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Based on social issues, N.M. & N.Y. rank as nation’s most liberal

WASHINGTON (BP)–New Mexico and New York are tied as the most liberal states in America based on their laws pertaining to homosexuality and abortion, according to a ranking released May 31 by three liberal advocacy groups meant to “encourage action against discriminatory legislation.”

Ohio and South Dakota are tied as the most conservative states, largely due to their restrictions on abortion.

“Mapping Our Rights: Navigating Discrimination Against Women, Men and Families,” online at www.mappingourrights.com, is a project by Ipas, an international abortion rights group based in Chapel Hill, N.C., the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.

States were assigned scores based on more than 20 indicators such as restrictions on abortion, recognition of same-sex partnerships and the availability of the “morning-after pill.” A clickable map on the website allows users to select a state and review specific information that led to the rankings.

“With the launching of Mapping Our Rights, the relationship between reproductive rights and the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is clear,” Jason Cianciotto, research director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, said in a news release.

“From the right to control our own bodies, to access to fertility technology, to the application of scientifically based approaches to HIV/AIDS, people of every sexual orientation and gender identity share the most basic human concerns and goals,” he added.

Though the advocacy groups in charge of the rankings would characterize states at the bottom of the list as the worst possible places to live, some in those states are quite pleased with their status.

“I’d have been disappointed if we’d finished any higher than last,” state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, a Republican from Watertown, S.D., told the Associated Press. He considers the ranking a “badge of honor” for his state, where the legislature recently passed a law banning abortions even in cases of rape and incest. The law has yet to go into effect, and it faces legal action if it does.

Ohio State Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican, expressed a similar opinion. His state has passed several bills restricting access to abortion, and in 2004 Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment banning “gay marriage” and all forms of legal recognition for same-sex couples.

“I think it’s a virtue that we’d be known as a traditional, family-friendly state,” Seitz told AP.

The idea for the map project arose after a 2005 meeting of the SisterSong Collective raised questions about Roe v. Wade’s relevance to black women.

“The privacy or ‘choice’ arguments in Roe v. Wade carry little meaning for those whose options are restricted by race, gender, sexuality or income,” the Mapping Our Rights website explains. “Roe v. Wade simply does not guarantee a full range of sexual and reproductive rights for everyone.”

To underscore the need for an awareness website, the three liberal advocacy groups warn that “the religious right and conservatives in the United States are imposing reactionary and anti-scientific restrictions on women, men and families” while “masquerading behind seemingly innocuous language, such as ‘family,’ ‘life’ and ‘unborn victims.’”

Following New Mexico and New York in the Top 10 most liberal states are New Jersey, Washington, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Hawaii, according to the rankings.

In addition to Ohio and South Dakota, the Top 10 most conservative states are Indiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kentucky, Utah, Nebraska and Missouri.

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