New Bills in NC, MS, TX, AZ
News, January 12, 2001
Theyre 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 states "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 Ashevilles 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 states 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
its 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 bills 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
organizations 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
BSAs right to "expressive association" precedence over state civil rights
Since that decision an Arizona BSA Council has lost funds under the city of
Tucsons 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 BSAs 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 groups "policies, programs, morals or
mission." At least two gay observers doubt Andersons bill will progress in the
legislature, although he has told reporters that hes willing to broaden its
provisions to apply to more organizations than just BSA.
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