As we prepare to end this tumultuous
ride we call 2008, is it safe to say it was the gayest year yet? It
certainly will be remembered as the year gay issues came off the back
burner and gays rejected apathy for activism.
With so much interest in gay issues,
compiling this year's ten most compelling gay stories was a murderous
task. Thankfully, On Top editors have strong stomachs.
Here are the ten stories that most
impacted the GLBT community in 2008.
Gay Marriage in California: The
California Supreme Court ruled in May that denying gay couples the
right to marry was unconstitutional. Approximately 18,000 gay and
lesbian couples married in the state in what was dubbed “the summer
of love.” Even before the court ruled, gay marriage foes were
working on Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment passed on
November 4 that banned gay marriage. A flurry of grassroots activism
sprung from that defeat as thousands of gay activists and allies
flooded the streets in protest. Gay rights groups filed three
lawsuits with the state Supreme Court asking it to invalidate the
measure. The court will listen to those arguments in March.
Gay Marriage in Connecticut: In
October, the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed that gay marriage
should be legal and gay couples began marrying a month later. A
November poll by Quinnipiac University found that a slim majority
(52%) of Connecticut voters agreed with the court's decision.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Hearings:
In July, Democrats on Capitol Hill held the first hearings on “don't
ask, don't tell” since the 1993 law was enacted. Under the law,
gay and lesbian service members must remain closeted and celibate to
qualify for service in the military. Legislators listened to the
standard anti-gay arguments of “gays are bad for morale” and “the
military is a unique institution” but appeared genuinely
disinterested, even insulted. But threatened with a Bush veto,
Democrats were unable to alter anything. President-elect Barack
Obama, however, has signaled he is interested in repealing the 15
year old gay ban.
Lawrence King: The death of
Lawrence King, a 15-year-old boy, at the hands of 14-year-old Brandon
McInerney serves as the epitome for why we need strong hate crimes
legislation in America. The Oxnard, California boy was shot twice in
the head on February 12 at his elementary school after asking
McInerney to be his Valentine and died on Valentine's day.
Darren Manzella: In 2008 Army
Sergeant Darren Manzella became the face of a discriminatory military
ban on gays serving openly. In December 2007, Manzella told 60
Minutes investigator Leslie Stahl that he had been openly out to
his superiors without incident. Manzella said he was investigated
for being gay and even supplied the Army with photos of his boyfriend
- A.J. - and a video of the pair kissing during a road trip. But
when the investigation ended he was told to go back to work. After
CBS aired the story, the Army changed its mind, discharging the
sergeant effective June 10.
The Divisive Politics of Sally Kern:
It was March 7 the day a rouge Internet video of Oklahoma Rep. Sally
Kern went viral. Speaking to a Republican audience she said: “I
honestly think it's [homosexuality] the biggest threat our nation
has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.” Kern, the wife of a
Baptist pastor, refused to apologize for that statement (and others
that followed). She found comfort in the arms of right-wing
conservatives and managed to win re-election in November.
HIV-Travel Ban Lifted: Congress
lifted the U.S. ban on HIV-positive travelers in July as part of its
reauthorization of PEPFAR. The ban was widely seen in the GLBT
community as a draconian rule.
A Watershed Election: In what
Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe called a
“watershed election” over 100 out candidates won elective office
in November. The New England states led the nation with approving
the highest number of openly gay members to their state assemblies;
the region generated a total of fourteen wins. Openly gay Barney
Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin will be joined
by Colorado's Jarred Polis in the House. And the gay community
strongly backed the first gay-affirming president in Barack Obama.
Making an Impact: Gay activism
returned in a big way this year. Some have called the protests and
demonstrations that followed passage of four anti-gay measures on
November 4 Stonewall 2.0. The success of grassroots organizations
like Join the Impact has thrown the future of traditional
suit-and-tie activists into question.
Obama's Anti-Gay Pastor: Just
making the list is the current controversy over Rev. Rick Warren.
Gay rights groups protested Obama's pick to give an invocation at his
inauguration. After losing gay marriage in California to Warren and
his forces, gays are in no mood to be kicked around. Warren
represents the gay community's worst fear: That Barrack Obama's commitment
to the gay community may be all mouth and no trousers.
And what will be the biggest gay
stories in 2009? You can expect to see two state Supreme Courts
deliver gay marriage rulings early in the year: Iowa and California.
And gay marriage will continue to be debated in four other states:
New York, Vermont, New Jersey and New Hampshire.
Congress is likely to pass the Matthew
Shepard Hate Crimes Act.
Obama's commitment to gay rights will
certainly remain under the microscope of gay rights groups feeling
the pressure to deliver real reform.
And what will become of the struggling
Stonewall 2.0 movement? Will the effort gain momentum in 2009 or
Happy New Year from everyone at On