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January 3, 2010

The Top 10 LGBT stories of 2009

Now that 2010 is officially here, I thought it would be interesting to look back at 2009 to see how far we have come as an community.  For a lot of us (me included) 2009 was a horrible year; however, there were some positives that we can embrace.  This top 10 listing was culled from research done at the Bilerico Project blog and writer Bil Browning:

Number 10: Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga & Chaz Bono reveal themselves to the world!

Lambert, Lady Gaga and Bono

Lambert, Lady Gaga and Bono

So what happens when you don’t tuck properly – you get embarrassed (or at the least) you shock your adoring audience.  Thus the country’s revelation that Lady Gaga is bisexual or transgendered.  Did it hurt her career?  Not in the least, as she continues to sell records by the thousands.  Adam Lambert of American Idol fame came out of the closet and also caused quite a stir by simulating a sex act at the American Music Awards – thus confirming the double standard that its okay for straight folks to do it in public but gay folks can’t.  Finally, Chaz Bono came out stating he was beginning his “transition” thus helping to bring the issues of transgendered people to the forefront.
Number 9:  Stonewall Riots – history repeat itself once again.

The police are at it again

The police are at it again

The Stonewall Riots may have occurred in 1969 but that hasn’t stopped history from repeating itself again.  Texas ABC agents and Ft. Worth Police stormed the opening of a gay bar sending one man with brain injuries to the hospital.  Texas ABC ended up firing two of its agents for the incident while the Ft. Worth Police maintained the patron brought the injuries onto himself.  Is police brutality on the rise?  Is police brutality against gay folks on the rise?  Ask many people and they will tell you yes.

Number 8: Can California overturn Prop 8?

It was originally a 2008 story- California voters denying same-sex marriage.  In 2009, attempts were made and failed to overturn Prop 8 with the right hiring top gun lawyers and forming all kinds of new political action groups.   Will a new measure hit the ballots in 2010 or 2012?  Only time will tell.  The most important question to ask is “will the people of California finally realize that gay marriage is not something to be scarred of.”

Is Obama for Gay Rights?

Is Obama for Gay Rights?

Number 7: The Justice Department says DOMA is okay?

Although this created a stir in the gay community and a backlash against President Obama, it’s result comes as no surprise.  DOMA is legal and on the books; so when the Justice Department had to make a statement because of a legal challenge – surprise- they had to defend the current law.  Who would have thunk it!!  Somehow (of course) that defense was translated to Obama doesn’t want to help the LGBT community and all of a sudden, the community is up in arms.  Will DOMA get overturn on Obama’s watch?  Hopefully.  Will don’t ask, don’t tell get repealed?  Probably.  But 2009 was a nightmare for the country and you can only do so much.  I think our community needs to have just a little patience – after all – if McCain was in office – we would never get what we want.

Number 6:  The LGBT print media doesn’t recognize changing times.

The LGBT print media suffered from the same fate as its hetero counterparts.  Not recognizing that the public has steadily moved away (for years) from print media in favor of the more convenient online services.  It is surprising considering that many LGBT folks get their information exclusively online, you would think that publications like “The Washington Blade,” TWIT,” David’s Magazine,” “Southern Voice,” – would realize this and change their strategy.  Nope, didn’t happen and as a result many respected and important voices in the gay community were silenced.  11 papers and counting – not to mention that the advent of the gay book store is suffering as well (my partner and I have always wanted to run our own book store and cafe).  It’s all about the internet now!!

Number 5:  Congress says “yes” to HIV travelers.

When it comes to basic civil liberties for LGBT folks, it seems that the world gets it right before the U.S. does.  It took a while, but Congress this year finally repealed the ban on HIV + travelers to this country.  The ban represented one of the darkest moments for this country as we systemically discriminated against people with HIV while there was no scientific basis for the ban.  The rest of the world admonished us for it – Obama recognized it was wrong and ended it.

Number 4:  A March on Washington Returns!

I remember when I was a field producer in 1993 helping to produce a video for the  March on Washington in ’93.  It was an amazing experience considering I was struggling with coming out to myself.  I wanted to be in Washington in 2009 for this historic march – the National Equality March that brought over 250,000 people to the nation’s capital.  What was extraordinary about this march?  It was originally shunned by many, fearing cost and support.  But a grass-roots campaign and national support from celebrities got the ball running and in 6 short months, the march was put together at a cost south of $200,000.  Far cheaper and faster than any major march for LGBT rights on record.

Number 3:  Activist win the fight in Washington and Kalamazoo – but lose in Maine.

Of course, if you listen to the right – gay folks are out to ruin the nation and convert our children and their was not shortness of rhetoric in the 2009 year.  But a few victories were achieved.  Kalamazoo upheld their law outlawing discrimination against LGBT people.  Washington “upgrades” its domestic partnership law which includes many (if not all) of the benefits and protections afforded heterosexual couples.  Maine on the other hand, overturned the same-sex marriage law – leaving only Civil Unions in place.

Number 2:  And then there was 6?

So you are a gay couple and you want to get married.  A few years ago, you had to travel to Canada or take a trip to the Netherlands.  Not anymore. 6 states have allowed same-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont (despite the Republican Governor’s veto), New Hampshire and Washington DC.  Progress is slow but it’s coming.

Number 1:  Pro Gay Legislation makes history!

President Obama signed into law the first pro-LGBT piece of legislation in United States history when he put his signature on the

A Victory for the Shepard Family

A Victory for the Shepard Family

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The legislation was first proposed a decade before after Shepard, a gay college student from Wyoming, was beaten and tied to a fence to die. Contributor Cathy Renna was one of the first LGBT activists to reach Matthew’s hospital bedside and worked with his mother, Judy Shepard to ensure passage of the legislation. The new law has already been instrumental in forcing an investigation into the death of Puerto Rican teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado.

