LGBTQ Corner: A year in review

Denny Patterson

Over the past nine months, the LGBTQ community encountered the good, the bad and downright ugly. From marriage equality to making history, here is the year in review.

In September, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released its annual National School Climate Survey. The study surveyed more than 8,500 students from every state, and even though LGBT youth are still a target, the number of assaults towards gay and lesbian students decreased.

September also featured the beginning of Japan’s version of the “It Gets Better” campaign, “Connected Hearts School.” The project’s co-founder, Fumino Sugiyama, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “We will aim to save as many sexual minority youth as possible by delivering our message that it’s OK.”

October started off with controversy due to Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, making it clear that no changes were being made concerning the restaurant’s views on homosexuality.  He said, “There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago – that is incorrect. Chick-fil-A made no such concessions and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”

Chick-fil-A was the center of a culture war battleground last summer when Cathy stated he is firmly against same sex marriage. The fast food chain then became the target of protests, kiss-ins, vandalism and condemnation by the LGBT community and its supporters. Cities such as Boston and certain districts in Chicago banned the food chain from being open in their areas.

Even more controversial was the denial of California Boy Scout Ryan Andersen’s Eagle Scout award due to his sexuality. After months of intense work, Andersen’s troop leaders would not approve the award. The Boy Scouts of America is known for its policy for denying membership to homosexual leaders and Scouts.

On a lighter note, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was declared unconstitutional by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, making it the second federal appeals court to strike DOMA down. The court is also the first to state that laws that segregate individuals based on their sexual orientation should receive a higher level of judicial review, known as “heightened scrutiny.”

November will be remembered as a significant push towards LGBT equality. The 2012 election resulted in Wisconsin congresswoman Tammy Baldwin winning a seat within the U.S. Senate, making her the first openly gay woman to do so. Her win was hailed as a significant stride toward bringing diversity within the Senate.

The election also, for the first time ever, allowed marriage rights within certain states to be voted on. This gave the approval to Maryland, Maine and Washington. President Obama is the first U.S. president to support gay marriage.

The Supreme Court made an official announcement in December saying they would tackle the issue of same-sex marriage. The court would hear arguments centering on DOMA and California’s ban, Proposition 8 and a ruling is hopefully to be finalized in June.

February was the month for marriage equality. On Valentine’s Day, with a margin of 34-21, the Illinois State Senate voted in favor or marriage equality. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans called the victory “a vote for the history books.” Gov. Pat Quinn has already agreed to sign the bill if it passes through the Illinois House.

Along with Illinois, Rhode Island’s House of Representatives approved a marriage equality bill that has been debated by the committee for 11 years. Rhode Island is the last New England state to push forward.

Also in February, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that same-sex partners and spouses of military personnel will now be allowed certain rights and benefits that were once only allowed to heterosexual military spouses.

Panetta said, “Today, our military leaders are ensuring that all America’s sons and daughter who volunteer to serve our nation in uniform are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Some of the benefits include emergency leave, youth programs, sexual assault counseling program, joint duty assignments, payments to missing persons, child care and legal assistance. Other benefits such as health care and housing allowances can only be granted once DOMA is repealed.

Minnesota and Colorado had a reason to celebrate in March. Civil unions were approved in Colorado while Minnesota’s Senator Scott Dibble introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage. The two primarily conservative states have been seeing an increase in support for the LGBT community.

Supreme Court justices finally began hearing arguments dealing with DOMA and Proposition 8 – the day the country was waiting for. This is the first time the Supreme Court has ever heard a case dealing with same-sex marriage. Thousands of allies crowded outside the court house wearing red to show their support.

Lastly, April was a big month for our allies overseas. France, Uruguay and New Zealand officially approved marriage equality. New Zealand, being the most recent, is the thirteenth country to legalize same-sex marriage.

It is obvious that the LGBT community is not stepping down. Even though the past nine months show significant change, there is still a long way to go.