Equality news from around the US
Del. governor takes oath for second term, hints at legislation to legalize gay marriage
Randall Chase, Associated Press
Dover, Del. (AP) — Gov. Jack Markell was sworn into his second term in office Tuesday, saying he's ready to build on the accomplishments of his first four years leading Delaware and hinted that could include legalizinggay marriage.
"The work we have done together these past four years is just the beginning, and that work continues, starting today," Markell said in an inaugural address after taking the oath of office just before 11:30 a.m.
Markell gave no specifics on his agenda for the next four years, but said he would continue working to improve public schools, create jobs and protect the environment.
Hinting of his previously announced support for legalizing gay marriage in the state, Markell also said he would work to "advance the cause of liberty, equality and dignity in our time."
Two Wyoming GOP lawmakers support gay marriage proposals
JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Two Republican lawmakers are supporting proposals to either allow gay marriage or same-sex civil unions in Wyoming.
The Jackson Hole Daily (http://bit.ly/VGWPMD ) reported Tuesday that Reps. Keith Gingery and Ruth Ann Petroff of Jackson are supporting the proposals from Democratic Rep. Cathy Connolly of Laramie.
"It's a basic human rights and fairness issue," Petroff said. "It's a basic constitutional issue. There should just be no reason why same-sex couples shouldn't have the same rights as everyone else."
The bills were introduced late Monday afternoon.
House Bill 169 would allow gay marriage by changing the state's definition of marriage to a civil contract between "two natural persons" rather than a contract between "a male and a female person."
The other measure, House Bill 168, would create civil unions and allow same-sex couples to be treated as spouses under all state rules and laws.
Va. House confirms state's first openly gay judge
Bob Lewis, AP Political Writer
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's House of Delegates voted Tuesday to confirm Tracy Thorne-Begland as the state's first openly gay jurist, resolving a simmering social issue that last spring opened not only a deep partisan rift, but also a division among Republicans.
Without debate, the House voted 66-28 with one abstention and five delegates not voting to confirm Thorne-Begland, a former Navy pilot who left the military after disclosing his sexual orientation and became a prosecutor for a six-year term in Richmond General District Court.
He also won easy confirmation with 28 votes in his favor in the state Senate, where Democrats and Republicans hold 20 seats apiece. There was no debate about Thorne-Begland's merits as a jurist, but confusion over parliamentary protocols and Senate voting traditions resulted in the vote being taken three times.
On May 12, in a vote taken at 1:13 a.m. at the end of a contentious 13-hour special session, Thorne-Begland fell 18 votes short of the necessary majority of 51 in the House, and was subsequently appointed as an interim judge by a Virginia court.
Puerto Rico to consider anti-discrimination bill
San Juan, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's legislature is expected to approve a long sought-after bill that would make it a crime to discriminate against people based on their gender or sexual orientation.
The bill was submitted Tuesday by Senator Ramon Luis Nieves of the Popular Democratic Party, which gained control of the Senate and House of Representatives after November's general election.
The bill aims to protect people in the U.S. territory from being discriminated at work, in public places, and during transactions including renting or selling property.
"A human being's dignity cannot be violated," said Nieves, who was flanked by supporters including Pedro Peters Maldonado, a San Juan legislator who is Puerto Rico's first openly gay elected official.
A similar proposal was approved by the House of Representatives in recent years, but was rejected by the Senate, which was then controlled by the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.
Human rights organizations have long demanded such a bill, saying that many gay, lesbian and transgender people in the conservative U.S. territory are at the mercy of homophobic attitudes. Most government departments already have their own anti-discriminatory policies, but human rights activists say they are often not enforced.
The bill comes a week after another legislator submitted a bill demanding that all partners, regardless of their sexual orientation or civil status, be covered by domestic violence laws.
Legislators are expected to debate both bills in upcoming weeks.