Just minutes before the Delaware Senate was set to vote on its marriage equality bill, a Democrat senator who had been quiet about how she would vote announced on her Facebook page that she would vote yes. The announcement by Senator Bethany Hall-Long, who represents Dover, the state capital, came just minutes after the city’s other Democratic senator, Karen Peterson, came out as gay on the floor during debate.
The final roll call vote, after three hours of debate, was 12 to 9, with the gallery erupting into loud and prolonged applause. The twelve supporters included one Republican; the nine opponents included two Democrats.
Just minutes later, Democratic Governor Jack Markell signed the bill, making Delaware the eleventh state plus the District of Columbia to provide for equal protection under its marriage laws. Meanwhile, a Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee gave the marriage equality bill there a green light Monday, and the House floor is scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday (May 9). Democratic Governor Mark Dayton is lobbying actively for the measure.
As the Georgia General Assembly adjourned its annual 40-day session, the only specifically LGBT bill to pass this year was a resolution honoring the Atlanta Freedom Bands — and even that caused controversy.
Introduced by state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), one of three openly gay members of the General Assembly, the resolution was similar to those routinely passed every day to honor an organization or individual, with one exception.
“This bill had LGBT in there … I thought it was really innocuous,” Drenner said. “I worked on it to make it palatable for everybody and I removed everything that could be deemed to be inflammatory except LGBT.”
Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) fielded questions on her anti-bully legislation, HB 429, today before a Georgia General Assembly education subcommittee.
As written, HB 429 would expand the state's anti-bullying laws and require schools to issue annual reports on instances of bullying where a student is disciplined. Waites is one of three openly gay members of the Georgia General Assembly.
Committee members, including Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), questioned the need for additional punishments against students who bully, but seemed favorable to the idea of requiring schools to submit annual reports on instances of bullying.
Democrats in the Georgia General Assembly rolled out their legislative agenda for 2013 today which includes a bill “to prevent student scholarship organizations from funding private schools that discriminate against Georgia’s children.”
Dubbed the Anti-Discrimination Act, the bill is sponsored by Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) and Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens), according to Emily Oh, spokesperson for the House Democratic Caucus.
Bell is the first openly lesbian African-American state lawmaker in the country.
It was Sine Die at the Gold Dome on Thursday and the day that Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) introduced a hate crimes bill in the House.
Taylor announced at a rally in February he would introduce the bill following the beating of a gay man. Brandon White, in southwest Atlanta by gang members who repeatedly called him "faggot." A video of the beating went viral and made national headlines. Four men have been charged in the beating and a federal investigation continues to determine if the attack is a hate crime.
Taylor said today he was hoping to get Republican sponsors to sign on to the bill that includes sexual orientation and gender identity before introducing it, but because it was an election year several supportive Republicans wanted to wait until January to sign on. Georgia is one of five states that does not have its own hate crimes law.
By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, Georgia House Judiciary subcommittee tabled a bill that would provide workplace protections to all state employees, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers.
Voting against the bill were Reps. Stephen Allison (R-Blairsville), Billy Maddox (R-Zebulon) and Randy Nix (R-LaGrange). Voting to oppose the tabling of the bill were Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) and Pam Stephenson (D-Decatur).
"Tabling it is not as not as bad as beating it. But tabling it means they killed it," said state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) immediately following the hearing. Last year, Drenner drafted House Bill 630, which included protection for gay and transgender state employees. The bill was introduced with 70 sponsors and co-sponsors, including 12 Republicans and one Independent. It would cover Georgia’s 174,000 state employees.
"It could come back, but that is unlikely," Drenner said.
'It is going to be a huge challenge to get it through this year'
Georgia Equality is in the midst of a $15,000 fundraising campaign, hoping to reach the goal by Monday when the first day of the legislative session opens. And it needs the money to fend off nasty attacks being put out opposing an employment non-discrimination bill introduced late last session.
In an email to supporters, Georgia Equality points to a May newsletter of GeorgiaInsight.org to explain, "this is what we are up against" when it lobbies this year in favor of House Bill 630, an employment non-discrimination bill that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
The anti-gay newsletter states in part, "H.B. 630 gives civil rights protection to pedophiles, peeping toms, cross-dressers, flashers and those practicing bestiality or necrophilia (sex with corpse). The American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists these and other acts as deviant and abnormal sexual behaviors. They are chargeable offenses under Georgia law, as well."