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CIVIL LIBERTIES WATCH.

A Mandate for Intolerance

The 2000 elections in the United States saw a number of initiatives focusing on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) issues on the ballot across the nation. Two constituted major defeats for equal rights for this segment of U.S. society that constitutes about 4 percent of the overall electorate.

Voters in Maine narrowly rejected an amendment to that state's Human Rights Act that would have made Maine the twelfth state in the United States to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to a 1999 national survey, 74 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of Independents, and 49 percent of Republicans support anti-discrimination laws.

Voters in Nebraska and Nevada overwhelmingly approved measures against GLBT people and their families. In Nebraska, voters approved a proposal to outlaw same-sex marriages, civil unions, and government recognition of domestic partner benefits. In Nevada, voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage. (Under the Nevada constitution, this latter ban must be approved again at the ballot box before becoming law.)

In light of these setbacks, Elizabeth Toledo, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said: "The bad news is that, when the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people are subject to the will of a transitory, election-day majority, we still face uphill battles, sometimes against tremendous odds."

A Defeat for the Right

Despite these unfortunate rejections of equal rights for all, the 2000 elections produced some legislative and political gains. Voters in Oregon defeated a ballot proposal that would have prohibited all positive or neutral mention of homosexuality in that state's public schools.

Measure 9--misleadingly named the "Student Protection Act"--would have required public schools to remove scientific, factual books from school libraries, prohibit counseling and referrals for GLBT students, ban medically accurate AIDS education, and prevented teachers from teaching respect and tolerance for alternative lifestyle choices. The measure was heavily supported by religious right activists, but a well-organized "Oregon No on 9 Campaign" ensured the initiative's defeat by over 30,000 votes.

Representative Gains

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund (GLVF) reports that openly gay and lesbian candidates scored several historic wins at the polls on November 7, especially at the state legislative level. Three-quarters of the candidates endorsed by the fund prevaiied. But most note worthy, perhaps, were the state legislative victories in California, Georgia, and Michigan--three of the thirty-nine states that don't currently protect their citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation. When the ballots were counted, California had doubled its gay and lesbian state representation, while Georgia and Michigan had their first openly gay or lesbian lawmakers. The win by Karla Drenner in Georgia is particularly noteworthy, as it is the first win in the traditionally conservative Deep South. According to Brian K. Bond, GLVF executive director, "State legislatures are increasingly key to securing equal rights for all Americans regardless of sexual orientation."

At the federal level, incumbents Jim Kolbe (Republican--Arizona) and Tammy Baldwin (Democrat--Wisconsin) retained their seats in the House of Representatives.

The GLBT Choice

In the race for the presidency, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals voted overwhelmingly for Al Gore. Exit polls conducted by the Voters News Service show Gore receiving 70 percent of the GLBT vote, George Bush garnered 25 percent, and 4 percent went to Ralph Nader.

Karen Ann Gajewski is an editor at the Humanist.
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Humanist Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Gajewski, Karen Ann
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:556
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