Marriage Equality Scores Historic Victories: Vermont and Iowa Become 3rd and 4th States to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage Equality Scores Historic Victories: Vermont and Iowa Become 3rd and 4th States to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Thursday, April 09, 2009


CONFERENCE CALL TODAY: why taxing high-income residents is better than budget cuts & better for economic growth

WHAT: A national conference call to discuss why taxing high-income residents is better than budget cuts and better for economic growth.

Today, Thursday, April 9, 2009 at 2:00pm EST.


Sen. Eric Schneiderman, New York Senate

Dan Cantor, Executive Director, Working Families Party

Jon Shure, Deputy Director of the State Fiscal Project, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities

Nathan Newman, Interim Executive Director, Progressive States Network


Please RSVP online to receive dial-in information for the call and post-call updates and resources.


By: CHristian Smith-SOCaris

Marriage Equality Scores Historic Victories: Vermont and Iowa Become 3rd and 4th States to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

The number of states giving full state marriage rights to same-sex couples has doubled in under a week as first Iowa and then Vermont joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in achieving marriage equality.  Additionally, the District of Columbia City Council recently voted to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.    

  • Vermont Becomes First State to Legislate Marriage Equality:  On Tuesday, literally without one vote to spare, the Vermont Legislature voted to overturn the governor's veto of a bill granting full marriage rights under state law to same-sex couples.  This marks the first time that a state legislature, rather than the courts, has extended equal marriage rights to its GLBT residents.  The passage of this law, SB 115, sponsored by Senate President Peter Shumlin, is therefore a key milestone in the history of marriage equality. Vermont created civil unions for same-sex couple following a State Supreme Court ruling nine years ago that said denying marriage rights to same-sex couples violated equal protection. After nine years of civil unions Vermonters have come to the radical conclusion that marriage is good and should be available to all families in the Green Mountain State.
  • Iowa's Top Court Rules in Favor of Marriage Equality:  Last Friday the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a decade-old law that banned same-sex marriage.  The unanimous ruling recounted the Iowa Supreme Court's distinguished history of upholding equal rights, noting that the court's first case refused to "enforce a contract for slavery and held our laws must extend equal protection to persons of all races and conditions."  The court has also led the nation on gender rights and against segregation, observing that "[i]n each of those instances, our state approached a fork in the road toward fulfillment of our constitution's ideals and reaffirmed the 'absolute equality of all' persons before law as 'the very foundation principle of our government."  Specifically, the court found that "perhaps the ultimate disadvantage expressed in the testimony of the plaintiffs is the inability to obtain for themselves and for their children the personal and public affirmation that accompanies marriage."  
  • District of Columbia Votes to Recognize Out-of-State Marriages of Same-Sex Couples:  Another unanimous decision to support marriage equality came this week from the District of Columbia City Council, which gave preliminary approval to recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Legislative Leadership Consolidates Marriage Equality:  Notable in each state was the legislative leadership on behalf of marriage equality.  In overriding their governor's veto, the Vermont legislative leadership was obvious in its determination.  In Iowa,the House and Senate leadership made it clear that they will oppose any constitutional amendment that seeks to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court decision.  In a joint release by Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy, they praised the decision and said "the only lasting question about today’s events will be why it took us so long."  Since Iowa requires legislative approval of constitutional amendments, such strong legislative leadership means that marriage equality in the state is likely to be protected in coming years in Iowa.   

A Generational Change Promises Long-Term Victory for Same-Sex Marriage Nationally:  Another factor driving acceptance of same-sex marriage is generational.  Americans 18-45 give legal marriage over twice the level of support than do those over 65.  In Vermont, this reality was clearly articulated by a group of prominent business leaders who wrote to lawmakers urging them to override the governor's veto in order to boost the economic wellbeing of the state:

"The generation that we are trying to attract is different from ours. They don't care about racial, ethnic, gender or sexual orientation differences. They like living among people from diverse backgrounds. They gravitate to places where those differences make life more exciting."

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has gained some well-deserved youtube stardom for his extremely thoughtful remarks on the Senate floor.  Responding to a request to suspend the rules and co-sponsor a leadership bill to amend the state constitution to overturn the decision, Majority Leader Gronstal replied:

One of my daughters was in the workplace one day, and her particular workplace at that moment in time there were a whole bunch of conservative, older men. And those guys were talking about gay marriage. They were talking about discussions going on across the country. And my daughter Kate, after listening to it for about 20 minutes, said to them: ”˜You guys don’t understand. You’ve already lost. My generation doesn’t care.’ I think I learned something from my daughter that day, when she said that.  [Watch the video here or by clicking on the image above.]

