As the Marianas LGBTQ+ community wraps up Pride Month, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Reps. Christina “Tina” Sablan and Leila Fleming Staffler thank the individuals who joined them at the Pride Meeting and Karaoke Night they hosted in mid-June. The event included a dinner conversation about how to make the Marianas a safer, more equitable place for the LGBTQ+ community, and a celebration of Pride Month with karaoke.
“It was a fun and thoughtful evening, and Leila and I especially appreciated the discussion about issues affecting LGBTQ+ youth and how we can better support our young people in our schools and community,” said Sablan. “The meeting also gave us the opportunity to share information and answer questions about policies we’ve worked on and will continue to champion that are of special significance to the LGBTQ+ community.”
Expanding civil rights protections is a key part of Sablan’s and Staffler’s vision for the Commonwealth. Foundational to the Sablan-Staffler platform is ensuring equal protections under the law and equitable access to social and economic opportunities for everyone in the Marianas. Their plans include pushing for the enactment of the CNMI Equality Act, to guarantee equal protections under the law regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and to include prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and in the CNMI’s existing nondiscrimination policies, including the civil service, health insurance, housing, and jury service statutes. Sablan and Staffler also support the enactment of policies to make it easier for transgender individuals to match the gender markers in their identification documents to their gender identities.
House Bill 22-87, known as the CNMI Equality Act, and H.B. 22-86, which provides an update to the CNMI’s vital statistics law to ease the process for changing gender markers on birth certificates, passed the House of Representatives unanimously on June 14, 2022. Both bills were authored by Sablan and cosponsored by Staffler.
“Last year, the House Health and Welfare Committee hosted Pride Talks, the CNMI’s first legislative policy roundtable dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues, and we met with advocates from the LGBTQ+ community,” Sablan said. “The CNMI Equality Act and House Bill 22-86 are the direct results of those conversations.”
The House recently passed another critical piece of legislation that Tina and Leila championed: H.B. 22-80, to improve and expand access to mental healthcare, including specialized services not currently available in the Marianas, by enabling the CNMI to join the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact, or PsyPact. The need for specialized mental health services for Marianas’ LGBTQ+ people, including youth, was another issue highlighted at last year’s Pride Talks.
“Just as gender equality and the well-being of LGBTQ+ people are top priorities for us in the House Health and Welfare Committee, they will continue to be priorities in a Sablan-Staffler administration,” said Staffler, who is the committee’s vice chairperson.
“Respect and love for one another are core values of our island cultures. Tina and I believe that these values must be reflected in our policies as well,” she added.
To view Sablan’s and Staffler’s platform and learn more about the candidates and their campaign, visit www.sablanstaffler.com. (PR)