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Del. same-sex marriage bill to be introduced on Thursday

Melanie George Smith, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade

State Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) sponsored Delaware’s civil unions bill in the state House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy of Delaware House Majority Caucus.)

Delaware state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) and other elected officials on Thursday will introduce a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the First State.

Smith, who sponsored the civil unions bill in the House, told the Washington Blade last month she and other same-sex marriage supporters wanted to make sure the bill had “no legal or technical flaws” before they introduced it.

“We want to make sure that everything is lined up that we’ve got a bill that’s legally and technically perfect that way there can be no question,” Smith said. “It’s such a controversial issue from some people’s perspective that we don’t want folks picking apart the bill on technical matters or anything along those lines.”

Governor Jack Markell told roughly 200 same-sex marriage supporters who attended a rally at the University of Delaware on Monday he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Attorney General Beau Biden; U.S. Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper; Congressman John Carney and John Fluharty, the gay executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, are among those who support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Markell, Biden, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) are among those who will join Smith and other same-sex marriage advocates at a Wilmington press conference on Thursday afternoon where they will formally announce the bill’s introduction.

11
Apr
2013

Del. lawmaker introduces same-sex marriage bill

Melanie George Smith, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WILMINGTON, Del.— Delaware state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) on Thursday introduced a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the First State.

“Today is a good day to be a Delawarean,” she said during a press conference at Freedom Plaza in downtown Wilmington. “Today we’re introducing legislation that will respect and recognize with equal dignity all couples who are in a loving and committed relationship.”

Smith, who sponsored the state’s civil unions bill in the House, spoke about her own marriage to her husband. The New Castle County Democrat also referenced Delawareans who are in the military as she spoke in support of the same-sex marriage measure.

“We stand here today to say that we’re here to protect their freedoms also, their freedom to marry the person they love and every Delawarean’s freedom to do so,” Smith said.

Governor Jack Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory, representatives of U.S. Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper and Congressman John Carney and Rev. Donald Morton of the Black Clergy Consortium of Delaware were among the more than 100 people who attended the press conference.

“The marriage equality bill filed today will allow loving and committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry the person they love just like the rest of us,” Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) said. “We say to gay and lesbian couples that their love and their families are worthy of the same dignity and respect as all of our families.”

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) specifically thanked HB 75’s 22 co-sponsors in both legislative chambers by name.

“You will be able to tell your children and your grandchildren that you stood firm and voted on the right side of history in our state,” he said.

Denn echoed Schwartzkopf.

“As long as same-sex couples in Delaware have to explain to their children why their relationship is called something else, why the law treats it as something less than the relationship that their friends’ parents have, than the message that we are sending these kids is that their parents’ relationship is less worthy,” he said, noting he attended Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman and her partner’s civil union ceremony on the day the state’s civil unions law took effect in Jan. 2012. “This bill ensure that same-sex couples can truthfully talk to their kids about their families the same way that married couples to now.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

Aside from Delaware, lawmakers in Rhode Island and Illinois are expected to vote on proposals that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in their respective states.

Majority of Del. voters support same-sex marriage

A Global Strategy Group poll that Equality Delaware commissioned in February shows 54 percent of Delawareans back nuptials for gays and lesbians, compared to 37 percent of respondents who oppose them. A survey that ABC News and the Washington Post released last month indicates 58 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage.

Biden said during the press conference that his father, Vice President Biden, and President Obama “stand with us here today.”

Markell cited the U.S. Supreme Court cases that challenge the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 as he urged lawmakers to support his state’s same-sex marriage bill.

“If DOMA is struck down as many expect, our failure to pass marriage equality here in Delaware will mean that we — not anybody else — will be responsible for the perpetuation of federal discrimination against committed same-sex couples in Delaware,” Markell said.

Jack Markell, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Gov. Jack Markell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Delaware Family Policy Council, which opposes nuptials for gays and lesbians, accused Goodman and other advocates of lying about their intentions to seek same-sex marriage in the state after lawmakers in 2011 approved the civil unions bill that Markell signed into law.

Goodman and other same-sex marriage advocates remain optimistic HB 75 will pass.

“Today is a historic day in Delaware,” Goodman said. “With the filing of this civil marriage equality bill, Delaware begins the process of becoming a marriage equality state.”

Rehoboth Beach resident Bob Hoffer, who has been with his partner Max Dick for 32 years, agreed.

“We’re very optimistic that this is going to pass,” he told the Washington Blade after the press conference. “Our country is moving forward in a more positive way.”

The House Administration Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on HB 75 in Dover on April 17.