Support for marriage equality has been growing among the whole population, but the fact is that a clear majority of Americans age 18-34 support same-sex marriage by a margin of 51-40 according to a December 2008 Newsweek poll (reflecting many other surveys), meaning that when it comes to full equality for GLBT Americans the question is not if, but when. 

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Addressing Health Inequality with the Economic Recovery Package

The investment of billions of dollars of federal stimulus money in state and local economies presents an unprecedented opportunity to address many of "the systemic and avoidable social and economic problems that are the fundamental causes of health inequality," writes the Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies in The Potential of the Economic Stimulus Package to Address Health Inequality. Stimulus funding, like $2.1 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start Programs, $1.5 billion for health center improvements, and $8.4 billion for public transit, should be implemented with a clear intent of reducing racial and ethnic health disparities and achieving equitable resource distribution across communities.  

Disparity in Lifespans: The extent of racial and ethnic disparities in health care is well documented, and stark. The life expectancy for African-Americans is 73.3 years, five years shorter than it is for whites; 47 African-Americans per 100,000 people die from complications caused by diabetes, compared to just over 22 deaths among whites; and, people of color in the United States are less likely to receive routine medical care as well as quality health care services.  While people of color are more likely to be uninsured than whites, lack of medical coverage is only one of many factors causing disparities. As the Prevention Institute and the Joint Center's Health Policy Institute at write, Community conditions—such as air, water, and soil quality; access to healthy food, safe affordable housing, and transit; and access to safe parks—shape health and safety outcomes. [And] Poverty, racism, and lack of educational and economic opportunities are among the fundamental determinants of poor health, lack of safety, and health inequities.  

The Opportunity of the Recovery Plan: As the Joint Center's Health Policy Insitute documents, the hundreds of billions of dollars being invested in health care, education, transportation, the environment, and community programs across the country provide this unique opportunity to improve access to quality health care services for people of color and increase opportunities for healthy living and educational and professional advancement.  Specific opportunities created by the stimulus package (in addition to those mentioned above), include:

Policies to Ensure Greater Health Equity: To ensure health and resource equity are key considerations for the use and tracking of stimulus funds, advocates, lawmakers, public agency heads, and others can: 

  • Ensure state offices of health equity are included in the planning and implementation of stimulus funding, to guarantee communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are receiving resources, such as public transit investments. Pennsylvania's new Office of Health Equity is one of approximately 35 state offices focused on health disparities.
  • Establish the goal of achieving health and resource equity as a key metric for implementing and measuring the success of stimulus funded programs.
  • Include robust data collection as part of stimulus supported programs.  Data collection - recording race, gender, ethnicity, language, as well as medical conditions - is vital for programs, particularly in health care, designed to eliminate disparities.
  • Fund language services and cultural competency training for medical providers at hospitals and community health centers, and other institutions providing key community services.

The federal stimulus package does not fix state and local budget problems, but it provides immediate and necessary support for key public programs and initiatives and, in some cases, frees up state and local dollars to be invested in other beneficial ways. 

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New Mexico Enacts Wage Law Enforcement, Joins National Trend

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson recently signed a wage enforcement bill (H 489) to allow underpaid workers to collect their back wages plus twice that amount in damages. The bill was backed by community groups and labor unions as well as the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.  New Mexico now becomes the eighth state that allows workers to collect treble damages against employers violating the minimum wage — a key deterrent to employers to ensure compliance with the minimum wage.  

Other states are moving forward on additional wage enforcement measures:

  • Iowa: Gov. Culver signed  HF 618 which increases penalties against employers who take advantage of child labor laws. The bill had previously passed both houses unamimously. The new law establishes penalties of up to a year in jail for violating child labor laws, a state fine up to $10,000 for each child labor violation (to be determined by the Labor Commissioner) and hikes the penalty for businesses who fail to pay employees their rightfully-earned wages to $500 from $100 per pay period. Furthermore the bill changes the standard from "willful" liability to "negligence." Labor penalties had been untouched since 1975. The bill is largely the result of last year's raid of the Agriprocessors poultry factory in Postville, Iowa which found 9300 instances of child labor abuses. Additionally, SB 413 has been favorably recommended out of committee and would increase transparency of employee wages and prevent employer retaliation against workers.
  • California: S 9b was signed by the Governor and establishes a State Public Works Enforcement Fund in the State Treasury.  The law continuously appropriates monies to the Fund for the enforcement of prevailing wage requirements applicable to public works projects and labor compliance enforcement.
  • Maryland:  SB 406 was adopted and expands rights and remedies for private enforcement suits under the state prevailing wage law and authorizes employees to seek compensation and additional remedies.  SB 451 would increase criminal penalties for violations of certain wage and hour laws and would allow each week to constitute a separate violation.  The fine for the first week would be $2500 and $5000 for subsequent violations. 
  • North Carolina: H 87 would establish additional positions for the state to enforce wage and hour laws, as well as occupational health and safety standards.  Rhode IslandS 643 would create a private right of action against employers for misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor.

