriage rights of sexual minorities will be placed before voters.
Only once have voters rejected an amendment to a state constitution that curtails the rights of gays. Arizona voters declined to pass an amendment in that state when it was first proposed out of fear that unmarried heterosexual couples would also be penalized. When a second ballot initiative with strictly anti-gay language was placed before voters in the following election, however, the measure passed.
In Montana, lawmakers failed to remove a law criminalizing gay sex from the state’s penal code--even though a decade and a half ago the Montana Supreme Court made enforcement of the law impossible by ruling it unconstitutional.
In 2000, the United States Supreme Court also arrived at a verdict that so-called "sodomy laws" are in violation of the United States Constitution.
Even so, Montana lawmakers balked from the task of officially striking the useless legal language from the state’s books, Advocate.com reported on March 30.
State Rep. Diane Sands had made a motion for a vote on a bill to remove the anti-gay law from the state penal code.
"It’s been almost 15 years since the [state] supreme court ruling," Sands noted. "It’s about time we removed that language from the books. Let’s bring it to the floor and debate it and take action on it."
However, support for the bill fell short of the needed 60 votes, Advocate.com reported.
The state senate had already passed a bill to strike the anti-gay law.
The state’s legislature is also considering a bill that would take away the ability of municipal governments to implement GLBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances.
The measure was introduced by Republican State Rep. Kris Hansen, reported Helena news channel KXLH on Feb. 22.
State Rep. Michael Morre offered a rationale for the measure. "You introduce things in one city, you can do things differently in another city, and you can things in another town differently from that. If that is what you want, if you want to go down the road that can ultimately lead to one place then sure, let’s not pass this ordinance," said Morre. "But we need, this is what we do in here, to try to put things into the context of the whole."
A similar sentiment in Colorado two decades ago led to Amendment 2, the notorious anti-gay constitutional amendment that voters ratified in response to municipalities instituting protections for GLBT residents. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the amendment in 1996. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals twice reaffirmed a virtually identical amendment adopted by the city of Cincinnati and applied to the city’s charter in 1993. Cincinnati residents themselves struck the amendment to the city charter in 2004.
Montana’s House Judiciary Committee indicated support for the state law barring city protections for GLBTs on Feb. 21, reported ABC Montana.com on Feb. 22. The same panel opposed a proposal to include GLBTs in existing anti-discrimination laws that apply to race and religion.
The article reported that Democratic members of the State House objected, partially on the grounds that Republican State Representatives were applying a double standard, demanding state’s rights and less interference from the federal government, but proving unwilling to allow municipalities to determine their own policies with regard to gays.