11
Apr
2013

BREAKING: Del. same-sex marriage bill advances

Melanie George Smith, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

DOVER, Del.—A Delaware House committee on Wednesday voted 4-1 to advance a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The House Administration Committee approved House Bill 75 after 38 people testified for and against the proposal during a hearing that lasted more than 90 minutes.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) voted to allow HB 75 out of committee along with state Reps. Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) and Deborah Hudson (R-Faircloth.) Seaford Republican Dan Short voted against it.

“House Bill 75 extends the freedom to marry to all Delawareans who are in a loving, committed relationship,” state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear,) who introduced HB 75 last Thursday, said at the beginning of the hearing. “This legislation will respect and recognize with equal dignity all couples who are in a loving, committed relationship.”

She, along with Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman and Equality Delaware Foundation President Mark Purpura stressed the measure will also protect religious freedom.

“This bill makes it explicitly clear no minister will ever be required to marry a same-sex couple,” Goodman said.

Rehoboth Beach resident Fay Jacobs, who has been with her partner for 35 years, urged the committee to “end our long run as second class citizens.” Richard Smith, president of the Delaware State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP,) described nuptials for gays and lesbians as a “civil right.”

“It’s an affirmative right for people to be together,” he said.

The committee’s vote took place nearly two years after Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

The law took effect in Jan. 2012, but same-sex marriage opponents have repeatedly accused Equality Delaware and other groups that support HB 75 of lying about their intentions to seek nuptials for gays and lesbians in the state once they were able to enter into civil unions.

“We sat in this chamber just less than two years ago debating the civil unions issue,” Nicole Thise of the Delaware Family Policy Council said during her testimony. “The civil unions legislation is the most comprehensive legislation in the country. It literally mirrors the marriage law of Delaware, extending all state benefits to couples of the same-sex.”

Rick Hensley, a pastor at Grace and Truth Community Church in Felton, testified against the civil unions bill in 2011. He reiterated his opposition to extending marriage to gays and lesbian couples as he spoke against HB 75.

“The bill at hand is another example of the assault on the foundation of our society, which is the family,” Hensley said.

Rev. Jeffrey Ross of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes noted his congregation began blessing same-sex unions before the state’s civil unions law took effect. He told committee members that we “cannot allow prejudice to prosper in our First State.”

“As a priest in the Christian church I need to support members who want to live faithfully within the covenant of marriage, even if they happen to be gay or lesbian,” Ross said. “I need you to give them that legal standing.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

A Global Strategy Group poll that Equality Delaware commissioned in February shows 54 percent of Delawareans back nuptials for gays and lesbians. A survey that ABC News and the Washington Post released last month indicates 58 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage.

Smith welcomed the committee’s vote during a brief interview with the Blade inside the House chamber.

“We’re very excited that the bill was voted out of committee,” she said. “We look forward to in the very near future having an opportunity to have a full debate on this on the House floor and passing it out of the House of Representatives.”

The full House could potentially vote on HB 75 as early as Tuesday.

Smith said she remains confident the measure will have enough votes to pass in the chamber.

“I’m confident that we have a majority of Delaware representatives — so over 21 of the 41 — [who] will do the right thing and vote to support equality in Delaware,” she said.

17
Apr
2013

EXCLUSIVE: Republican co-sponsors Delaware marriage bill

Mike Ramone, Delaware, Republican Party, Newark, gay news, Washington Blade

Delaware state Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

DOVER, Del.—The only Republican co-sponsor of Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview on Wednesday he supports the measure because it’s “the right thing” to do.

“I always try to be respectful of what people think and how they think and we are supporters of treating everyone equally,” state Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) said while discussing he and his wife Lisa’s decision to support House Bill 75. He noted during the interview he has a gay son and several of those who have worked at the six flower shops and floral warehouse they own throughout Delaware are out. “Gay people have become very close to us. We just don’t believe that they shouldn’t be treated equally like everyone else and have the opportunity to get married.”

Ramone spoke with the Blade less than three hours before the House Administration Committee voted 4-1 to move HB 75 to the full House. He and his wife also attended the April 11 press conference in Wilmington at which state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) announced she had introduced it.

The New Castle County Republican who has represented House District 21 since 2008 told the Blade he did not want Equality Delaware and other HB 75 supporters to officially announce his co-sponsorship of the bill during the press conference because he wanted to talk with his GOP colleagues about his position at first.

“They’ve been very kind and understanding,” Ramone said. “This is one of those things where we’re on different sides. We just are looking at it from different sets of glasses.”

He added he has received what he described as “an enormous amount of calls and letters because I am a Republican and a lot of people would have thought a Republican wouldn’t have done this.” Ramone said they have come from same-sex marriage and opponents alike.

