LGBTQ+ groups hold meetings to discuss legislative priorities

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BENNINGTON — LGBTQ+ advocates have organized public meetings around the state as they prepare to push certain proposals in the state Legislature.

The meetings sought to understand the needs and concerns of Vermonters who identify as LGBTQ+, or LGBTQIA, an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual.

One of the town-hall-type meetings, held at Bennington College on Nov. 9, drew around 40 attendees including students, medical professionals and politicians.

The discussion included how to identify "safe and affirming" health care providers, whether there exists senior homes and youth shelters for LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as the importance of conducting training on LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace and public offices.

These were topics that also had been brought up in the other town gatherings, said Keith Goslant, statehouse liaison for the LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont, who co-facilitated the discussions. The other meetings were held in Montpelier, St. Johnsbury, Brattleboro, Burlington and Rutland between Oct. 30 and Nov. 16.

"This is the first time these regional forums have been done in Vermont," Goslant said in an interview following the Bennington meeting, which was hosted by the local group Queer Connect Inc.

The LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont, founded in 2017, plans to hold these multi-town meetings at least twice a year as part of its work in developing the LGBTQ+ people's legislative priorities.

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"Just prior to the legislative session so we can talk about, 'OK, what are the initiatives that we should be advancing," Goslant said, "then in the spring after the session has adjourned so we can then come back and say, 'OK, this is what we really got, and this is how it impacts on your life.'"

The Vermont House of Representatives and Senate will reconvene Jan. 7 and work till May.

The legislative proposals that the Alliance intends to advocate in the next General Assembly include banning the use of what the group called "gay/trans panic defenses." The National LGBT Bar Association describes this as a legal tactic in which a criminal defendant asks a jury to find the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity to blame for the defendant's violent reaction — in some cases involving murder.

This ban has already become law in eight states, including Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island. In Vermont, similar legislation has not yet been drafted, according to the Alliance.

The group plans to also push for the passage of a bill that would establish a 24-hour waiting period for handgun purchases as a suicide prevention measure. In addition, it supports the paid family and medical leave, as well as raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 .

Sen. Brian Campion (D-Bennington), who attended the LGBTQ+ meeting in town, encouraged attendees to get in touch with their legislators to talk about the issues that are important to them and inform them of upcoming meetings.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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