Now that we are in the last week of the year, every one has their list of tops out for the year. I feel obligated to set them straight on the top GLBT stories of the year.
It has been a great year on many fronts for equality but with each step forward, the enemies of progress seem to attack harder. There is no doubt that this has been a banner year for the GLBT community. The Prop 8 case is progressing nicely. New Yorkers were given the right to marry, and the MSM started giving serious coverage to bullying and teen suicides. Even in the local Tampa Bay market, the Tampa Bay Rays did an “It gets better” video that I got to work doing tech support.
In my mind the top two stories for they year occurred in December. First was that for the first time in memory, the prestige of the United States Department of Justice argued in federal court in favor of equality for gays and lesbians.
The Department of Justice sent one of its top lawyers to federal court in San Francisco to argue that the Defense of Marriage Act’s federal definition of marriage unconstitutionally limits Karen Golinski’s ability to secure health insurance for her wife. Assistant Attorney General Tony West, the head of the civil division of DOJ, appeared in court to argue DOJ’s position. People in the courtroom reported, “Judge White thanked the DOJ for having sent the head of the civil division” to argue the case himself, adding that it made “a statement of the significance that DOJ and the administration place on this question.”
As an attorney myself, I can tell you that this was an exciting moment. For the first time we were given more than lip service and the weight of the Department of Justice was behind full equality. Just to be clear here, the adversary in this case is the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives. John Boehner’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), every Democratic voted against this, so it is not really bipartisan.
The other big story of the year in my opinion was the story and reaction to the photo of the two female sailors homecoming kiss. A NAVY tradition caught up with the repeal of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule yesterday when two women sailors became the first to share the coveted “first kiss” on the pier after one of them returned from 80 days at sea. The photo and story are important since it shows the immediate effect of the repeal of DADT earlier this year. The fact that ship command allowed the kiss to happen clearly shows that the leadership in behind the repeal despite personal feeling. David Bauer, the commanding officer of the USS Oak Hill, said that Gaeta and Snell’s kiss would largely be a non-event and the crew’s reaction upon learning who was selected to have the first kiss was positive. The picture was splashed on front pages of papers around the globe.
The second part of the story that makes it a big deal was the reaction of locals to the article when the first reports were made. The story first ran in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. Virginian-Pilot managing editor Maria Carrillo said, “We’ve had some folks accuse us of losing our moral compass and there’s been stronger language than that…Honestly, I expected more vitriol.” It pointed out the distance we still have to go in changing hearts and minds. Several editors who commented on the feedback seemed to indicate that there was an age divide. They cited this statement as an example of the negative comments: “I guess I’m getting too old. My respect for those in the military just went down a notch. My God, we fell so far, so fast. No honor left, just social engineering. How utterly depressing.”
I think this shows where the movement is today in terms of demographics. In another generation this will not be an issue. All in all a fantastic change in just a few years.