Statehouse Sweep: Pro-Gay Bills Lead in States Trend Continues from 1999
March 24, 2000
By Will OBryan
As the 20th century ends and the 21st century begins, state legislators are debating
old issues - family issues, albeit with a decidedly modern twist. Same-sex marriage,
domestic partnerships, and Gays adopting are pressing issues in Americas
turn-of-the-century political landscape.
"Everything has happened a lot more quickly than we wouldve imagined,"
said David Elliot, communications director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. As
part of its mission, NGLTF closely monitors state legislatures.
In the Blades annual survey of Gay-related bills introduced in the state
legislative sessions, there were 81 pro-Gay bills, compared to 24 anti-Gay bills. That
count continues a trend whereby the number of pro-Gay bills introduced is on the rise,
while the number of anti-Gay bills is dropping. In 1997, the count started out with 40
pro-Gay bills and 48 anti-Gay. In 1998, pro-Gay bills started with a lead, 42 bills
pro-Gay versus 33 anti-Gay. And at the beginning of 1999, the pro-Gay bill count soared to
81, with only 32 anti-Gay bills.
Elliot said NGLTF has found the same trend. By NGLTF counts, 1999 marked the first year
that pro-Gay bills outnumbered anti-Gay bills.
"So far in the year 2000, that trend is very clearly continuing," said
Elliot. Saying he was hesitant to cull something definitive from this trend, he
nevertheless added, "The trend that we first picked up on last year is indeed
continuing, and that is wonderful news for our community."
The last of the four traditional categories for Gay-related legislation is sodomy.
There is a lot of action in sodomy, but it is concentrated. Nine bills have been
introduced to either legalize sodomy or reduce the penalties. Three of the bills are in
Massachusetts, two are in Virginia, and one is in Arizona. Three New York bills with
broader agendas include repeals of the states sodomy law that a state court has
already voided. The Arizona Human Rights Fund has been concentrating on the effort in that
state to defeat the Arizona sodomy law, which applies to both same-sex and opposite-sex
sodomy. The House Judiciary Committee passed the legislation in February, but it remains
stuck in the House Family Services Committee.
All three Massachusetts sodomy bills have been sitting in a study committee for months.
Virginias attempt to repeal the sodomy ban was killed in committee. A measure to
reduce sodomy to a misdemeanor made it through the House and onto the Senate, but also
died in committee.
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