Progressive States Network has been promoting wage enforcement strategies as a fair and progressive model for dealing with the problems of the underground economy and the exploitation of all workers, including native and immigrant workers. Recently the GAO conducted a study finding that wage theft was not being properly investigated by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour division. Now, federal priorities under the new administration are moving towards increased wage enforcement, following the lead of states like New York and California.

States can better address the underground economy by enforcing and strengthening wage and hour laws to protect all workers from unscrupulous employers who deliberately under pay or withhold wages. Here is a short rundown of model policies that states can implement to recover workers' wages and ensure better compliance with the existing minimum wage.  

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Report: Wave of Teacher Retirements Demands New Mentoring Program to Train Next Generation of Teachers

Increased retirement among experienced teachers over the next few years coupled with high attrition rates for beginner educators, places our education system in a precarious position. According to a report by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF), the "traditional teaching career is collapsing at both ends, older teachers are retiring and beginner teachers are being driven away by antiquated preparation practices, outdated school staffing policies, and inadequate career rewards."  The consequences of high turnover is that schools, particularly high poverty schools, must divert focus and resources from efforts aimed at combating student achievement gaps to initiatives which address teaching quality gaps.  

Not only might one-third of of today's most experienced teachers potentially retire over the next four years, but within the next decade it is possible that more than half of today's teachers will leave the school system. This high level of retirement will not only leave school systems without veteran teachers with a wealth of experience, but also put large pressures on retirement systems.  Mass replacement of experienced veteran teachers with inexperienced beginners, however, is not an ideal or effective solution, since beginning teachers have yet to hone their craft and the attrition rates for new teachers have been rising steadily for more than a decade. According to some estimates in certain school districts "half of new hires are replaced every five years."     

The NCTAF report urges policy makers to reorganize educational institutions to create learning teams to maintain experienced teachers and train new ones. Specifically, the report recommends:

  • Changing retirement policies to make it both attractive and feasible for talented veteran teachers to remain in the classroom, so that younger teachers still in the process of learning their craft can have mentors;
  • Establishing cross”generational learning teams composed of, among others, veteran and beginner educators;
  • Setting pay scales to reflect not only length of services but also rewards for teamwork between educators that improves student achievement and overall school performance.

The recommended learning teams are said to be cost effective, since they can help alleviate pressure on pension systems which will occur if a large number of teachers retire at the same time, allow schools to better leverage resources, and ensure new teachers have mentors during their first few, and typically most difficult years.  Highlighted examples and study results on how learning teams help increase academic achievement included in the NCTAF report are:

  • A lauded learning team educational model is already in place in some schools in Boston.  
  • An Education Sector report on a school improvement initiative in Tennessee found that "the effect on student achievement of merit pay for new teachers was less than the effect of steady improvements in existing teachers' effectiveness as a result of increased mentoring, support, and stronger collaborative leadership."
  • National Center for Educational Achievement study (2006) of "250 schools in 20 states examined the "best practices" of 140 elementary and secondary schools that consistently outperformed demographically similar schools for at least three consecutive years across several grades on state exams. The study revealed that these proven track records of success were found in schools that had clear goals and instructional strategies that were developed through school”wide collaborative teamwork."  

Now, due to the economic downturn and individuals wanting to remain in the workforce longer, is opportune time cities and states to consider efforts to keep quality veteran teachers.   



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Stimulus Resources/Updates

Broadly, the Brookings Institution in Metro Potential in ARRA: An Early Assessment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act finds that, although ARRA is limited in its support for creative metropolitan-area implementation, it delivers critical investments in what matters to metros and holds out significant opportunity for metropolitan empowerment and problem-solving. 

