New State Gains on LGBT Rights

While national press coverage has focused on the historic ruling which made California the second state to allow same-sex nuptials, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are making slow and steady progress across the country.  In the recent weeks a few more states have taken action to help further civil rights for the LGBT community.  

Kentucky Governor Grants Increased Protections for State Employees: Governor Steve Beshear this week signed an executive order reversing policies of his predecessor, by granting employment protections for gay and transgender state employees. Former Governor Ernie Fletcher, had in 2006, stripped from his administration's equal employment opportunities policy phrasing that barred employment discrimination in state government on the basis of "sexual orientation or gender identity.”?  Beshear, stated that the employment protections he granted meant "a gay person could not be fired simply for being gay. A person should be hired or dismissed on the basis of whether they can do the job. Experience, qualifications, talent and performance are what matter." The order includes protections relating to "hiring, promotion, termination, tenure, recruitment and compensation."

Christina Gilgor, executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, said the executive order "puts Kentucky among 26 other states, and ahead of the federal government, on this issue."

Colorado Enacted Non-Discrimination Law: Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Representative Joel Judd and Senator Jennifer Veiga, which expands language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including transgender status, in housing practices, public accommodation, eligibility for jury service, availability of family planning services, as well as many other areas.  Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese stated, “[o]pponents of equality did their best to scare and divide Coloradans, but it’s heartening to see that their tactics were rejected. This is a positive step forward for Colorado, coming on the heels of two pro-equality laws enacted in 2007.”?

Two Big Strides for Human Rights in New York State:
The New York State Assembly amended the state’s human rights law to include anti-discrimination protections based upon gender identity and expression.  The bill, known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), is now under consideration in the Senate, and bans discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life. The Empire State Pride Agenda, and over 200 organizational members of the GENDA Coalition worked closely with Assembly member Gottfried and other Assembly supporters to build the momentum for passage that resulted in this vote.

“Transgender New Yorkers are in constant fear that they will lose their jobs, get kicked out of their home, or simply be denied service when they go into a restaurant. It goes without saying that these members of our community should be able to go about the business of living their lives openly and without fear,”? said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.  Ending the discrimination targeted by this legislation is supported by over three quarters of New York voters.

Additionally, appellate judges ruled there is no legal impediment in New York to the recognition of a same-sex marriage. Based on the court's ruling New York Gov. David Paterson instructed state agencies - including those governing insurance and he4alth care - to immediately change policies and regulations to recognize gay marriages. The move has generated little serious opposition and it is supported by a majority of voters.

For years, gay rights advocates have sought state recognition for same-sex marriages so couples could enjoy a number of basic family protections controlled by the state, such as shared family health care plans, medical decisions making rights, stronger adoption rights and inheriting property. These and all state marriage rights now appear to be available to New Yorkers who legally wed same-sex partners in other states and countries, according to the memo sent earlier this month from the governor's counsel. Agencies have until June 30 to report back to the counsel on how, specifically, the directive will change existing state benefits and services for gay couples.

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