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New Gay Rights Laws Take Effect in 2012

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on January 04, 2012 8:49 AM

It's the new year, and new gay-rights laws are now in effect in a handful of states. Here's a summary of the most significant changes.

Civil Unions

Hawaii and Delaware are now the seventh and eighth states to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot.

A new Delaware law allows for same-sex civil unions with the same legal protections and benefits as marriage, USA Today reports. Delaware's governor signed the bill in May, after both houses of the legislature approved the bill by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Hawaii's governor signed his state's civil-unions bill in February. Hawaii's law also gives gay and lesbian couples the same state rights as married couples, the Associated Press reports.

Divorce

In the wake of civil unions, one state has enacted a new gay-rights law regarding divorce. California's state courts can now grant divorces to same-sex couples who were married in California, but currently live in another state that won't allow for same-sex divorce, the Alameda Sun reports.

Washington, D.C., is set to consider a similar law this month, The Washington Post reports.

Employment & Housing Discrimination

California's Fair Employment and Housing Act now covers gender identity and gender expression, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The change means most employers' dress codes must give workers leeway to dress according to their gender identity, San Diego's KGTV reports.

Education

Also in California, a new gay-rights law requires schools to teach students about gay history, including how gays and lesbians have contributed to society, KGTV reports. Teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays are now prohibited.

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