Snowmageddon may have kept our nation’s lawmakers from work this week — and effectively delayed same-sex marriage in D.C. — but state legislators have been keeping themselves busy.
On Tuesday, Iowa state representatives and senators blocked efforts by their GOP colleagues to amend the Iowa Constitution to ban gay marriage. Pro-LGBT Democrats, who hold majorities in both chambers, argued that their constituents have far more pressing concerns that indulging conservative homophobia.
Concurrently, in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives, the Judiciary Committee nixed two bills that attempted to reverse the state’s marriage equality law — one through repeal and the other through referendum.
Yesterday, Rhode Island state representatives elected the state’s first openly gay African American House speaker, Gordon Fox. This came in the heels of the announcement by three gubernatorial candidates — former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, State Attorney General Patrick Lynch, and Frank Caprio — that they support marriage equality. This bodes well for expanded civil rights in the only New England state that has not made same-sex marriage legal.
Prominent figures in the marriage debate also have been in the news.
In New York, state senators made history by expelling their colleague Hiram Monserrate who had been convicted of domestic assault. Monserrate was also one of the eight Democrats who voted against marriage equality in the Empire State, disappointing LGBT New Yorkers who had supported him.
In California, Proposition 8 trial judge Vaughn Walker was outed in the mainstream media, prompting some to question whether he could be impartial in ruling on the groundbreaking case. It has been pointed out that, ironically, Walker almost didn’t make it to the federal bench because he was perceived as anti-LGBT. He had helped the U.S. Olympic Committee stop the LGBT community from calling athletic competitions in San Francisco the Gay Olympic Games. He also callously put a lien on the home of a gay games leader who was dying of AIDS. His first appointment in 1987 by President Reagan was thus opposed by House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and stalled out by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Opponents of marriage equality were given some great ammunition this week when the New York Times highlighted a study on gay men and made sweeping conclusions about lesbian and gay couples. Although the research out of San Francisco State University only includes men and does not have a statistically valid and representative sample, the author carelessly pronounces that “monogamy is not a central feature for many” gay relationships. Although only gay and bisexual men in the Bay Area are included in the project, the article leads by recounting the story of one lesbian couple and continues to make hasty generalizations about all LGBT couples.
Meanwhile, there were some uplifting stories this week.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco school board voted to fund a substantial increase in instruction and services related to LGBT issues even though the district is planning major layoffs and program cuts amid the recession. School board members unanimously agreed that it is crucial to support LGBT youth, who are more likely to experience bullying and skip school because they are afraid. About 13 percent of the city’s middle school students and 11 percent of high school students self-identify as LGBT.
The following day, Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Administration on Aging announced a three-year, $900,000 grant to SAGE, the nation’s oldest and largest organization serving LGBT older adults. The award is for the creation of the nation’s only national resource center on LGBT aging, which will assist communities across the country in their efforts to provide services and supports for older LGBT people.
Finally, just to be very clear: Lt. Dan Choi has not been ordered to active duty. As Vet Voice explains:
1LT Choi has NOT been ordered back to active duty. It would be difficult to order him “back” to active duty, being that he serves in the New York National Guard, not on active duty, unless he had been mobilized. What has happened is that, with the support of his command, 1LT Choi drilled with his National Guard unit this past weekend for training on critical infantry tasks with his Soldiers.
While it’s good to see 1LT Choi in uniform and back with his unit, the key take away from this story is that the fight isn’t over. 1LT Choi’s discharge is still pending at DA. At any time, this leader could be removed from his post and his unit’s cohesion and mission readiness severely damaged as a result.
Yes, the key takeaway is that come rain, sleet or snow, the fight is far from over.
You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.