Wyoming: “The Inequality State”

Wyoming’s latest opportunity to prove that it’s state motto is even partially true has dissolved.

The “Equality State” has rejected even domestic partnerships for same-sex partners after bringing it to the House floor yesterday. From the Casper Star-Tribune:

Seal of Wyoming

Seal of Wyoming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wyoming House has shot down a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to create domestic partnerships carrying most of the legal rights of conventional marriage.

The House voted 35-to-24 against the bill. It marked the first time that pro-gay legislation reached a full floor debate in the state Legislature.

Proponents of the bill said that it would grant same-sex couples as well as other citizens a way to share their property and make health care decisions for each other.

Opponents warned that the bill threatened to open the state to legal action seeking to force it to approve same-sex marriage.

A separate bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That bill now heads to the full Senate.

Wyoming, the state where Matthew Shepard was tragically murdered- now has an opportunity to outlaw discrimination. I will be delighted to see it happen- but it doesn’t seem very likely at this point.

Sad. If I were a Wyoming legislator, I’d introduce a bill to change the motto to “The Inequality State”.

Better Know a Legislator: Sen. Robyn Driscoll and Sen. Janna Taylor

In today’s edition of Better Know a Legislator we’ll look at the records of two women who served 8 years in the House, and are now serving their first session in the Senate: Sen. Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings) and Sen. Janna Taylor (R-Dayton).

Sen. Robyn Driscoll, SD 26

Sen. Robyn DriscollSen. Robyn Driscoll is one of the unsung heroes of the Montana legislature. A strong and steady leader, Robyn says what Montana progressives are thinking and she never backs down in the face of opposition from the right. These strengths as well as her positive demeanor are why her colleagues in the Senate elected her as one of their whips for the session.

Sen. Driscoll was one of the true hero’s of the infamously bad 2011 House Judiciary Committee. In that committee women and students were constantly demonized, but Robyn never let the horrible comments of legislators and the right-wing public go unchallenged.

Robyn also was a hero on the House floor. One of her most notable actions on the floor was introducing an amendment to a Republican bill that would require trans-vaginal ultrasounds before a woman could have an abortion. Her amendment would require that men undergo an EKG heart health test before they are able to get a prescription for Viagra or other drugs to combat erectile dysfunction. Needless to say Republican heads spun. This amendment was effective in pointing out the insanity of the bill and helped to kill it on the House floor.

This session, Robyn will serve on the Senate Juciary, Rules, Energy & Telecom, and Education & Cultural Resources Committees.

Sen. Janna Taylor, SD 6

Sen Janna TaylorLike Sen. Driscoll, Sen. Janna Taylor is also serving her first session in the Senate. While in the House, Taylor served as the Speaker Pro-Temp in the disastrous 2011 legislative session.

During the 2011 session, Taylor’s hypocrisy was on full display. She led the charge against federal funds that were intended to help fund programs to benefit students, people with disabilities, seniors, rural health care providers and low-income Montanans. However, while leading this charge, she and her husband helped themselves to more than a million dollars in federal farm subsidies. When challenged about her hypocrisy, instead of taking responsibility for her actions she said, “I can control state tax dollars, but I can’t control federal tax dollars. You’d have to talk to Tester and Baucus about federal tax policy.” Congratulations Janna, for living up to your party’s mantra of “taking responsibility for your actions.”

Taylor also received national notoriety for her comments against the abolition of the death penalty. While testifying against the bill, Taylor said that we had to keep the death penalty because if we got rid of it, we’d have no way to punish HIV-positive murderers, who are currently in jail serving a life-sentence, who spit spit-balls at guards. I’m not joking.

Is This The Year Montana Comes into the 20th Century?

To put it lightly, Montana’s legislature has not been exactly progressive on LGBT issues. In fact, as far as I can tell, there has never been a pro-LGBT law that has EVER passed the legislature to be signed in to law.

