The take away from Amanda Terkel’s piece on the outlook for LGBT initiatives for the next two years is that most of the action will be happening in the states and the courts, since the Republican majority in the 112th Congress is showing little interest in taking up equality legislation:
One branch of government that could hold major victories (or upsets) for the LGBT community: the judicial system. There currently are two major cases making their way through the courts, one challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, the other the constitutionality of California’s same-sex marriage ban. Either could end up at the Supreme Court.
There will also be action at the state level, with Maryland, New York and Rhode Island looking to advance marriage equality bills, and states like Tennessee, Arizona and Florida likely considering legislation to restrict adoption rights for same-sex parents.
To be sure, LGBT activists will still be pushing smaller initiatives like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to address bullying and harassment, the Older Americans Act and the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act, but the larger big ticket items (ENDA, DOMA) are on hold — at least temporarily. Equality groups now have a real opportunity to build awareness of these initiatives and work to support (or protect) the expansion of LGBT equality in the states.
As Terkel points out, Rhode Island and Maryland are poised to pass marriage-equality bills and Hawaii may very well secure a civil unions legislation. While the new Republican Governor in Iowa doesn’t seem very interested in recalling the remaining pro-marriage judges, Republicans in the New Hampshire legislature could have the two-thirds majority necessary to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a bill to repeal same-sex marriage, and Republican legislators in Wyoming could reintroduce a defense of marriage law that would bar the state from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states. Still, with support for equality steadily rising, it’s unclear how eager Republicans will be in litigating an anti-gay agenda. One would only hope that elected Democrats — I’m looking at you President Obama — will start using the increasing support to speak out in favor of an equality agenda.