This is a big week for the marriage equality movement, with states across the country taking long strides towards civil unions and same-sex marriage. Supporters are eagerly anticipating major votes in state legislatures, due any day now.
Here’s an update on some of the latest action from the usual suspects, with a surprise guest appearance.
The State Senate approved civil unions yesterday by a margin of 21-14. Learn the name of State Senator Pat Steadman. When Republicans attempted to stall the measure with amendments for religious expemptions, this openly-gay Democrat from Denver won the day:
What to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate? I tell you what I’d say: ‘get thee to a nunnery, and live there. Go live a monastic life, away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself’. Go some place and be as judgmental as you like, go inside your church, establish separate water fountains if you like. But don’t tell me that your free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains.
Can I get an “Amen?” Next up, the bill travels to the House, before reaching Gov. Hickenlooper, an adamant supporter of the measure. Not only is the House held by Democrats, but Mark Ferrandino became the State’s first openly gay Speaker of the House.
Meanwhile, a high school student has filed a ballot measure for 2014, which would overturn the State’s Constitutional ban against marriage equality and replace it with full legalization. 17-year-old Zoe Mandelski, whose parents don’t support marriage equality, filed the measure as part of a class project.
The clock is ticking for the State Legislature to consider bills in the House and Senate. HawaiiNewsNow reports, “If lawmakers fail to schedule a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in either Chamber by tomorrow, the bills will likely die.” Opponents believe that the measures lack the necessary votes, despite Governor Abercrombie’s vocal support. Opponents also believe this decision should be made by the people, not the legislature. This, despite the fact that the same opposition forces passed a constitutional amendment fifteen years ago placing this power in the legislature’s hands to begin with. Hawaii approved Civil Unions in 2011.
The State Senate is prepared to vote for a same-sex marriage bill this Thursday, Valentine’s Day. If successful there, the measure will still have to clear the House before reaching Gov. Quinn, who fully supports equality.
Since the House passed marriage equality by a thrilling 51-19 vote on January 24th, the Senate has stalled. The chamber is controlled by Democrats, but even so the bill has only 11 sponsors in a body of 38, and the Senate President is opposed. Governor Chafee continues to be an inexorable voice of support, linking progressive policies with economic success and innovation. He also recognizes that the state’s Civil Unions are not the big business the Ocean State is looking for, since its neighboring states offer full marriages which are recognized in RI by executive order.
Basic Rights Oregon launched a petition drive yesterday, aiming for a 2014 ballot measure. The most recent poll, by PPP, showed popular support at 54% with opposition only 40%. If the measure is successful, Oregon could be the first state to overturn a constitutional ban against marriage equality.
Last week, two Representatives and one Senator filed bills to overturn Texas’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, passed in 2005. The bill, filed by Democratic Reps. Rafael Anchia of Dallas and Garnet Coleman of Houston, would put the question on November’s ballot, asking voters only to repeal the ban, not to replace it with any form of legalization. While Coleman has filed this bill every year for the last 7 years, this is the first time a companion bill has been filed in the Senate. Even so, passage is a long, long shot. The resolutions would require a 2/3 supermajority in each chamber, followed by a simple majority of Texas voters.
Supposing, however, that the measure makes it onto the ballot and by some miracle is approved by Texans, Senator Chuy Hinojosa has filed a bill that would grant civil unions in 2014.