Sunday, January 01, 2006

A New Year... w/ new gay rights

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A post from The Equality MySpace Blog w/ Matt Hill: Equality MySpace LogoAn article was published today on News. The article outlines the many new rights which LGBT people gain as the new year comes rolling in. Four laws in California went into effect at midnight. One of those laws is the nation's first prohibiting healthcare discrimination against transgender individuals:
The Insurance Gender Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits insurance companies and health-care service plans from discriminating on the basis of gender in the creation or maintenance of service contracts, or the provision of benefits or coverage.
Another law, the Civil Rights Act of 2005, also come into effect and it prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender and marital status in Californian public accomodation. According to the article some of the types of businesses "subject to the law include shopping centers, mobile home parks, bars and restaurants, schools, medical and dental offices, hotels and motels, and condominium homeowners' associations. Two other pieces of California legislation also came into effect:
The third piece of legislation, the Death Benefits Rights for Retired Public Employees Act, allows domestic partners of public employees who retired prior to Jan. 1, 2005, when California's comprehensive domestic partnership law (AB 205) went into effect, to receive death benefits if the retiree dies before their partner. And the fourth law is the Property Tax Reappraisal Exclusion for Domestic Partners. It provides that a change in the title of property between domestic partners will be treated the same way a change in title of property between spouses is treated for property tax purposes. As a result, domestic partners will no longer face potentially enormous increases in their property taxes when their partner dies.
The State of Illinois also has a civil rights law which came into effect today. The Illinois law joins the company of 15 other states who have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law is also one of only seven such laws across the nation which bans discrimination based on gender identity. Proponents of the Illinois law had been working for decades to see the legislation pass; the first time such legislation was introduced into the State Legislature and debated was during the mid-70s. The final new rights for LGBT Americans were granted in Palm Beach County, Florida. At midnight, a new ordinance went into effect offering domestic partners of current and retired public employees the same benefits as married couples. According to the article:
The ordinance provides sick leave benefits, bereavement leave, long term disability, as well as health, dental vision, and life insurance. Dependent children on an employee’s domestic partner would also be eligible for insurance coverage.
With these new rights granted though, let us not forget that the movement toward equality is far from over. The only new rights given today are only legal in California, Illinois and Palm Beach County. People living outside of those jurisdictions and in areas without such laws, ordinances and public policies still do not have protections against discrimination or the offering of domestic partner benefits. If you live in California, Illinois or Palm Beach a good idea would be to call or write your representatives, thanking them for their work in helping to bring equality to LGBT Americans. Use these resources to help you:
  • California State Legislature - Contains links to the State Senate and Assembly, along with a handy-dandy tool to find your district and your representatives.
  • Illinois General Assembly - Also contains links to the State Senate and State House, along with "Legislator Lookup" where you can search for your representatives by district, name or your own home address.
  • Palm Beach County Government - The website of the Palm Beach County Government. Contains pictures of each County Commissioner and links to their district pages. There is a "District Locator" in the "Resident Information" section of their site.
Now, for those of you who may be reading this and saying, "Well, I don't live in those places... what shall I do?" I'll give you a few ideas. Go to and search for your City, County or State Government websites. For your city, just type in its name and the word "Government"; the same goes for your county. For your State Government, type in the name of your state, or commonwealth, and the word "Legislature". From there Google should pull up the valid links and you can go about finding your city, county or state representatives. I urge you to contact your representatives and let them know how you feel about LGBT equality. Let them know that you want your city, county and state to be places where all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender-identity are equal under the law and receive the same rights and benefits as others; including the right to be free from discrimination. The struggle for equality will never be won without the participation of America's citizen's. Believe it or not, your elected officials do listen to you... it is their job to do so. Speak your mind, respectfully and professionally, and your elected officials will listen. Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you will use some of the resources I've given you in helping to further LGBT equality in 2006! The website for the North Carolina General Assembly is located at Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,