The number of pro-LGBT bills passed at state levels in 2009 totaled more than those passed in 2007 and 2008 combined. That, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, marks great progress despite a year wherein community members felt stinging defeats.
At the same time HRC was releasing its annual rankings of LGBT-friendly companies, the national organization also unveiled its “Equality State by State,” a report of legislative actions across the country written by HRC State Legislative Director Sara Warbelow.
Overall, the LGBT community saw success on state-level legislation. A total of 332 pro-LGBT bills were introduced and 50 were passed. Only 69 negative pieces of legislation were introduced. Of those, only four passed.
Despite a setback in Maine, when voters chose to overturn their state legislature’s decision to offer marriage to all couples, other states and jurisdictions moved forward on marriage. On April 7, 2009, Vermont passed legislation opening marriage to all couples. New Hampshire decided to join Vermont on June 3, 2009. Their law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. And, on Dec. 18, 2009, the Washington, D.C. City Council passed legislation extending marriage rights there. In April, Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a gay couple seeking a marriage license there.
State of the States: Recognition
Nationwide, 17 states have legalized marriage for same-sex couples or offer some other sort of relationship recognition. Five states offer full and equal access to marriage, including Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Some relationship recognition is limited, as in Maryland and Rhode Island where certain benefits are provided to “statutorily defined domestic partners.”
Other states, such as Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Wisconsin offer limited spousal rights. Five states (California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington) and Washington, D.C. offer domestic partner or civil union rights equivalent to marriage. The State of New York and Washington, D.C., recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions.
State of the States: Prohibition
A total of 29 states have passed constitutional amendments banning the recognition of marriage between same-sex couples. An additional 11 states ban such recognition through statute only.
According to the HRC report, 18 states have passed a law or amendment “that does, or may, affect other legal relationships, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships.”
The Tar Heel State is the only state in the Southeastern U.S. without a constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples. However, the Defense of Marriage Act, a law prohibiting such recognition, was passed by the state legislature in 1996. State law does not currently recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions, whether performed in the state or elsewhere. Some local municipalities offer a local domestic partnership registry. Others offer public employees of city or county governments health and other benefits for their same-sex domestic partners.
The Palmetto State passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in 2006. State law does not recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions, whether performed in the state or elsewhere.
In several states, other laws affecting same-sex relationships and families include adoption bans and joint adoption legalization. Eleven states (California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Vermont) have legalized joint adoption by same-sex couples and eight states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont) have legalized second parent adoption. In addition, same-sex couples have successfully petitioned for second-parent adoption in 15 states (Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington). Excluded from HRC’s report is the successful second parent adoption by state Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover) and her former partner, who is now challenging the adoption. : :
— To read more of HRC’s “Equality State by State” log on to hrc.org/StateToState. Legislation graphic courtesy HRC.
This article was published in the Feb. 6 – Feb. 19 print edition.