Weekly Political Roundup

FlagsThe week is chock full of news:

  • Former U. S. President Gerald Ford died this week. Both Pam at Pandagon and Planet Out document Ford’s support for lesbian and gay rights, including marriage equality.
  • As expected, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin vetoed a bill that would have prevented the state from giving benefits to the partners of public employees. The State Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the state must offer such benefits. Palin herself “supports denying those benefits through a constitutional amendment, if that’s what the public wants,” but was bound by oath to uphold the Court ruling.
  • California’s LGBT residents will gain various rights from eight new laws starting January 1. Registered domestic partners can file joint state income-tax returns beginning in 2008; any business or other entity with state contracts must offer the same benefits to DPs as to married spouses; there are new protections against housing discrimination; the state must include the needs of gay and lesbian residents in elder services; sexual-orientation discrimination is prohibited in state-run programs; there is new funding for domestic- violence prevention among same-sex couples; judges must, upon request by parties in a case, instruct juries to ignore “gay panic” or “transgender panic” defenses; and the state’s voluntary political-campaign pledge now includes the promise not to attack a candidate’s sexual orientation. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that once DPs can file joint state income tax returns, “California domestic partners will have all the rights of marriage possible under state law.” I say, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, don’t call it a turkey.
  • City commissioners in Gainesville, Florida, will consider creating a domestic partner registry. The registry would cover hospital visitation, among other city-regulated rights, and provide proof of a relationship, something couples could use when applying for corporate employee benefits.
  • City officials in Lawrence, Kansas, are also considering a legal registry to recognize same-sex couples. The registry would not provide the legal rights of marriage, but would offer proof of a relationship as with the Gainesville measure above. A baby step, to be sure, but perhaps the right approach in a state as generally conservative as Kansas. This is the state whose school board approved public-school science standards that cast doubt on the theory of evolution in favor of “Intelligent Design,” and in doing so, “rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.”
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it had no authority to order the state Legislature to vote Tuesday (the last day of the legislative session) on a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage. They reminded legislators, however, that the State Constitution requires them to vote, even though the Court can’t enforce this. Blue Mass Group has more details. Tuesday’s debate should be interesting.
  • In its next session, the New Hampshire legislature will consider a bill to recognize same-sex relationships, likely to be called civil unions, with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage. A recent poll found that 55 percent of state residents oppose same-sex marriage, but only 40 percent oppose civil unions, with 44 percent in favor of civil unions and 16 percent not sure.
  • Outgoing Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager opined that Wisconsin’s new constitutional ban on same-sex marriage does not prohibit public or private employers from providing domestic-partner benefits. LGBT-rights leaders in the state are cautiously optimistic that this will help them avoid situations similar to those in states such as Michigan, which have rescinded various DP benefits after enacting same-sex marriage bans.

Around the world:

  • The Spanish government is considering offering damages to gay and lesbian citizens who were sent to mental hospitals, tortured or imprisoned under the Franco regime.
  • In the U. K., Hounslow Primary Care Trust, a National Health Service (NHS) trust, will cut funding for gender-transition surgery, tattoo removal, and breast enhancements in order to limit non-essential operations. (As if gender-transition surgery was a mere matter of cosmetics, like the other two procedures.)