Transportation investments and the labor market: How many jobs could be generated and what type? - This Economic Policy Institute report highlights that for each $100 billion in new infrastructure spending,the economic yield will be $160 billion in additional economic output, 1.1 million new jobs, an increase in the relative wages of workers without college degrees and an increase of roughly 125,000 unionized jobs.  A parallel study - Green investments and the labor market: How many jobs could be generated and what type? - finds similar job and wage gains from green investments that are part of the recovery plan.  

Health Care Resources: As Families USA brought to our attention, New York State recently passed A. 6740 to mirror the provision in the ARRA that allows a second COBRA election period for people laid off between September 1, 2008 and February 17, 2009, the date the ARRA was signed. Under A. 6740, people eligible for mini-COBRA will have the same opportunity, and the time between their layoff and when they elect COBRA will not count against them for pre-existing condition exclusions. Other states can use the New York law as a model to cover more residents under the Federal COBRA subsidy. Families USA hosted a conference call (recording available here) on March 20th on the new COBRA subsidies with panelists from CMS, the Department of Labor, the IRS, and the US Treasury.  

Restoring the Safety Net:  In Questions and Answers about the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, CLASP explains the opportunities for states to help low-income families using the new TANF Emergency Contingency Fund and is updated to reflect the Policy Announcement issued by HHS on April 3, 2009.  

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Research Roundup

A few new reports and resources on the economic crisis facing working families and potential solutions-

  • Housing collapse drives up consumer bankruptcies - This economic snapshot by the Economic Policy Institute shows that personal bankruptcies rose 58% in states without declines in the Home Price Index (HPI) but rose 118%—more than twice as fast—in the 16 states with HPI declines.
  • Webcast with Jared Bernstein, Economic Advisor to the Vice President  In this Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity resource, Bernstein speaks about the real prospects on efforts to increase opportunities for low-income families, including updating the federal poverty measure  and how the Administration will ensure that low-income workers are able to access newly created "green" jobs. 
  • Unemployment Lifeline - This online resource by Working America and the AFL-CIO is a massive database (closing in on 60,000 items) of support information for the unemployed, including a zip code searchable database of unemployment offices, nutritional and utility assistance information, affordable health clinics, child care, and so on.   It also includes it includes forums for people to make connections with others who are unemployed, a wiki for strategies to get by, and, equally importantly, action alerts to give jobless workers the chance to take action.
  • Unions and Upward Mobility for Service-Sector Workers - This CEPR report shows that unionization raises the wages of the typical service sector worker by 10.1 percent compared to their non-union peers and increasess the likelihood that a service sector worker will have health insurance and a pension.

Broadband and telecommunications was the focus of a few key studies:

  • Smart Grid, Smart Broadband, Smart Infrastructure - This report by the Center for American Progress highlights how building a more efficient electricity grid needs to go hand-in-hand with deploying broadband to homes to maximize the success of both programs.
  • Buying Broadband A Boost - Even as broadband has become a focus of debate as part of the national Recovery Act, this report by the Institute on Money in State Politics finds that communications companies with a major stake in this issue have made substantial campaign contributions to state-level politics over the last several years. From 2001 through 2007, five companies — AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Embarq, and U.S. Cellular Corp — contributed $28 million to state candidates, party committees and ballot measures in all 50 states. They also hired about 2,600 lobbyists in 2006 and 2007.
  • Why "Competition" is Failing to Protect Consumers: The Limits of Choice in California's Residential Telecommunications Market   - This report by TURN shows that following the state's elimination of remaining price caps on local service rates for telephone companies, prices increased dramatically, highlighting that local telephone companies still have monopoly pricing power over many families dependent on local fixed-line telephone service.

New tax reform reports detail new revenue options for states

  • Reforming the Tax Treatment of S-Corporations and Limited Liability Companies Can Help States Finance Public Services  - Even though businesses organized as "S Corporations" or "Limited Liability Companies" generate one-fourth of business receipts, this report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities highlights that 19 states imposes only nominal taxes on these companies, so reforming their tax codes would yield significant revenues to fund public services.
  • A Majority of States Have Now Adopted a Key Corporate Tax Reform — “Combined Reporting” - With 23 of the 45 states with corporate income and similar business taxes having implemented "combined reporting," this brief by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the growing movement in the states to stop corporations from manipulating tax reporting by subsidiaries to evade state taxes.  It also highlights research showing that multinational corporations do not avoid locating in states with combined reporting requirements.