“People in my district are very kind and understanding,” he said. “There are some fringe people that call me from… that are a little more harsh and troublesome.”

Ramone, who is one of two Republicans who voted for the state’s civil unions law that Gov. Jack Markell signed in 2011, said someone threw eggs at his home and car and vandalized his mailbox in the days after the vote. He conceded he has had “some very stressful environments” since his support of HB 75 became known that include people handing him a Bible and reading passages they claim prove he will go to hell over his position.

Ramone said neither he nor his family have received any threats or had “any issues” with their home or businesses over the marriage bill.

“I don’t really believe we’re redefining marriage with this bill,” he said. “Marriage can still be a holy sacrament between a man and a woman. We haven’t changed that. It’s just now that two men and two women get to be able to partake in the same sacramental event in their church.”

More than 200 GOP legislators voted for same-sex marriage

Ramone is the latest in a growing number of Republican lawmakers across the country who support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk earlier this month publicly backed same-sex marriage, while U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) endorsed the issue during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments on two cases that challenge the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady and former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr., are among those who also support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

More than 200 Republican state legislators across the country have so far voted in support of same-sex marriage.

“I’m a Republican because I believe in fiscal responsibility and trying to make the government a place that helps people build businesses and be successful, not because it tells us how we should socially live our lives,” Ramone said in response to the Blade’s question about continued opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians within the broader Republican Party. “I wish we had a Republican Party that focused more on how we can make the world better through fiscal responsibility. And if there are social environments that aren’t hurting anyone else by their actual ability to participate in them on an equal basis, I don’t know that we should be involved in that.”

Same-sex marriage supporters were quick to welcome Ramone’s support.

“We are incredibly proud to have Mike Ramone as a vote for marriage equality,” Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Blade before the House committee voted to advance HB 75. “He has long supported our community, and is a man who understands that marriage equality is not a partisan issue.”

Smith agreed during a brief interview with the Blade after the committee vote.

“He’s great,” she said.

18
Apr
2013

Delaware House to vote on same-sex marriage bill

Melanie George Smith, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Delaware House of Representatives on Tuesday is expected to vote on a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider the measure less than a week after the House Administrative Committee voted 4-1 to send House Bill 75 to the full chamber.

The proposal has 23 co-sponsors — including state Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) who spoke exclusively with the Washington Blade on April 17 before the House Administrative Committee approved it.

State Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear,) who introduced HB 75 on April 11, remains hopeful the bill will pass.

“I’m confident that we have a majority of Delaware representatives — so over 21 out of the 41 — that will do the right thing and vote to support equality in Delaware,” she said.

20
Apr
2013

Del., R.I. lawmakers to vote on marriage bills

Melanie George Smith, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lawmakers in Delaware and Rhode Island on Tuesday will vote on bills that would allow gays and lesbians to marry in their respective states.

The Delaware House of Representatives will vote on a same-sex marriage bill the House Administrative Committee advanced by a 4-1 vote margin on April 11. The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on an identical measure the state’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved in January.

“I’m confident that we have a majority of Delaware representatives – so over 21 out of the 41 – that will do the right thing and vote to support equality in Delaware,” Delaware state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) said after the House Administrative Committee advanced HB 75.

Maryland and eight other states and D.C. currently allow same-sex marriage.

23
Apr
2013

Delaware House approves same-sex marriage bill

Melanie George Smith, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade

State Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) sponsored Delaware’s civil unions bill in the state House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy of Delaware House Majority Caucus.)

The Delaware House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in the First State.

The 23-18 vote took place less than a week after the House Administrative Committee advanced House Bill 75 to the full chamber.

State Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear,) who formally introduced the measure on April 11, stressed before the vote the bill protects religious freedom.

“The bill allows freedom for churches that want to perform same-sex marriage and churches that don’t,” she said.

Equality Delaware Foundation President Mark Purpura told state Rep. Steve Smyk (R-Milton) during his testimony in support of HB 75 that extending marriage rights to same-sex couples in Delaware is about “equal status.”

“It’s about equal treatment under the law,” Purpura said. “Marriage is the ultimate commitment that two people can make to each other.”

Nicole Theis of the Delaware Family Policy Council reiterated during her testimony in opposition to HB 75 that she feels the state’s civil unions law affords same-sex couples the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive through marriage. State Rep. Tim Dukes, who is a pastor at the Central Worship Center in Laurel in Sussex County, agreed.

“The state offers the most extensive civil unions law in the country,” he said before the vote. “The truth is it hasn’t been taken advantage of.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. that currently allow same-sex marriage.

