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Delaware Senate passes civil unions bill

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The Delaware Senate voted 13-6 on Thursday to approve a civil unions bill that would provide same-sex couples with all of the rights and benefits of marriage under state law.

LGBT activists were optimistic that the Delaware House of Representatives would approve the bill next week, and the state’s governor, Democrat Jack A. Markell, has said he plans to sign the bill.

“We are delighted that not only did the civil unions bill get passed by the Senate but that it got passed by a two-to-one margin,” said Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware, a state LGBT group coordinating lobbying efforts for the bill.

“We think that says a lot about what the citizens of Delaware want to see, that the citizens of Delaware are two-to-one in favor of civil unions,” she said.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called on the Delaware House to quickly pass the bill and send it to the governor for signing.

“Today we applaud the Delaware Senate for valuing all Delaware families,” Solmonese said.

A public opinion poll commissioned by Equality Delaware and conducted in March by the survey research firm Lake Research Partners found that 62 percent of voters favor allowing same-sex couples to form legalized civil unions, with 31 percent opposing such a law. Seven percent of the voters polled were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.

“We feel very optimistic about getting the bill through the House,” Goodman said. “We have all three of the Democratic leaders in the House on the bill as sponsors and we’ve been working very hard with House members.”

Democrats hold a 26 to 15 majority in the 41-member Delaware House of Representatives.

A House hearing on the bill was expected to be held April 13, with the committee expected to approve the bill the same day. Goodman said a debate and vote on the bill in the full House was expected to take place April 14.

Similar to civil unions laws in other states, the Delaware measure, Senate Bill 30, would provide same-sex couples with all of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage under state law but would not provide any federal rights or benefits related to marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which Congress passed in 1996 and President Bill Clinton signed, bars same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage-related rights or benefits.

If the Delaware civil unions measure is approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, Delaware would become the eighth state to provide marriage-related rights and benefits to same-sex couples – either through either civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnership laws.

Two of the other states – Illinois and Hawaii – approved such laws earlier this year. The Illinois law is scheduled to take effect in June and the Hawaii law goes into effect in January 2012.

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Virginia

Youngkin makes additional appointments to Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

Governor plans to revise transgender, nonbinary student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday announced the appointment of three people to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

Youngkin named Kerry Flynn, Jason Geske and Collin J. Hite to the board.

Casey Flores, the president of Log Cabin Republicans of Richmond, in July resigned from the board before his tenure was to begin. The resignation came amid growing criticism over a series of anti-LGBTQ and misogynist comments he made against Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), among others.

Youngkin last month announced he plans to revise the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students. Thousands of high school students across Virginia on Sept. 27 walked out of class in protest of the planned revision.

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National

Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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