Diversity and access to education is a focus in a couple of reports on education:

  • A Failing Grade: High-Tuition/High-Aid - Like other states, Washington is considering adopting a "high tuition/high aid" model for financing higher education, but this report by the Washington Economic Opportunity Institute highlights that state universities that have adopted such an approach have experienced declines in enrollment by low-income and minority students, defection of top stude nts to private colleges, a decline in educational quality and rising debt by students.
  • The Rapid Growth and Changing Complexion of Suburban Public Schools - This Pew Hispanic Center report finds that 99% of the 3.4 million student boost in suburban school enrollment has been due to new Latino, black and Asian students. However, individual schools are still highly segregated with white students typically having only a modest boost in exposure to minority students in their own schools.

Who voted in the 2008 Election and voter's experiences and problems are covered in three reports:

  • The Census CPS Voting and Registration Supplement - Michael McDonald of the George Mason Univ. US Elections Project has analysis of the Census survey data on who voted and who was registered.  Headline findings are that African-American turnout jumped 4.9% while White turnout decreased 1.1%, putting African-American turnout only .9% below that of Whites; and while there were 9.5 million new registrations, the registration rate declined marginally.
  • The Census CPS - Project Vote Analysis - Doug Hess at Project Vote analyzes the Census survey and finds that young people of color made the strongest gains in voter participation in 2008, leading to a more representative electorate.
  • 2008 Survey of the Performance of American Elections - The major academic survey of election conduct and voting experience has been released for the 2008 election.  Key findings are that 4 million voters didn't vote because of adminstrative problems beyond their control; while almost 80 million eligible voters did not participate in teh election.

Drum Major Institute's Congressional Middle Class Scorecard highlights a number of key issues relevant to state leaders, including how their Congressional representatives voted on Bush’s SCHIP veto and House passage of the Neighborhood Stabilization Act

Report Takes A Closer Look at Increasing Child Poverty Rate - A new report from Child Trends finds that the poverty rate for children is at its highest point since 1998, resulting in a range of effects from low academic achievement to health and behavioral problems.  The report offers policy proposals for reducing poverty rates for children and their families.

Please email us leads on good research at


Marriage Equality Scores Historic Victories: Vermont and Iowa Become 3rd and 4th States to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Iowa Supreme Court Decision A Gay Marriage Surge: Public support grows, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll
Joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy

Human Rights Campaign (HRC)- Maps of State Laws & Policies
GLAD- Marriage Rights & Resources

Addressing Health Inequality with the Economic Recovery Package

Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies - The Potential of the Economic Stimulus Package to Address Health Inequality
Prevention Institute
and the Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies - Reducing Inequities in Health and Safety Through Prevention
Institute of Medicine - Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care
Progressive States Network - Eliminate Health Disparities
ProPublica - The Stimulus Plan: A Detailed List of Spending 

New Mexico Enacts Wage Law Enforcement, Joins National Trend

Progressive States Network- Promoting Wage Enforcement Laws as an Alternative to Anti-Immigrant Proposals 
Government Accountability Office- Wage and Hour Division’s Complaint Intake and Investigative Processes Leave Low Wage Workers Vulnerable to Wage Theft
National Employment Law Project - Enforcement of Workplace Standards

Report: Wave of Teacher Retirements Demands New Mentoring Program to Train Next Generation of Teachers

National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, Learning Teams:  Creating What's Next
Report Envisions Shortage of Teachers as Retirements Escalate
The Benwood Plan: A Lesson in Comprehensive Teacher Reform   

State Action Alert - Support Women's Access to Reproductive Services, Preserve State Access Laws

On March 10th, the Obama Administration issued a notice and comment rulemaking to fully rescind the Bush Administration’s HHS midnight regulation that undermines patients’ access to basic health care services and information. The Bush rule would allow health care workers who object to abortion and contraception to deny women care and information and would pre-empt many state laws

The deadline for submitting comments in support of protecting patients’ rights is midnight tonight. Please send your comments to For sample comments and more information, please visit Planned Parenthood’s website

Planned Parenthood - The Road to Overturning Bush's Attack on Women's Health
Progressive States Network - States File Suit Against Last Minute Bush Rule Limiting Women's Access to Reproductive Services    


The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Interim Executive Director
Caroline Fan, Immigration and Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Julie Schwartz, Broadband and Economic Development Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Health Care Policy Specialist
Julie Bero, Executive Administrator and Outreach Associate
Austin Guest, Communications Specialist
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

Please shoot us an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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