Sure, 2013 will go down as a another huge year in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victories, with marriage equality surging forward in the states and at the Supreme Court, transgender students wining major protections in California and "ex-gay" therapy to minors banned in New Jersey.
But the year may be more profoundly remembered for the retreats of LGBT opponents, who seemed to be running away in droves. Michele Bachmann threw in the towel. Exodus International shut its doors. Ken Cuccinelli crashed and burned. The National Organization for Marriage is going broke. Chris Christie danced around the issue. And Chuck Hagel apologized.
Check out this amazing year in political stories.
The Cheney Family Feud
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In the fall, a Cheney family feud broke out in the open when Mary Cheney and her wife Heather Poe lashed out on Facebook at Liz Cheney, Mary’s sister, who is a Senate candidate in Wyoming, for saying she was opposed to marriage equality. “Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,” Poe wrote. “To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.” Dick and Lynn Cheney seemed to side with Liz, even though they support marriage equality. Though Mary had no qualms in 2012 about supporting Mitt Romney — who wanted to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- the thought of her sister running on an anti-equality platform clearly was her limit: In December, she headlined an event to stop a anti-gay marriage amendment from passing in Indiana.
Chris Christie's Queer Dance
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who'd been on everyone's list all year as a possible presidential contender in 2016, steered a course that seemed designed to both get him re-elected in true-blue New Jersey while still allowing him to win over voters in GOP presidential primaries. In August, he signed a bill banning the use of "ex-gay" therapy by licensed therapists on minors, making New Jersey only the second state to pass such landmark legislation. But Christie has steadfastly refused to support marriage equality, and decided to appeal a judge's ruling that gays can't be banned from marriage and that the marriages needed to commence within weeks. Yet, when the New Jersey Supreme Court refused to issue a stay on the commencement of the marriages pending Christie's appeal -- days before the gubernatorial election -- Christie surrendered and dropped his appeal, while still maintaining his opposition.
Transgender Students Get Protections
In August, California made LGBT history again, becoming the first state to pass a law allowing transgender students to choose which rest room or sports team they like, according their own gender identity and expression. Immediately, anti-LGBT advocates launched an effort to get the law repealed at the ballot, but it is still unclear whether they have garnered enough signatures to get it voted on in 2014.
Pope Francis Slams The "Obsessed"
In tone and posture, the new pontiff broke in a dramatic way from vocally anti-gay Pope Benedict. It was a breath of fresh air even as Catholic Church doctrine condemning homosexuality hasn't changed a bit and isn't likely to any time soon. Responding to a question about gay priests, Francis asked "Who am I to judge?" Later, he strongly criticized those in the church who are "obsessed" with gay marriage and abortion, which was a message to those in the church who used the issues politically.
Christine Quinn Loses Mayoral Bid
Hopes were high among some LGBT activists in New York and nationwide when New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an openly lesbian former head of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, was surging in the polls for months in New York’s Democratic primary race. Quinn would have been the first openly gay or lesbian person, and the first woman, to be mayor of New York City if she won in the general election. But some prominent LGBT New Yorkers, such as actors Cynthia Nixon and Alan Cumming, had come out for Bill de Blasio, saying he was the truly progressive choice. In the end, de Blasio surged ahead as Quinn lost both the LGBT vote and the women’s vote to him. Activists debated what Quinn's loss meant, including if in fact it was a maturing of the LGBT vote.
The vocally anti-gay Virginia attorney general spent much of the past few years trying to bring back Virginia’s sodomy law, which would have even outlawed heterosexual oral sex. Nevermind that the Supreme Court had struck down such laws a decade ago. Running on that platform, Cuccinelli was defeated in his gubernatorial bid by pro-marriage equality Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
The Supreme Court's Major Advances on Marriage Equality
The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in an historic ruling, and also let stand a ruling that Proposition 8 in California is unconstitutional. Couples across the U.S celebrated getting the federal benefits of marriage — even those in states without marriage equality, it was determined, may marry in a state that does and get the federal benefits — while California couples began marrying in a matter of days after years of battle through the courts.
National Organization for Marriage Deep in Debt, Aims at New Target
In a major shift in its stated purpose of stopping marriage equality, the National Organization for Marriage announced in September that is would now focus on stopping transgender rights as well. The group joined other anti-LGBT groups in coming out against a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to protect trans students. Frank Schubert, the strategist who worked with NOM to pass Prop 8 and other anti-gay marriage amendments, signed up to strip trans kids of rights too. This came in a year in which NOM suffered big defeats on marriage equality, at the Supreme Court and in the states, and after reports of the group going $2 million into debt. Targeting an even misunderstood minority seemed like a way to raise needed cash by exploiting hate and ignorance.
Pastor Louie Giglio Pulls Out of Inauguration
In what seemed almost like a repeat of the first Obama inaugural, in which the president had invited the anti-gay Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation, the Rev. Louie Giglio, who'd preached against the "aggressive agenda" of gay rights and called homosexuality "sinful," was scheduled to give the benediction at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural in January. But after an uproar ensued, Giglio withdrew from the event, and a spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee said it was "not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural."
Russia Bans “Gay Propaganda," Backlash Ensues in U.S.