With a bright shiny new legislature sworn in and a Democrat holding on to the governor’s office, is it possible that 2013 will be the first legislative victory for LGBT people in Montana?

As many folks know, here in Montana we still have a law on the books declaring that homosexual acts are a form of criminal behavior. While this law has been struck down by the courts, the law has remained on the books, despite the fact that it has been unenforceable for nearly 2 decades.

During the 2011 session, a bill to remove this language from the books actually passed the Senate, and received a majority of votes in the House, but because it had to be “blasted” out of the disastrous House Judiciary Committee it required 60 votes, which it didn’t receive.

With Democrats picking up 7 seats in the House, along with one or two clearly equality-minded Republicans being elected, it seems that if the bill can pass the House Judiciary committee it’ll almost certainly pass into law, and even if House Judiciary tables the bill, there is still a decent chance it would receive the 60 votes necessary to be blasted out of that committee.

While, I don’t want to count chickens before they’re hatched, but it appears that the bill is poised to pass the Senate again easily, so I’m going to focus on the House. Judging from past votes, sponsorships or statements, here is how I see the current vote break-down on the issue in the House:

“Yes” votes: 45

B. Bennett, Boland, Brockie, Calf Boss Ribs, Clark, Coffin, Court, Curtis, Dudik, Eck, Fitzpatrick, Gibson, Gursky, Hill, Hollenbaugh, Hoven, Hunter, Jacobson, Lieser, Lynch, McCarthy, Neill, Peppers, MacDonald, McChesney, McClafferty, McNally, Mehlhoff, Miller, Noonan, Pease-Lopez, Pierson, Pomnichowski, Price, Schreiner, Schwaderer, B. Smith, Squires, Steenberg, Swanson, Whitford, Williams, Wilmer, Wilson, Woods

Likely “Yes” votes: 8

Ankney, Connell, Cook, Cuffe, Greef, Knudsen, Lavin, Welborn

“No” votes: 27

Bangerter, G. Bennett, Berry, Blasdel, Blyton, Brodehl, Edmunds, Ehli, Flynn, Hansen, Harris, Hollandsworth, Howard, Ingraham, Kary, Kerns, McNiven, O’Hara, O’Neil, Osmundson, Randall, Regier, Reichner, C. Smith, Vance, Warburton, Washburn

Likely “No” votes: 5

Doane, Fiscus, Laszloffy, K. White, Wagoner

Unclear: 15

Ballance, Galt, Glimm, Hagan, Hagstrom, Halvorson, Hertz, D. Jones, Lang, Lenz, D. Moore, Redfield, Salomon, Shaw, Zolnikov

Organizations such as the Human Rights Network and the Montana ACLU will be working hard all session long to get as many votes as possible for this bill. You can help by contacting the legislators that are in the “Unclear” category, or in the “Likely Yes” category to urge them to remove the stain of this law from our books.

Removing this law from our books would be a small victory, but it is a victory nonetheless and it is a good way to get wavering legislators to get a pro-equality vote under their belt.

 

We’re Homo wners!

NOT our furniture

With all of the emotional upheaval of the last 10 days, I neglected to mention that Ken and I signed the papers on a beautiful house on the West Side of Bozeman. We’ll be moving in slowly- over the next 3 weeks, but it’s the first house I’ve ever (half) owned and we’re exhausted and excited and nervous.

I had a little moment with my Dad yesterday as we were moving in the dining room table- my Mom never got to see the house- and I missed being able to share that moment with them both.

But I’m sure we’ll feel her around….

A Little Madness In The Spring

 

Was this line from Emily Dickinson the inspiration for the Montana Legislature this year? Or NCAA Ball? Or meteorologists? We may never know.

But the poem’s worth a listen:

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!

I have our house inspection report this morning, and then back to Butte to put Sars’ house on the market. Tomorrow is St Paddy’s Day in The Mining City (I’ll be safely at home, thank you) and then the O Sullivan Estate Sale Part Deux on Friday and Saturday.

How’s your week shaping up?