April 30, 2009

Major Legislative Victories for GLBT People

The momentum toward equality picked up a bit more steam on Wednesday with two important votes, the passage of legislation allowing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire and the federal hate-crimes bill sailing to victory in the U. S. House of Representatives.

First, the story from New Hampshire from MSNBC:

New Hampshire's Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would legalize same-sex marriage after an amendment was added that prohibits polygamy and marriage of family members, among other measures.

Governor John Lynch has not indicated whether he will veto the bill, which passed in a 13-11 vote and would make New Hampshire the nation's fifth state where gay marriage is legal. But the Democrat has expressed opposition to the measure.

The bill passed the state's House of Representatives on March 26 but looked set for near certain defeat in the Senate before the amendment, which appeared to mollify some critics in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

The last-minute changes to the legislation would allow clergy to decline to marry homosexual couples and give couples the freedom to either keep the words "bride" and "groom" on marriage licenses, or simply use the word "spouse" instead.

Because the Senate and House passed separate versions they must resolve their differences before the bill can go to the governor, who in 2007 signed a law recognizing same-sex civil unions, making New Hampshire the fourth state to do so.

Democratic state Senator Deborah Reynolds, who opposed the bill at committee level, changed her vote after the amendment.

"This is a compromise that is respectful to both sides of this debate and meets our shared goal of equality under state law for all the people of New Hampshire," Reynolds said.

"It honors the religious beliefs of many of our constituents and gives denominations clear authority to decide whether to bless any marriage in this state according to their principles and beliefs."

Here's the story on the hate crimes bill from 365gay.com:

The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories covered under federal hate crime law.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act for the 21-year-old college student who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998, would provide local police and sheriff’s departments with federal resources to combat hate violence.

“No one should face violence simply because of who they are,” said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “This bill is a critical step to erasing the hate that has devastated far too many families.”

Wednesday morning, just hours before the vote, President Obama urged Congress to pass the bill.

” I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association,” the President said in a statement.

” I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.”

As do I and all others who believe in fairness and justice.

Enjoy Rep. Barney Frank's speech before the vote:

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