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HRC Updates Its Work to Achieve Political Equality

Focuses on a Variety of Legislative & Electoral Issues

Spotlights on States, Lobbying, ENDA, Hate Crimes

Compiled by GayToday
Human Rights Campaign

Washington, D.C. March 4, 2002-The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released an update Monday reviewing its current work to achieve political equality in a variety of legislative and electoral issues across the United States. The HRC text released for Volume II, Issue 5 is as follows:

1. ENDA Hearing a Success

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle made a commitment to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to a vote on the floor of the Senate In a packed room on Wednesday, February 27, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the Employment Non Discrimination Act. This is the first hearing on ENDA since 1997. In his remarks, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., announced his intention to markup the legislation as soon as possible this spring and to request a vote on the Senate floor before the end of the 107th Congress.

At the Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles dinner February 16, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., also made a commitment to an ENDA vote before this session's end. To read the speech, please visit:

The hearing consisted of two panels. The first panel highlighted the corporate and labor support for the legislation. The second panel featured a civil rights attorney and a victim of sexual orientation discrimination. Special thanks to our coalition allies, especially the AFL-CIO, for all their support in making the hearing a success. For a full report on the hearing, please visit:

The following senators attended the hearing: Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; James Jeffords, I-Vt.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Babara Mikulski, D-Md.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; and Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.

Business witnesses who testified at the hearing included: Charles K. Gifford, president and CEO of Fleet Boston; Robert Berman, director of human resources and vice president of Eastman Kodak Co.; and Lucy Billingsley, founder and partner of the Billingsley Co.

The HRC Business Council played a critical role in developing contacts within corporate America that led to the unprecedented level of corporate support at the hearing. Business Council Co-Chair Ellen Braun coordinated our efforts with Capital One to obtain a letter of support from the company that was sent to Sen. John Warner, R-Va. Rick Schroder was our key ally inside Shell Oil Co., which submitted written testimony to the committee. And Scott Coors, a member of the Business Council for only one month, delivered an endorsement from the Coors Brewing Co.
2. New ENDA Co-Sponsor

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to gain momentum in the House of Representatives. With assistance from coalition allies, particularly labor allies at the AFL-CIO, Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, became ENDA's 190th cosponsor in the House on the day of the Senate hearing, February 27, 2002.

For a full list of House cosponsors, please visit:

For a full list of Senate cosponsors, please visit:
3. The Laramie Project and Expected Hate Crimes Vote

HRC has partnered with HBO to co-host nationwide pre-screenings of The Laramie Project. The Washington, D.C., event is March 5, and is also hosted by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore. Other pre-screening events are in Miami; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Boston.

The Laramie Project is a moving film about the murder of Matthew Shepard and the impact it had on Laramie, Wyoming. The film is based on a play written by Moises Kaufman and was selected as the opening-night film for the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. The film features an all-star cast including, Peter Fonda, Steve Buscemi and Christina Ricci. Kaufman both wrote and directed the show and will be at the Washington event, along with producers and other executives from HBO.

The Washington screening is particularly timely in that the Senate is expected to consider hate crimes legislation, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, S. 625, this spring. Sens. Kennedy and Smith are lead sponsors of the bill. For details on the legislation, please visit:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., re-affirmed his commitment to Senate passage of S. 625 before Memorial Day in a speech before HRC members and guests in Los Angeles on February 16. He also discussed the murder of Matthew Shepard and the work of David O'Malley, one of the law enforcement officers who handled the case. To read the speech, please visit:
4. HIV/AIDS Council Meeting Scheduled

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS has scheduled its next meeting for March 14-15, 2002. The council was established in 1995 by then President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to provide recommendations on the U.S. government's response to the AIDS epidemic. President Bush and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson renewed the council on July 19, 2001.

HRC continues to work on issues of importance to those living with HIV/AIDS. HRC Board of Directors member Phil Burgess, who lives in Chicago, serves on the council. For a full list of members of the council, please check out:
5. State Bill Tracking

HRC tracks state bills on GLBT issues around the country and works with state advocacy groups to advance GLBT supportive bills and defeat anti-gay bills. At least seven states -- Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Washington and Wisconsin -- have proactive GLBT safe schools or anti-bullying bills pending to include sexual orientation in schools' non-discrimination policies. In South Carolina, a bill is pending that would prohibit a public institution of higher learning, a public school or a school district from using "sexual orientation" as a category in its anti-discrimination policy. In two other states, California and Illinois, bills are pending that seek to keep schools from portraying lesbians and gays in any positive light. A similar bill was recently defeated in the Virginia Senate Health and Education Committee by a 7-7 vote with one abstention.

