Marriage, anti-bullying legislation garner New England headlines in 2009
The legalization of marriage for gays and lesbians in New Hampshire and its defeat in Maine were the region’s top stories of the year. Three events in Massachusetts--the nomination of a gay Republican for one of the Bay State’s top executive offices, plans to stiffen its anti-bullying law and a protest against President Barack Obama--round out the list.
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed a bill in June legalized marriage between same-sex couples. The law that goes into effect on Jan. 1 makes the Granite State the fifth to allow gays and lesbians to marry. The others are Iowa and three more in New England: Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut.
In a November referendum, Maine voters reversed a law enacted last spring that legalized marriage for same-sex couples in the Pine Tree State. Question 1’s approval represented the latest victory for the National Organization for Marriage, which has had a hand in the passage of anti-marriage laws in 31 states. The defeat sent shock waves through the national movement for LGBT rights.
Government ethics commissions in both Maine and California are investigating NOM’s fundraising practices after a California-based activist accused the Mormon Church of money-laundering to avoid state laws that require organizations to report the names of their contributors.
In Massachusetts, a Republican is seeking to be the first openly gay lieutenant governor in the nation’s history next year. State Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei came out just days before gubernatorial Charlie Baker named him as his running mate last month.
Although Tisei was closeted, his sexuality was common knowledge among his colleagues. He played a key role in the state Senate to block a proposed marriage referendum in the Bay State in 2004 and 2006.
For the first time since Beacon Hill lawmakers passed an anti-bullying law for schools in 1993, they are considering stronger legislation that would require reporting bullying incidents to the state. Activists were generally pleased when a joint committee held a hearing last month, but they want the proposed law to include transgender-specific protections.
Activists throughout the nation are unhappy with the slow progress in passing federal laws protecting LGBT rights. More than 100,000 participated in the National March on Washington in October to urge swift passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the lifting of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
They argue President Barack Obama has not followed through on promises he made during the 2008 campaign. Protesters heckled Obama during an October fundraiser in Boston. The demonstration came just a day after the U.S. Senate approved a comprehensive hate-crimes bill that included LGBT protections. Obama signed the bill into law later in the month.