“With Heart, And Hands, And Voices... Whose Wondrous Things Have Done...”
In two days, I will preside over my great grandfather’s dining table laden with pumpkins, gravy-stained linen, and all those good carbs as I share it with my children and my husband’s siblings (well, two out of three). We will bless the food, thank God for our good health, and good company.
But ever since last year, and especially with this past Election Day, I’ve been grateful for advances in equal rights for GLBT people.
For the first time, gay marriage won at the polls by a popular vote in the states of Maine, Washington State, (Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos helped raise 11 million dollars) and Maryland. Sixteen polls show a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry. Public opinion has definitely shifted. Previously, dating back to 1998, same-sex marriage has been rejected in all thirty-two states that have held popular votes.
President Obama “evolved” and endorsed same-sex marriage. Cynics believe he did this as a political move to get more votes while others thought he was preempted by Vice-President Biden’s nod to gay marriage. Whatever the reason, the President’s endorsement represented a historic shift and a milestone. The seeds of this shift were planted in 2011.
DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act stating that marriage is strictly between a man and woman for federal and inter-state recognition purposes in the United States), while still on the books, can not be defended in the courts, according to Obama in 2011. Also, in 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, allowing gays and lesbians in the military to serve openly.
This year, Edie Windsor (v. U.S.) of New York City was awarded a tax refund after winning her DOMA case in Court of Appeals. Windsor is the surviving same-sex spouse whose inheritance from the deceased spouse was subject to federal taxation. Because the state did not recognize their marriage, Windsor was taxed, but the Court of Appeals found the taxation discriminatory and unconstitutional. Several cases in other states are being challenged on discriminatory grounds as well.
Starting in the New Year, California has outlawed reparative or conversion therapy for minors. Reparation therapy claims to change people from gay to straight. Governor Brown of California says it has no scientific basis and calls it “quackery.”
Gay, Lesbian, and Transgenders Won Seats in Congress and House: Just to name a few, Tammy Baldwin (Democrat – Wisconsin) became the first openly Lesbian Senator. New Hampshire voted transgender Stacie Laughton a State Representative Seat. California’s Mark Tokano, a Japanese-American is the first gay minority to win in Congress.
Out of the 180 candidates endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, 118 won, including first gay state legislators in North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Florida. In Colorado and Oregon, gay legislators became State House Speakers.
Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay congressman, won a seat from the 18th Congressional District (Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York). Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual in the House, (Democrat – Arizona) won the United States House Seat.
Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who were adversaries in Bush v. Gore, are now working together in California as co-counsel for AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights). They will continue to work together to argue their cases that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and that DOMA should be struck down.
Miles to Go
While there is still much to be done with tolerance, inclusion, and equal rights for GLBT people, we’ve “come a long way, baby,” and for this I’m very grateful.