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Senate Majority Leader Addresses the Human Rights Campaign

The Legislative/Electoral Work of the Human Rights Campaign

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Related Sites:
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6. Spotlight on the States

State Sen. Ernie Chambers has declared that his bill, Legislative Bill 19 - which would sexual orientation to the state's existing employment non-discrimination act - will be his priority for the 2002 legislative session. Each state senator is allowed only one priority bill per session. If passed, this law would protect Nebraska's citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, with an exemption for religious organizations. HRC gave the GLBT statewide political group, Citizens for Equal Protection/Nebraska Advocates for Justice and Equality, a $5000 Equality Fund grant to pay for a lobbyist to advocate for L.B. 19.

Senate Bill 31 and House Bill 377 would amend the state's current hate crimes law to include sexual orientation as a protected class. This bill would allow courts to impose additional penalties if the prosecution proves that a crime was motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. In 2001, this bill passed the Alabama House before stalling in the Senate. S.B. 31 passed the State Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 21, 2002, by a 6-5 vote and will go before the full Senate for a vote. Alabama residents should contact their state senator by calling 800/499-3051 to urge him or her to support S.B. 31.

New York
The Dignity for All Students Act, Assembly Bill 2634, is expected to come up for a vote in the next week in the New York State Assembly. The bill would provide a statewide policy to prohibit discrimination and harassment, provide education for dealing with harassment to teachers and students, provide funding for schools to implement the policies, and collect data on bias-related incidents in schools and on campuses. This would be the first vote on A.B. 2634.

South Carolina
Senate Bill 904 would prohibit adoption and foster parenting by gay men, lesbians, bisexual persons, and persons who have been convicted of or pled guilty or no-contest to sodomy charges. This bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee Jan. 22, 2002.

H.B. 4746 is an anti-bullying bill that would require schools in Michigan to adopt an anti-bullying policy to prohibit bullying, harassment and intimidation based on sexual orientation in schools.. This bill and two other substitute bills that do not explicitly list harassment based on sexual orientation had a hearing February 28 in the Michigan House Education Committee.

West Virginia
The state's House Judiciary committee voted 14-10 on Tuesday, February 26, to "postpone indefinitely" the proposed bill to amend the state's hate crimes law to include sexual orientation and disability. This action effectively kills the bill for the remainder of the legislative session. To read the Charleston Gazette article, "House Judiciary Panel Kills Civil Rights Bill," please visit:

House Bill 88, the anti-gay "crimes against nature" bill, passed the Virginia House of Delegates February 5, 2002, by a 85-16 vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee then killed the bill by a 7-7 vote with one abstention.

For more information on these bills and how you can take action, visit
7. Lobby Your Representative

The next congressional recess is approaching and your representative will likely be in his or her district office from March 25 to April 5. HRC field organizers are working to make sure that members of Congress hear from their constituents on a range of GLBT issues while they are home. If you are interested in lobbying your representative during the recess, please e-mail the HRC field staff at, and include your name, address and representative's name, if you know it.

You don't need to be a lawyer, lobbyist or issue expert to participate in these meetings. You just have to care about the issues. HRC can teach you how to be an effective constituent advocate.
8. About HRC Political Equality Update

While the ways of Washington often seem slow and sometimes confusing, plenty of action occurs on issues of great importance to GLBT Americans. Bills are introduced. Committees conduct hearings. Allies pledge support. Opponents and supporters write "dear-colleague letters." Candidates declare their intention to run. And endorsements come down and history is made, all the while affecting our community. Similar activity occurs at the state level. HRC is helping to make progress locally through close partnerships with statewide GLBT advocacy groups.

With the HRC Political Equality , HRC hopes to keep interested parties aware of its work in the legislative, electoral and state arenas - with its audience consisting of HRC members, community activists, Capitol Hill staff, contributors and more.

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