Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good News on Marriage Equality Fronts

Everyone who follows LGBT issues knows that there are some really great days for equality, and some really lousy ones.  That past couple of days have been good for marriage equality, with three states making moves towards full recognition of gay couples.

In Delaware, the state Senate Administrative Services Committee passed a civil unions bill, which would grant full legal rights to gay couples; the bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate.  The bill supposedly has "more than two dozen cosponsors," which I have to admit confuses me since the Delaware Senate only has 21 members.  Interestingly, the Republicans on the committee didn't vote for or against the bill.

Importantly, the bill would only grant full equal rights to gay couples under state law - because of the Defense of Marriage Act, gay couples are not entitled to legal rights under federal law (not that Delaware couples would be eligible for these anyway, since they are "civil unioned" and not married).

In Washington, the state legislature has passed a bill, which will now go to Gov. Chris Gregoire's desk, that will recognize out-of-state gay marriages.  The bills passed by large margins in both chambers, mostly (but not solely) on party lines.  Washington joins Rhode Island, New York and Maryland in recognizing gay marriages but not actually performing them.

It strikes me as odd that these states recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere - giving them the same rights under the state as straight marriages - but don't actually allow their own residents to get married and enjoy these same rights.  But I also don't think it's any coincidence that Rhode Island, New York, and Maryland (well, up until recently) have been considered three of the states most likely to begin performing gay marriages within the next year or so.

And in Illinois, equality proponents in the state senate have killed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.  How did they kill the bill?  By assigning it to the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments... which has no members.

Says Bernard Cherkasov, executive director of Equality Illinois: "Year after year, angry right-wing extremists in the Illinois General Assembly bring up the same anti-marriage-equality Constitutional amendment. The proposal is deeply unpopular with Illinoisans, who overwhelmingly support equal treatment for same-sex couples."

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