In June, Russia passed a law banning “gay propaganda" to minors -- a vague description which could mean even waving a rainbow flag in public -- energizing activists across the world and in the U.S. Playwright Harvey Fierstein sounded the alarm in an op-ed. Several U.S. activists, including Cleve Jones, Dan Savage and Queer Nation launched a boycott of Russian vodka Stolichnaya, which was met with fierce debate. Nonetheless, the boycott as well as calls for a boycott of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, put the issue on the front burner for much of the year. Performers like Lady Gaga and Cher refused to perform there, while others like Elton John went to Russia, where he spoke out against the law from the stage.
Boy Scouts Votes to Allow Gay Scouts, But Continues Gay Adult Ban
Facing the threat of more cities and localities withdrawing support and money as a political backlash grew, the Boy Scouts of America voted to end it's ban on gay or bisexual scouts in May, while continuing to ban openly gay, lesbian or bisexual adults in leadership positions. Some LGBT advocates saw it as a big step forward. Others said it was no victory at all since the organization is still engaging in discrimination and furthering the defamation of gay adults as not to be trusted with children. Some conservative churches pulled their support because of the allowance of gay scouts while others, like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mormon church, condemned the decision but didn't call for churches to drop ties to the BSA. Months after the May vote, many were weighing just what impact the decision has had, and whether 2014 will bring further change.
It was a huge year in the states for marriage equality as couples began walking down the aisle in Rhode Island, Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and, amazingly, Utah. And Illinois became the third state in the Midwest and the most populous there to pass marriage equality, with marriages set to begin in 2014.
Exodus International Shuts Down
After almost four decades of claiming that it could convert people from gay to straight, the leading "ex-gay" group shut it's doors in June. Alan Chambers, the group's leader who had weighed in often on public policy and political battles against LGBT rights, apologized to all those to whom the group did damage. But he stopped short of saying that he -- "happily married" to a woman -- is now gay or that individuals shouldn't try to control or refrain from homosexual attraction for religious reasons.
Openly Lesbian Legislator Votes Against Gay Marriage
Hawaii state representative Jo Jordan made history, becoming the first LGBT person to vote against marriage equality when she voted no on Hawaii’s law that made it legal for gays and lesbians to marry. Though she’d been appointed to the vacated seat in 2011 by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who spearheaded the bill, and though was she was elected in 2012 by constituents who overwhelmingly supported marriage equality. Jordan said the religious exemptions were not strict enough in the bill. She came under immediate criticism by LGBT people across Hawaii and the U.S. while several local activists vowed to back a candidate to defeat her.
The Infamous "Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty" Bill
John Kavanagh, a Arizona GOP legislator, introduced a horrendous bill in March, aimed at prosecuting transgender people for using a public restroom if their gender appearance didn't match the gender on their identification. The story caused a national uproar — the bill was dubbed by one Arizona TV station as the “Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty Bill” — causing Kavanagh to soften the the bill to protect businesses from civil or criminal liability if they ban transgender people from restrooms, rather than charge the transgender individuals with a crime. But by June, Kavanagh couldn’t gain the support in his caucus and put the bill on hold — until next year.
Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda at Center of Firestorm
Journalist Glenn Greenwald made headlines internationally throughout 2013, reporting on the broadbased spying on millions of people in the U.S. and around the world by the National Security Agency, having obtained documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Not only was Greenwald subjected to anti-gay smears, but his partner, David Miranda, in what many saw as an act of intimidation, was held for over 9 hours at Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio, where he and Greenwald live together.
Senators Rush to Support Marriage Equality
Making history in the GOP, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio surprised his colleagues when he became the first GOP senator to support marriage equality, announcing that his own son had come out to him a gay two years earlier. Only two other GOP senators followed suit -- Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- while GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah proposed a bill to "protect" gay marriage opponents. Among Democrats, however, there was a rush to announce support for marriage equality in the days leading up to the Supreme Court's hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act, with announcements coming almost every day. As of right now, only three Democrats in the Senate (Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia) don't support marriage equality.
Tennessee Boy Gets State Rep's 'Reformer of the Year' Award Revoked
Marcel Neergaard, a 12-year-old Tennessee boy who had been horribly bullied, decided to start a petition to get the group Students First -- a national political group which claims to speak on behalf of school reform -- to revoke an award it gave to Rep. John Ragan, a GOP legislator who had introduced the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Marcel wrote a blog post and made a video, which went viral. With support from people around the country, pressure built and with Marcel leading the effort Student’s First rescinded the award.
Chuck Hagel Nomination Stirs Controversy
Soon after President Obama announced that former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel was his choice for defense secretary, LGBT military advocates became concerned in January. Hagel’s record showed he’d not only voted anti-gay as a senator, he had voted against the nomination of openly gay James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg during the Clinton years, saying, “I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly, aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.” Hagel issued an apology after Obama’s announcement, and vowed to work to continue to implement the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” saying he fully supported open service. Last week, Hagel proudly announced that nine states that had refused to offer gay spouses military IDs (having bowed to anti-gay conservatives), had now complied after Hagel’s sharp criticisms.
AIDS Back in Spotlight, Focus on HIV Criminalization
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In December, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware introduced the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal ("REPEAL") HIV Discrimination Act, a bill that requires a review of federal and state laws that criminalize people with HIV for having sex. This year saw news of HIV infections rates rising among younger gay men, amid a rise in unprotected sex, as well as a debate about the death of prominent AIDS activist, Spencer Cox. Those important issues, and the prevalence of more outspoken voices of HIV-positive younger gay men, including right here on Gay Voices, had some this year asking if AIDS rightly is coming back into the spotlight in the LGBT community, including as a political issue for gay groups in Washington.