A record number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and HIV/AIDS-related measures were introduced in state legislatures across the country in 1998. A number of these related to hate crimes and attacks on same-sex couples and their families. The upcoming year will likely see an increase in both types of legislation according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).
"Capital Gains and Losses: A State by State Review of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and HIV/AIDS-related Legislation in 1998" was released today by the Task Force. The report is a comprehensive summary of legislation related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) and HIV/AIDS issues in all 50 states. The Task Force has released the report annually since 1996.
For the third year in a row there was an increase in GLBT and HIV/AIDS-related state legislation. The Task Force tracked 258 measures in 1998 compared with 248 in 1997 and 160 in 1996. A growing and more hostile national debate on issues related to sexual orientation and gender expression and an upsurge in the organizing and growth of GLBT political groups at the state and local level was a likely factor in this third consecutive increase.
"Both the right wing and our community understand that the decisions most potently and directly affecting the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are those that occur at the state and local level. It is no surprise that we have therefore seen an increase in gay-related legislation for the third year in a row," said Task Force executive director Kerry Lobel. "Our community's challenge for 1999 is to be visible, vigilant, and vocal," she added.
Highlights for the year include the overturning of Missouri's anti-marriage bill; the overturning of Georgia's sodomy law; the repeal of Rhode Island's sodomy measure; the passage of a hate crimes bill in Kentucky; and the expansion of California's hate crimes bill to include transgender as a category. Lowlights included the veto by California governor Pete Wilson of a bill that would have created a statewide HIV tracking system that did not include the names of those infected; the repeal of Maine's civil rights law; the passage of anti-marriage bills in six states; and an overall increase in legislative attacks on GLBT families. While only one non-marriage anti-family measures passed, the Task Force expects such attacks to increase in the coming year. In addition, anti-marriage ballot initiatives were passed Hawaii and Arkansas.
The coming year portends more hostile legislation as well as a major state legislative organizing initiative by the GLBT community. During the week of March 21 - 27 state capitals in each and every state will be the scene of marches, lobby days, prayer breakfasts and more. The week of actions, known as Equality Begins at Home, is being organized by the Task Force and the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations.