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National news in 2010
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 5565 times since Wed Jan 5, 2011
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It certainly was an eventful year for the LGBT community on the national front. (Do George Rekers, Constance McMillen and Dan Savage ring a bell?) Here is the list of national highlights and lowlights for 2010 (in chronological order):

—Transgender advances: President Obama appointed transgender individuals Dylan Orr and Amanda Simpson. Simpson, 49, is a native of Chicago and began work Jan. 5 as senior technical advisor in the Bureau of Industry and Security. In a related development, the Obama administration, through the Office of Personnel Management, started to list gender identity among the classes protected by federal Equal Employment Opportunity policies.

—Sworn in: Annise Parker, 53, was formally sworn in as the 61st mayor of Houston, Texas. She officially became the first openly gay person to be elected as mayor of one of the country's five most populated cities.

—Change in New Hampshire: New Hampshire became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont.

—What can Brown do for you?: Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was expected to assume the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat—but she was upset by Republican Scott Brown, dashing hopes for immediate advancement on measures of interest to the LGBT community. However, Brown was one of the few Republicans who voted for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in December.

—AIDS council named: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the appointment of 24 new members to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). Among those named were actress Rosie Perez, The Black AIDS Institute Executive Director Phill Wilson and Dartmouth College President Jim Kim.

—Mother's day: The United States Supreme Court denied review in a custody dispute Feb. 22 involving a non-biological lesbian mother whose former partner, the child's biological mother, was seeking to strip her of any parental rights.

—Capital idea: Washington, D.C.'s marriage-equality legislation became law in spite of a Herculean effort by opponents to block its implementation through both legal action—including a last minute Hail Mary pass to the U. S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts for a stay—as well as legislative maneuvering in the House and Senate.

—Prom date: In Mississippi, Itawamba Agricultural High School cancelled prom when Constance McMillen wished to bring her girlfriend as her date. Among what ensued were a fake prom—and an agreement by the school district to pay McMillen $35,000 and enact a nondiscrimination policy.

—Shocking stat: At the 2010 National STD Prevention Conference, a CDC analysis revealed that men who have sex with men are at least 44 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than other men, and 40 times more likely than women. In coming up with those numbers, however, the CDC assumed demographic percentages some found questionable.

—Protesting: Gay-rights activists staged sit-ins at the Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Calif., offices of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi March 18, demanding that voting on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act take place on the House floor. At the White House, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" activists Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo were arrested after they handcuffed themselves to a fence.

—Outgoing: Celebrities came out of the closet last year, including musician Ricky Martin, talk-show host Stephanie Miller and country singer Chely Wright. Wright was grand marshal of Chicago's gay-pride parade.

—Beating cancer: Lesbian tennis icon Martina Navratilova was diagnosed with breast cancer. Navratilova, who was diagnosed with a non-invasive form, had a lumpectomy and endured six weeks of radiation therapy in order to overcome the cancer.

—To one's health: After signing a memo directing the secretary of health and human services to take steps to address hospital visitation and other health care issues affecting LGBT families, President Barack Obama called Lambda Legal client Janice Langbehn to express his sympathies for the tragic loss of her partner, Lisa Pond, and the treatment she suffered.

—I fought the law...: LGBT groups and public figures spoke out against the immigration law enacted in Arizona April 23. The statute requires police to check an individual's immigration status whenever an officer suspects an individual may be in the U.S. illegally. The law has been dubbed, "Papers, please."

—By George: George Rekers, a prominent anti-gay activist who co-founded the conservative Family Research Council, was reportedly caught with a male prostitute at the Miami airport. Rekers posted on Facebook, "I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them."

—Guilty: In Puerto Rico, Juan José Martínez Matos pled guilty for the brutal murder of gay teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado that occurred in November 2009. Matos—who had been charged with stabbing Mercado to death before decapitating, dismembering and burning his body—was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

—DOMA down: In two decisions, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. HHS and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, United States District Judge Joseph Tauro held section three of the Defense of Mariage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Tauro said that DOMA interfered with the traditional state right to define marriage and forced the state to "violate the equal protection rights of its citizens."

—Addressing an epidemic: Suicides among LGBT teens—a problem that was well-known within the community but rarely addressed—became one of the biggest stories of last year, if not the biggest. As dozens of teens committed suicide, a nation responded (thanks in part to Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project) and mourned.

—Winning strategies: The White House released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and accompanying NHAS Federal Implementation Plan. As for monies, $30 million of the Affordable Care Act's Prevention Fund was to be dedicated to the strategy's implementation—although activists expressed concern that new funding may not be available for the plan.

—Games controversy: The City of Cleveland sent a letter to the Cleveland Synergy Foundation stating that the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) was terminating Synergy's license agreement for Gay Games 2014 and that the city was halting all payments to Synergy. Another organization, the Cleveland Special Events Corp., has formed to bid, but Synergy has filed a lawsuit against the FGG, claiming breach of contract and defamation.

—Target on your back: Target was in the middle of a political firestorm when it was discovered that the company (along with Best Buy) sent $150,000 to MN Forward, a Minnesota political action committee (PAC) that was backing anti-gay gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel sent a letter of apology to his employees, although the company declined the Human Rights Campaign's suggestion to donate an equal amount of money to a pro-gay candidate or organization. Emmer conceded the race to DLF candidate Mark Dayton.

—Prop and go: U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Aug. 4, 2010, that California's Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process. Currently, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is weighing the case—and it is expected to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, regardless of the appeals court's decision.

—Confirmation: The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court Aug. 5—but not without complaints from nearly every Republican opposing her nomination. The vote was 63-37.

—"American" woman: After just one season on the TV megahit American Idol, Ellen DeGeneres departed as judge. The new line-up consists of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.

—The doctor is out: Radio personality Dr. Laura Schlessinger is on the hot seat after using the "N-word" repeatedly on the air during an Aug. 10 show with a caller. She later apologized and ended that show—but is now on XM/Sirius radio.

—Time for recess: President Obama was using the recess appointment to install openly gay nominee Richard Sorian as assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. In March, he used the recess appointment to put lesbian law professor and activist Chai Feldblum on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

—Ken do: Ken Mehlman, George W. Bush's 2004 campaign chief and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, came out of the closet Aug. 25 in an interview with The Atlantic. He was the most powerful Republican in history to openly identify as gay.

—Crime time: Eight teenage and adult males were arraigned Oct. 10 regarding an Oct. 3 attack on a teenager in New York City on charges including sexual assault, robbery and hate crimes. Gang members heard that one of their recruits happened to be gay, and allegedly stripped him, beat him and sodomized him with a plunger handle—something they also reportedly did to two others.

—Pulpit talk: Jim Swilley—the pastor of Church in the Now, the Georgia institution he found a quarter-century ago—officially came out of the closet. Meanwhile, another Georgia megachurch pastor, the Rev. Eddie Long, fought charges that he sexually abused several young men.

—Southern discomfort: Board Midland School District (Ark.) school board member Clint McCance, in response to a request to wear purple to support LGBT youth, posted on Facebook, "Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide." On Anderson Cooper's show, AC360, McCance apologized and resigned from his position.

—Family ties: Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced Oct. 22 that he would not challenge a Sept. 22 state appellate court ruling that overturned Florida's bar on adoption by gay men or lesbians, ending the 33-year-old ban.

—Takeover: On Nov. 2, 2010, Republicans won enough seats in the House to take over majority control starting in January 2011. They also increased their margin in the Senate, from 41 seats to 47. The shift immediately marked a change in the chances of pro-LGBT legislation passing, as the next session will undoubtedly be more conservative. However, openly gay Providence, R.I., Mayor David Cicilline was elected to the U.S. House. (See the cover story.)

—Here's to you, Mr. Robinson: V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, announced that he would retire from his position in early 2013. Robinson said that he would continue to commit his full energy to his diocese until that date.

—Numbers: Gays are far more likely to be victims of a violent hate crime than any other minority group in the United States, according to a new analysis of federal hate-crime statistics in the latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report,released Nov. 22.

—Hide and Leak: The U.S. soldier in the middle of the WikiLeaks scandal involving thousands of the military's classified documents was 23 years old—and gay. Private First Class Bradley Manning lip-synced Lady Gaga songs while allegedly downloading thousands of classified documents from military computers.

—Ban overboard: The U.S. Senate approved a bill Dec. 18 to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the 17-year-old law banning openly gay people from serving in the military. The roll-call vote on the measure, which came to the Senate from the House, was 65 to 31 (including six Republicans); it had passed the House 250 to 175. President Obama signed the bill Dec. 22 at the Department of the Interior.


—Mary Daly: The renowned feminist theologian, philosopher and academic died Jan. 3 at age 81. Among her published works is the 1973 book Beyond God the Father.

—Brendan Burke: The 21-year-old openly gay son of Toronto Maple Leafs and U.S. Olympic Team General Manager Brian Burke died Feb. 5 in a car crash near the Indiana-Ohio border.

—Margaret "Midge" Costanza: Costanza, who died March 23 at age 71, was the first woman to hold the office of assistant to the president of the United States when Jimmy Carter appointed her to the position of assistant to the president for public liaison in 1977. She served as a link between the President and a wide range of groups who previously had limited access to the White House, including women, youth, seniors, minorities, gays and lesbians, and the disabled.

—Christopher Klucsaritis: Klucsaritis, who wrestled professionally as Chris Kanyon, died April 2 as a result of an apparent overdose from prescription pills. He was 40 and openly gay.

—Dorothy Height: Dorothy Height, president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, died at 98. For more than six decades, Height fought for civil rights and social justice. She was the only woman seated on the podium when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, and remained a prominent leader of the civil-rights movement for the rest of her life.

—Rue McClanahan: The actress, who was a favorite of the gay community, passed away June 3 at the age of 76. McClanahan, who played Blanche Deveraux on the still-popular TV series The Golden Girls (which originally ran 1985-1992), had suffered a minor stroke earlier this year while recovering from bypass surgery. Among the series McClanahan co-starred in were the '70s classic Maude, Mama's Family and Sordid Lives: The Series.

—Gerry Hall: Hall, an American who lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, since 1990 and was the communications director for the 2009 World Outgames in Copenhagen, died July 17 of an apparent heart attack at 51.

—Jill Johnston: Johnston—writer, cultural and arts critic and legendary lesbian-feminist activist—died Sept. 18 at the age of 81 following a stroke nine days earlier. Through her visibility as one of the first publicly out lesbians, and her access to the "bully pulpit" through her columns in the Village Voice, Johnston gave expression to the growing frustration among lesbians working in the mainstream feminist movement.

This article shared 5565 times since Wed Jan 5, 2011
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