Filed by: Bil Browning
December 31, 2010 5:00 PM
Every December, Alex and I get together and pick our top ten stories of the past twelve months. This year’s list sticks mostly to the political with only two stories standing out as non-governmental.
2010 stands out as a year where government started working for our community instead of against us. All three branches – legislative, executive and judicial – gave us large victories this year as we started to stride toward equality.
Honorable Mention: Cupcakegate
This Indianapolis story of discrimination started small but swept the mainstream media after a local bakery refused to serve a college LGBT group cupcakes for National Coming Out Day. The story grew after the state equality org and two pro-gay politicians backed the bigots. After an investigation by the city, the bakery agreed to abide by Indianapolis’ human rights ordinance and post a notice about the policy.
The complete top ten list is after the jump.
10. Hospital Visitation Regulations Changed
President Obama signed a memo in April directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations to allow hospital visitation rights for LGBT families. After reading about Janice Langbehn’s ordeal after a Florida hospital refused to allow her to see her partner as she was dying, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel brought it to the President’s attention. The new regulations were soon issued and President Obama called Langbehn to apologize for her treatment.
9. ENDA Dies In Congress
After two years of activism, daily phone calls, monthly promises that the mark-up is coming in just a few weeks, House and Senate committee hearings, and promises from Democratic leaders… ENDA died a slow death in Congress. Attention went elsewhere and several other important advances happened, but employment discrimination against LGBT people will have to be taken up by a future Congress.
8. Constance McMillan Tries to Go to Prom
After Mississippi teenager Constance McMillan asked to bring a female date to prom, her school started a bizarre dance of prejudice that culminated in the school hosting a fake prom for Constance, her date, and some developmentally challenged kids while the rest of the school partied it up elsewhere. McMillan got the last laugh though; she sued the school and left classes with a TV movie deal and a cash settlement, plus the knowledge that her old halls of learning are now the first public school district in the state with a strict policy prohibiting LGBT discrimination.
7. Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill
While news about Uganda’s proposed “Kill the Gays” legislation took the LGBT blogosphere by storm, it wasn’t until Rachel Maddow picked up the story for her MSNBC show that it gained national attention. Originally backed by several US religious right leaders, after the spotlight shone on the bill, most slunk away claiming they didn’t realize how far the proposed legislation will. While we talked about the bill, one persecuted refugee risked it all to tell his story, while another gay man met a grisly end.
6. Federal Court Rules Against DOMA
Two federal cases, one filed by GLAD and the other by the state of Massachusetts, were filed in 2009 against the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The trials occurred in early 2010 without as much fanfare as the Proposition 8 trial. Judge Joseph Tauro ruled in July that DOMA violates both the individual’s due process rights and the state’s right to determine who is married.
5. The Rise of GetEqual
GetEqual, the new direct action queer rights group, took center stage in 2010. Love them or hate them, they were the year’s most talked about LGBT organization. Whether they were chaining themselves to the White House fence, heckling the President, assisting young midwestern activists, or reorganizing their internal structures, the group found themselves in the headlines. While the group had many critics, they won some Bilerico folks to their side; Associate Editor Jillian Weiss became the group’s board chair while Editor-In-Chief Bil Browning was a cynic.
While many community members rejoiced in the group’s confrontational tactics and public squabbling with more established orgs, GetEqual leadership celebrated a large financial donation that kept the lights on all year and paid the staff. When Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal passed Congress and was signed by the President, GetEqual leaders Robin McGehee and Heather Cronk were invited guests and the group was often credited by bloggers and pundits with salvaging the situation with their loud and boisterous demonstrations.
4. Proposition 8 Struck Down by Federal Judge
The beginning of 2010 saw Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California after it was legal for several months, go to trial. With broadcasting banned, live-blogging and Twitter kept those on the outside up-to-date on what the witnesses were saying and the legal arguments that were made. The same-sex marriage side had more and better witnesses than the straights-only side, although that doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to LGBT issues.
In June, Judge Vaughn Walker handed down a decision against Proposition 8 with eighty findings of fact, including that marriage is civil, not religious; that the state has no interest in asking gays to turn straight; and that gays have a long history of being victims of discrimination. The named defendants have chosen not to appeal but Religious Right organizations are looking for a way to overturn the ruling.
3. DC Starts to Grant Same-sex Marriages
Mayor Adrian Fenty signed DC’s same-sex marriage law in December 2009 after the district granted domestic partnerships for year and recognized out-of-state marriages for months, and the marriages started in March. Under Democratic leadership Congress didn’t block the bill and several attempts by the Religious Right to get a ballot referendum on the law failed as several courts ruled that a referendum would discriminate.
Bilerico contributor Michael Crawford led the battle to win marriage in DC. Contributor Terrance Heath was one of the first people to be married when he wed his longtime partner on the first possible day.
2. LGBT Teen Suicides & the It Gets Better Project
After several LGBT young people committed suicide, many news outlets started reporting on anti-gay bullying in schools. After blogger Dan Savage said he wished he’d had 5 minutes to tell one of the kids that “it gets better,” readers started sending in their own short videos repeating the simple message. Soon a public awareness campaign was in full swing with support from several celebrities and Democratic politicians – including President Obama. The obligatory dance remix quickly followed.
1. The Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’
DADT repeal was as good as dead in the beginning of the year until it got taken up and covered daily by Rachel Maddow. Dan Choi came out on her show and a string of discharged LGB soldiers made the case against the rule that requires them to keep silent about their sexuality or lose their jobs. Momemtum for repeal built in both LGBT and progressive communities.
President Obama pushed for several administrative changes to DADT enforcement that made discharging anyone difficult while the Department of Justice defended the law in court against two successful challenges. The Log Cabin Republicans won a ruling against the ban at the federal level in a case that’s headed for appeal, and Margaret Witt won her case against the military and will be reinstated in the military.
A compromise deal was proposed for DADT repeal that made it dependent on a Pentagon study of implementation, a study that later found that DADT repeal wouldn’t have much of an impact on the military. The Senate failed to pass the deal as part of the defense authorization bill in December, but passed it one week later as an independent bill with three votes from Republicans. It’s expected to be several months before it’s safe for LGB service members to come out.