Ellen Andersen

Developments around the Nation

Filed By Ellen Andersen | April 26, 2007 1:25 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex

Earlier today, the New Hampshire Senate passed a civil unions bill by a vote of 14-10. The bill, which has already passed the House, now goes to the Governor, who has already vowed to sign it.

Yesterday, the Iowa legislature became the 10th in the nation to pass a bill outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Notably, the bill passed with lopsided, bipartisan majorities in both the House (59-37) and the Senate (34-16). The governor is expected to sign the bill, which makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, housing, public accomodations, credit, and education.

And in Oregon, a Senate committee voted to pass a domestic partnership bill by a vote of 3-1. If the bill becomes law, domestic partnerships would afford same-sex couples all of the state-level rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marrriage. It is, in effect, civil unions by another name. (Which is legal marriage, by another name. Except it isn't, exactly.)

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Marla R. Stevens | April 26, 2007 9:59 PM

Yes, the Iowa bill passed with lopsided blue majorities but, had it not been for the Republicans supporting it in the House who defied their minority leader in the press stating their unwavering support, it would have died.

That is because the Democratic House Speaker, Pat Murphy, was refusing to let the bill come up for a vote until all of his party's House members agreed to vote for it -- knowing that that was never going to happen. That was because, among other things, the world's most powerful antigay hate group, the Catholic Church, was threatening one of those legislators, seventy-eight year-old Delores Mertz, with loss of her presidency of a prominent Catholic women's organization if she did vote for the bill -- a position she'd worked all her life to attain and which, according to a source very close to her, meant more to her than even her position as a state legislator.

It took leaking that to the press and the Des Moines Register shaming the Speaker in print for his uber-partisanship at the expense of needed minority protections, to get him to let go of the bill.

And the gender identity definition got watered down in a gotcha third-reading amendment from the floor.

Plus, an unnecessary and insulting provision clarifying that civil rights do not include the right to marry and reaffirming the state's DOMA was added as well.

But it still covers the things that need covering and the gender identity inclusion has enough in it to work with even if it's not clear in statute as it can be made clear later in regulational definitions.

It was, as they say, a hard fought squeaker. Congratulations to Sandy Volpalka, who started this as a rank neophyte little more than five years ago and, with gritty, never-say-die determination -- often virtually alone and with little support, grew into a seasoned lobbyist, carrying this bill to completion as well as any in her profession could.