Governor Jack Markell; Attorney General Beau Biden; U.S. Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper; Congressman John Carney; New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon; Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory; Rev. Donald Morton of the Black Clergy Consortium of Delaware and John Fluharty, the gay executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, are among those who support nuptials for gays and lesbians in the First State.

“This is a huge step forward for equality in Delaware,” Biden said in a statement. “Everyone is equal under the law, and all Delawareans should be free to marry the person they love.”

The bill now goes to the state Senate.

23
Apr
2013

Delaware Senate committee schedules hearing on marriage bill

Patricia Blevins, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (Washington BLade photo by Michael Key)

A Delaware Senate committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the First State.

The Senate Executive Committee will hear testimony on House Bill 75 a week after the state House of Representatives approved it by a 23-18 vote margin.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere,) who chairs the committee, is among the measure’s 23 co-sponsors. She joined Gov. Jack Markell, Attorney General Beau Biden and other same-sex marriage supporters at the Wilmington press conference at which state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) announced HB 75’s formal introduction on April 11.

“The marriage equality bill filed today will allow loving and committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry the person they love just like the rest of us,” Blevins said. “We say to gay and lesbian couples that their love and their families are worthy of the same dignity and respect as all of our families.”

Senate Minority Whip Gregory Lavelle (R-Sharpley) and state Sens. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington,) David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest,) Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington) and Gary Simpson (R-Milford) are the committee’s other members.

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry. The measure is expected to receive final approval on Thursday — and Gov. Lincoln Chafee has said he will sign it into law.

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Washington Blade she remains confident about HB 75’s prospects.

“We believe we will have the votes to pass marriage equality in the Senate,” she said.

26
Apr
2013

Delaware approves marriage equality

Jack Markell, Delaware, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Jack Markell on Tuesday signs Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill into law in Dover, Del. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Jackson)

The Delaware Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that will allow same-sex marriage in the First State.

The 12-9 vote came more than three hours after lawmakers began to hear testimony from House Bill 75 supporters and opponents.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere,) Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) and Senate Majority Leader David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest) voted for HB 75 alongside state Sens. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover,) Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke,) Bethany A. Hall-Long (D-Middletown,) Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington,) Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington,) Karen Peterson (D-Stanton,) Nicole Poore (D-New Castle,) David Sokola (D-Newark) and Bryan Townsend. Senate Minority Whip Gregory Lavelle (R-Sharpley) and Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson (R-Milford) voted against the proposal along with state Sens. Colin Bonini (R-Dover,) Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna,) Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View,) David Lawson (R-Marydel,) Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes,) Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) and Robert Venables (D-Laurel.)

“It is about treating couples the same under the law as all other couples,” Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman said. “It is about treating similarly situated people the same.”

Peterson came out as a lesbian while she spoke in support of House Bill 75.

“We are not seeking to redefine marriage,” she said, noting she and her partner of more than 20 years entered into a civil union once the state’s civil unions law took effect in Jan. 2012. “We are seeking to expand the definition of marriage just as the Supreme Court did in the Loving v. Virginia case.”

Venables noted “anatomy” means “a man should not be marrying a man” as he spoke against House Bill 75.

“This is a step to break [marriage] down,” he said.

Father Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington also testified against the proposal.

“Marriage exists obviously we believe by the will of God because the sexual orientation between men and women tends to create babies,” he said. “Because of this, every human culture has found some way to see to it that children conceived by the interaction by men and women are raised ideally by the people who brought them into the ages.”

Lopez, whose district includes Rehoboth Beach, said on the Senate floor he and his family experienced “hate” during the final weeks of his campaign against gay Realtor Andy Staton last fall because of the fliers the Delaware Liberty Fund, an independent LGBT PAC, distributed. He said they came from and were “paid for from individuals who now support marriage equality.”

The Victory Fund, which endorsed Staton, declined to comment on Lopez’s claims.

Staton described the fliers to the Washington Blade on Wednesday as “unfortunate.”

Lopez did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment, but Staton criticized his former opponent for voting against HB 75.

“He misrepresented his district,” Staton said. “This is a district that strongly favored marriage equality and it was unfortunate that he could not side with those people that were in favor for equality for all of us here in Delaware.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can currently marry.

Gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot in Rhode Island on Aug. 1 after the state’s same-sex marriage law that Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed last week takes effect.

Gov. Jack Markell signed HB 75 into law shortly after the Senate approved it.

“Today, we wrote a new chapter in our history and proved, once again, justice and equality continue to move forward in Delaware,” he said. “By signing House Bill 75 into law, we are another step closer towards achieving that goal.”