So there you have it – 10 issues that have made a difference in the live of gay and lesbian people all over the country.  Here’s hoping for bigger and better things in 2010.

Thomas

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December 29, 2009

Another country of firsts: Argentina’s First Same Sex Marriage

Argentina First Gay Marriage (Photo-Tierra del Fuego/Reuters)

Argentina First Gay Marriage (Photo-Tierra del Fuego/Reuters)

After a months-long legal battle, two gay men in Argentina became the first homosexuals to marry in Latin America, in a wedding that took place in the southernmost province, Tierra del Fuego, the only one governed by a woman.

“We’re the first, but we won’t be the last,” said Alex Freyre, who married José Maria Di Bello Monday in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego, more than 3,000 km south of Buenos Aires. “There are hundreds of legal appeals that we hope will have the same outcome,” he said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden with the US lagging behind with same sex marriage only being legal in Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut & Washington DC & New Hampshire. (Did you know there are 40 US states with laws on the books stating that marriage is between a man and women)?  In spite of these positive developments, this Argentina marriage represents the first gay marriage in Latin America.

Earlier this month, the Mexico City legislative assembly approved changes to the local civil code, replacing the clause that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman with one that says it is a union “between two people.” But actual weddings will not start taking place until the reform goes into effect next year.   For a highly catholic country, this is an amazing development.

Freyre and Di Bello’s wedding was held without any previous announcement in Ushuaia, after their first attempt in Buenos Aires fell through on Dec. 1.   In April, the couple, who belong to the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans (LGBT), had been denied a marriage license in Buenos Aires. Along with other members of the Federation whose applications for a license had been denied, they filed an appeal.  In November, Buenos Aires Judge Gabriela Seijas ruled in the case that the civil code’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, and ordered that the two men be granted a marriage license. The Buenos Aires government did not appeal the decision.

However, another court filed an injunction on the eve of the wedding that blocked it from taking place in Buenos Aires. A final decision is pending in the Supreme Court.   But Freyre and Di Bello were determined to get married this year. Aware that Tierra del Fuego Governor Fabiana Ríos had backed different initiatives in favour of same-sex marriage, they applied for a marriage license in that province, which was also denied.   But when they complained to higher-ranking authorities, the governor intervened, ordering that the initial Buenos Aires court ruling be honoured and that they be allowed to marry in the civil registry office.  “I didn’t do anything extraordinary. I merely complied with the law; the right of two people who had a ruling in their favour could not be denied,” said Ríos.

The campaign for “the same rights with the same names” was launched by the LGBT Argentine Federation before Freyre and Di Bello appealed to the courts. But since Seijas ruled in their favour, the movement has gathered momentum and more than 30 appeals have been filed around the country.

According to a survey by the pollster Analogías, 66 percent of respondents were in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, while 57 percent of those who defined themselves as Catholics rejected the Catholic Church stance against marriage between homosexuals.

I think this is great for Latin America and for Argentina and continues to show how the US is really behind the times when it comes to granting basic civil rights to all.

Thomas (Timeline information provided by IPS Reporter Marcela Valente)

December 4, 2009

Gay News update for December 4th

Obama White House supports World AIDS Day

Obama White House supports World AIDS Day

December 2nd – In conjunction with World AIDS Day, a two-story Red Ribbon was hung in front of the white house.  While it would be nice to say this reflects the change in administration at the White House, this is not without precedent.  Former President Bush is credited with the first red ribbon appearance in 2007.  While some say that Bush’s ribbon was more militaristic and clear-cut, other say Obama’s is more flowing and encompassing.  No matter what side of the ideological debate you fall, one thing is for certain – the White House is sending a clear message in its support of World AIDS Day.

December 3rd – Remember Actress Meredith Baxter from TV fame “Family Ties?”  Well she came out of the closet yesterday when news leaked that she was attending a gay cruise for women.  The choice to come out was not voluntary as she was outed by the paparazzi when candid pictures of her partner Nancy Locke appeared on Perez Hilton’s blog.  Baxter appeared on an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer to confirm the story and to state that she wished she had come out sooner stating that is was a personal as much as a political statement to come out.  Way to go Meredith!!

December 3rd – Gay marriage advocates were disappointed yet again when the New York Senate voted 24-38 to deny a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.  The vote was delayed by 2 hours as a passionate debate hit the floor.  As always is the case when same-sex marriage comes up for debate, members of the religious right and the Catholic and Orthodox Jewish population petitioned to have the bill fail.

December 4th – Watch what internet video blogger Philip Defranco (better known as Sexy Phil) has to say about the New York Senate’s recent vote against same-sex marriage.  Why can’t all hetero guys be like him? Open minded, smart, outspoken, a little geeky and always ready to poke fun at both gays and straights.

May 28, 2009

Where a White Ribbon!!

Levi (the very first Fortune 500 company to extend health benefits to “domestic partners of unmarried employees) is on the forefront again as they take a stand on gay marriage.  They have adopted the “White Knot Program” which encourages people to demonstrate their solidarity with marriage equality by wearing a small piece of knotted white ribbon on their clothing.  New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and comedienne Kathy Griffin have already publicly supported the move and many more have followed.

Levi’s hope in this new campaign is to spread a symbol of “love” versus fear in the current climate and debate on gay marriage and they are to be applauded for this effort.  No doubt, in some of the more conservative states – Levi will take a hit in the pocket book but the goal of universal marriage rights for all is an admiral one to take and a bold move by this company.  So take a minute a put a white ribbon on your clothing, your car anyway you can to show your support.

Marriage Equality - coming to state near you (Hopefully)

Marriage Equality - coming to state near you (Hopefully)

Thomas

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