Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ten Years Of Progress

You know, even though we [and by We, I mean I] rant and rage about the inequities facing the LGBT community and the continuing fight we have on our hands for simple equality, we have seen some progress in the last ten years, and we ought to stop and reflect on that progress and know that we can build upon that, improve upon that.....

So, here are the Top Ten Gay Rights moments of the last ten years:

10. Bishops Who Break Glass Ceilings.
First there was the election of openly gay Bishop Eugene Robinson in 2003, which sent enough shock through the U.S. Episcopal Church that the denomination placed a hold on ordaining LGBT bishops for several years. Conservative elements within the Church responded to Bishop Robinson's ordination with contempt, and some individual dioceses broke from the U.S. Church. But Bishop Robinson remains to this day one of the most beloved LGBT religious leaders around. He'll soon be joined by another openly LGBT bishop, Rev. Mary Glasspool, who was just elected an auxiliary bishop for the Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church. Oh, and did we mention that the Lutheran Church in Sweden elected the world's first lesbian Lutheran Bishop, too?

9. From Portia to Adam, with Love.
What began as a decade with just a handful of out celebs (Ellen, Rupert....Ellen and Rupert), has become a decade where out celebrities are making a huge impact. Portia de Rossi. Adam Lambert. Neil Patrick Harris. Wanda Sykes. Clay Aiken. Rachel Maddow. Chris Colfer. Jane Lynch. Lance Bass. Mika. Suze Orman. Ron Livingston (Kidding, Ron! Don't sue us!). The list goes on and on. And when it comes to the number of LGBT-themed television shows and movies, this decade has had some of the best. Brokeback Mountain became so popular the Global Language Monitor named the phrase one of the most popular of the decade, and Milk won a whole host of Oscars last year, to name a few. And who can forget the LGBT characters in Six Feet Under, Glee, Ugly Betty, Queer as Folk, The L Word, Modern Family, and more. If the 1990s were defined by Ellen's "I'm Gay" statement, this decade of entertainment was defined by how many doors shows like Ellen opened up.

8. Goodbye to the HIV Travel Ban.
Though it's officially still in place until December 31, 2009, the Obama administration made good on its promise to do away with the HIV travel ban. The ban, which had been in effect since 1987, prevented HIV-positive foreigners from traveling into the country. For years that meant HIV-positive people being separated from their loved ones and relatives, and it also meant that important international HIV/AIDS conferences couldn't be hosted on U.S. soil. But come January 2010, that's all about to change. And in due course, this past World AIDS Day U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that once again the U.S. will host the International AIDS Conference, set for 2012. Good stuff, and an important victory for organizations like Immigration Equality who worked tirelessly to lobby for a repeal of the ban.

7. The Decade-Long Fight to Expand Hate Crimes Laws.
Judy and Denis Shepard ended the 1990s on the news that their son, Matthew Shepard, had been murdered in Wyoming because of his sexual orientation. Ten years later, after working with Congress and politicians inside the Beltway, the Shepards were at the White House the day that President Obama signed legislation expanding federal hate crimes laws to include protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. That's called changing history, and changing hearts and minds. With upwards of 1,700 reported hate crimes committed last year on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, this law couldn't have been passed soon enough.

6. The Emergence of the LGBT Blogosphere.
Where would we be without Pam's House Blend? Or Towleroad? Joe.My.God. AmericaBLOG. The Bilerico Project. Open Left. Queers United. Yup, LGBT new media has shaped this decade, in part because of its expanded coverage of everything LGBT. But also in part because of its ability to jettison support, and organize quickly, to create action. This year's National Equality March is one example. But so, too, is the work to get a Tim Horton's franchise to stop sponsoring anti-gay organizations, or Live Nation to drop anti-gay performers. And let's not forget that it was LGBT bloggers who broke major political news this decade, exposing Rep. Mark Foley's page-flirting ways, or Sen. Larry Craig's penchant for Minneapolis airport bathrooms.

5. Decriminalize This.
International gay rights broke major ground these past ten years, with countries like Spain, South Africa and Canada legalizing same-sex marriage, to countries like India making major moves to decriminalize sodomy. More than five dozen countries also signed on to a UN statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, one of the largest showings of support ever by the UN in regards to LGBT rights.

4. Fighting Homophobia Where it Starts.
The explosion of Gay-Straight Alliances at middle schools and high schools around the country has been a major boon for LGBT rights, fighting homophobia where it starts -- at a young age, inside classrooms, on playgrounds, and in gym locker rooms. Today, GLSEN (Gay, Straight, Lesbian Education Network) estimates that there are over 4,000 Gay-Straight Alliances throughout the country, working to improve school climates for LGBT students. Oh, and that's not to mention the dozens of queer studies programs that have popped up at universities throughout the country over the past ten years, making this a very good decade on the education front.

3. Johanna, We Love You.
She may have one of the hardest names to spell in the entire world, but Johanna Sigurdardottir is a name for the history books. After Iceland's government essentially collapsed, Sigurdardottir became the country's Prime Minister -- and in so doing, became the first openly LGBT world leader of the modern era. For all those folks wondering if an LGBT person can ever be President, look no further than Iceland. The world has taken notice, too, with Forbes Magazine ranking Sigurdardottir as one of their top 100 most powerful women in the world.

2. Lawrence v. Texas.
Who would have thought that the Supreme Court that gave us George W. Bush would also be the Supreme Court to strike down U.S. sodomy laws. But sure enough, in a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled in 2003 that laws prohibiting sodomy were a relic of the times, and inconsistent with the rights afforded all Americans. As the judges put it in their opinion, "the intimate, adult consensual conduct at issue here was part of the liberty protected by the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment's due process protections." In other words? The U.S. Constitution doesn't want the government regulating consensual bedroom, or even kitchen table, activity. A huge decision, with major national implications.

1. Marry Me.
No matter what your thoughts on marriage are, there's no denying that this decade was the decade of gay marriage. First Massachusetts, then Connecticut, then Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire. California and Maine figure in there, too, of course, though anti-gay ballot initiatives have temporarily moved them from the list. By the end of 2009, we might also be adding New Jersey (cross your fingers), and in early 2010, it looks like we'll be adding the District of Columbia. That's over ten percent of the entire country. Sure, a state-by-state strategy for marriage equality still keeps a number of federal benefits away from LGBT couples. But winning in these states have been major victories, launching national conversations about same-sex marriage. Most of us are ending this year thinking that when it comes to marriage equality, it's a matter of "when," not "if." I don't know how many of us were saying that ten years ago.

But let's not rest on these laurels, but let's feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for the things we've done and the way the world has changed in the last ten years. And let's use this momentum to carry us forward toward full equality under the law.


Michael Rivers said...

Very good list. Sometimes it's easy to loose track of the progress we've made!

Kyle said...

Bob a terrific outline of our progress this decade. Facing forward and ready to go and get things done!

Wonder Man said...

let's keep it up

dmappin said...

Good stuff! Great to see where we've been and where we're heading.

I sure hope DADT is on that list the next time around! DOMA too (though that seems a bit unlikely at the moment).

Mark in DE said...

You're right, we shouldn't forget about the successes. I appreciate your contributions.