Last edited: December 19, 2004

New Bills in NC, MS, TX, AZ

PlanetOut News, January 12, 2001

They’re off and running in four state legislatures as measures dealing with sodomy, hate, marriage, and the Boy Scouts are introduced.

As state legislative sessions get underway, battle lines are being drawn with the introduction of bills favorable and unfavorable to the interests of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.

North Carolina: Sodomy Reform Bill North Carolina state Senator Eleanor Kinnaird (D-Carrboro) told the GLBT Southern Voice that she intends to introduce a bill to reform the state’s "crimes against nature" law after the legislature opens January 24. Although her first attempt at reform in 1997 was granted a hearing only after it was too late in the session for the bill to progress, she believes the climate in the legislature is now much more favorable thanks to GLBT activism in the state.

In addition, Equality North Carolina and Asheville’s Blue Ridge Equality Alliance are gearing up to lobby for the Matthew Shepard Memorial Act, a hate crimes measure covering homophobic assaults that fell just ten votes shy of passage in 1999, to which they hope to add provision for crimes motivated by "gender expression".

Mississippi: Hate Crimes Bill Mississippi state Representative Erik Fleming (D-Jackson) has introduced House Bill 162 to add sexual orientation and age to victim characteristics leading to sentencing enhancements under the state’s hate crimes bill, the Southern Voice reported. The legislature opened January 2 and the bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. Fleming anticipates strong opposition from the American Family Association and the Mississippi Family Council, which together last year pushed through a ban on adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, but he believes that if his bill makes it through the legislature, Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) will not stand in its way.

The Mississippi Gay Lobby is behind the hate crimes amendment all the way, but opposes another Fleming bill (he says he has a hundred bills pending) — one that would require prescriptions for condoms.

Texas: Bill to Ban Marriage Texas state Representative Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) can be relied on to introduce one or more anti-gay bills nearly every session, and for 2001 it’s House Bill 496 to deny legal recognition to gay and lesbian marriages or civil unions another state may perform, the Amarillo Globe-News reported. Chisum has introduced similar measures before but has never won passage through both houses. Chisum said the bill would "protect" marriage and families and denied it carried any message of intolerance. Log Cabin Republicans of Texas spokesperson Steve Lebinski did not feel it was possible to predict the bill’s chances until the makeup of legislative committees is known. Similar measures have been enacted by more than thirty other state legislatures and by three statewide referenda.

Arizona: Bill to Protect Boy Scouts Arizona state Representative Mark Anderson (R-Mesa) has introduced House Bill 2403 to prohibit cities, school districts and other political entities from acting to "discriminate against, investigate or deny or withdraw access to public property" for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) because of "that organization’s constitutionally protected beliefs or exercise of associational rights." Of course the beliefs referred to are that gays are not "morally straight" and should be excluded from the organization, a BSA national policy formalized in the process of winning a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2000 that gave BSA’s right to "expressive association" precedence over state civil rights laws.

Since that decision an Arizona BSA Council has lost funds under the city of Tucson’s anti-discrimination rules; Tempe administrators were ready to block funding of BSA from municipal workers’ payroll contributions to United Way until they were reversed by the City Council; and the Sunnyside Unified School District ended its waiver of charges for BSA’s use of its facilities. HB 2403 would further prohibit the use of public funds to "compel" the Scouts to accept gays and atheists and agnostics or anyone else inconsistent with the group’s "policies, programs, morals or mission." At least two gay observers doubt Anderson’s bill will progress in the legislature, although he has told reporters that he’s willing to broaden its provisions to apply to more organizations than just BSA.

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