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons is among those who also applauded HB 75′s passage.

“This is a truly historic day for our state,” he said. “The passage of HB 75 ushers in a new era of equality in our state and marks an important moment in our state’s history. I am incredibly proud.”

“In Delaware, we do what is right for our citizens,” state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear,) who introduced HB 75 in the Delaware House of Representatives last month, added. “This bill is about equality and treating all couples in a loving, committed relationship with equal respect and dignity.”

Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe also praised Peterson for coming out as he applauded the measure’s approval.

“We congratulate Sen. Peterson for telling her colleagues what marriage equality means to her and her partner and for standing up for freedom and fairness for everyone in Delaware,” he said.

07
May
2013

Md., Va. to tackle bias, trans rights as lawmakers return

Gay News, Washington Blade, Carrie Evans, Gay Maryland

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia will consider a number of LGBT-specific issues during their respective legislative sessions that began on Wednesday.

Maryland legislators are likely to consider a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. The Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last April because Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) reportedly blocked a vote on it.

Miller has publicly backed the proposed measure that gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) will formally sponsor. He and state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) are expected to champion the bill in the chamber.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who signed the state’s first anti-trans discrimination law in 2002 when he was the mayor of Baltimore, also backs the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act.

“We’re very optimistic this year because the world has changed,” Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer told the Washington Blade. “The attitudes of not only the voters who proved on Nov. 6 that they’re supportive of progressive issues such as marriage equality and the Dream Act, but also the legislators have noticed that and are feeling a little bit emboldened.”

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans shared Beyer’s optimism.

The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality has grown to include CASA de Maryland, Progressive Maryland and 17 other organizations. Equality Maryland has posted a petition on its website in support of the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act

Evans said this group is “modeling ourselves off of the” campaign in support of the same-sex marriage referendum that passed last November by a 52-48 percent margin.

“We have an incredible window here in 2013 with the strength of the coalition, the good feelings everybody has about Equality Maryland,” she said. “We are going full surge ahead and hopefully passing this once and for all in 2013.”

A proposed assault weapons ban in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 20 students and six administrators dead and efforts to repeal the state’s death penalty are among the issues expected to dominate this year’s legislative agenda in Annapolis, but Evans highlighted other issues on which she and other advocates hope to work in the coming year.

These include working with Attorney General Doug Gansler and other officials to ensure the state’s same-sex marriage law that took effect on Jan. 1 is properly implemented. She pointed to insurance and tax-related issues for same-sex couples and making sure state agencies have provisions that include gender-neutral references are top priorities.

Evans said she expects most of these changes will take place through new regulations or administrative tweaks, but “they are working on answering the question of redoing all of the areas of state law and what needs to be done legislatively. Strengthening Maryland’s anti-bullying laws is another priority.

“The problem has always been making sure once the law is passed it is implemented at all levels,” Evans said.

Va. bill would ban anti-LGBT bias

Virginia lawmakers are expected to consider a measure during their legislative session that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.

State Sens. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) introduced Senate Bill 701 last October. The state Senate passed similar measures in 2010 and 2011, but they stalled in the House of Delegates.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Blade last November that SB 701’s chances of passing in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates this year are “very slim.”

“While our biggest challenge is the House of Delegates, this will be an opportunity to get legislators on the record for pro-LGBT legislation and see if they are really supporting equality and their constituency this election year,” he said.

Adam Ebbin, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin is a Senate Bill 710 co-sponsor (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Ebbin told the Blade he expects the Senate General Law Committee could potentially hear SB 701 in the coming weeks.

“The bill has passed the Senate before, but failed in the General Laws and Technology Committee last session,” he said. “It’s a sometimes challenging environment because there’s Republican control of that committee, but we’re working hard and hope there will be a breakthrough this year.”

Del. legislators expected to debate marriage

Delaware lawmakers are expected to consider a same-sex marriage bill between now and the end of their current legislative session on June 30.

Gov. Jack Markell, who signed the state’s civil unions law in 2011, suggested to the Huffington Post last August that state lawmakers could debate a measure that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot this year.

Spokesperson Catherine Rossi reiterated that point to the Blade.

“The governor expects that a marriage equality bill will be worked this session,” she said.

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) described efforts to place a same-sex marriage bill on the 2013 legislative agenda as a “no-brainer” during an interview with the News-Journal on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) added she expects Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) to introduce the measure.

Both legislators co-sponsored the civil unions bill.

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in neighboring Maryland and eight other states and D.C. Lawmakers in New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island are expected to consider similar measures in the coming weeks.

09
Jan
2013