2013 LGBT year in review: A great year for gay rights

First of all, my apologize for the light posting from me, but like our host and proprietor, John Aravosis, I’ve been taking some much needed down-time during the holidays — and will probably continue to do so over the next week or so.

Still, one of the results of the away-from-keyboard time has been more opportunities for reflection, meditation, and pondering. (As well as some movie and TV series binges.)

And one thing I’ve realized is that in the U.S., 2013 was a remarkably good year for LGBT rights. Let’s count our blessings, shall we?

The ‘Defense (sic) of Marriage Act’ is overturned

Edie Windsor -- she whose estate tax case defeated DOMA

Edie Windsor — she whose estate tax case defeated DOMA

Well, not all of DOMA was overturned, but the biggest and most important part was. On 26 June 2013, n a 5-4 ruling for the United States vs Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for the Federal government to discriminate against legally enacted same sex marriages. With Section 3 gone, although there was some confusion initially, it has resulted in a whole host of newly guaranteed Federal civil rights for gay and lesbian couples — both American citizens and those who wish to be.

Its ramifications have been felt in immigration, federal benefits, federal taxes, eligibility for federal programs, and Social Security survivor benefits. In fact, the 1100+ federal rights and privileges are being cited in case after case to demonstrate the harm in preventing gay and lesbian couples from enjoying legal civil marriage.

State after state joins the marriage equality bandwagon

In just the last year, we went from 10 states and the District of Columbia to a definite 17 states with marriage equality:

  • Rhode Island: Legislature upgraded civil unions to marriage on May 2nd
  • Delaware: : Same, on May 7
  • Minnesota: Legislature passed gay marriage  equality on May 14th
  • New Jersey: State Supreme Court declined to overturn a lower court ruling, upgrading civil unions to marriage on October 21st
  • Hawaii: Legislature upgraded civil unions to marriage on November 13th
  • Illinois: Same, on November 20th, taking effect June 1st 2014
  • New Mexico: State Supreme Court ruled for gay marriage on December 19th

On top of this:

  • In May, Colorado joined the other Civil Union states — Oregon, Nevada, and Wisconsin — but all of these are facing court challenges because the partial DOMA overturn means these couples will not enjoy federal marriage benefits.
  • A federal judge in Ohio began the chipping away at that state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage by ordering a death certificate list a couple as married.
  • And as we noted the other day, Utah (!!!?) became the 18th state with full gay marriage equality. After Federal Judge Shelby’s ruling, both he and the 10th Circuit declined to issue a state. Unless or until the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, gay marriage is a reality in one of the most unlikely places imaginable in America.
  • Judges in Michigan and Pennsylvania will soon hear cases challenging those states’ bans on gay marriage in the coming year.

Where is this all going? Probably and inevitably a revisit to the U.S. Supreme Court. But for now, as of year end 2013, the gay marriage map in America looks like this:

Map of Marriage Equality in America

Map of Marriage Equality in America (Source Wikipedia.)

Wikipedia map legend  for marriage equality in America

Wikipedia map legend for marriage equality in America

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) still has a gay marriage map up that looks like this:

NOM's incredibly out-of-date marriage equality map

NOM’s incredibly out-of-date marriage equality map

The schadenfreude is delicious…

The movement to ban anti-gay ‘therapy’ gains momentum

No, this does not work. And yes, it is every bit as exploitively gay as it looks.

No, this does not work. And yes, somebody’s fantasies are being fulfilled but they aren’t those of the ‘patient.’

In August, New Jersey passed a law to ban ex-gay (aka ‘pray away the gay’) therapy for minors. Although Governor Chris Christie was initially lukewarm on the idea, he eventually agreed with the American Psychological Associations assessment that attempting to ‘cure’ sexual orientation is damaging, especially for young people.

Meanwhile, also in August, the 9th Circuit upheld California’s similar 2012 ban on anti-gay therapy for minors. The court ruled, “(T)he fundamental rights of parents do not include the right to choose a specific type of provider for a specific medical or mental health treatment that the state has reasonably deemed harmful. Therefore, SB 1172 does not infringe on the fundamental rights of parents.”

One group, Beyond Ex-Gay, conducted a survey of ‘ex-gay therapy’ survivors and determined that 92% of them reported having been damaged by ‘Sexual Orientation Change Efforts’ (SOCE). Many reporting having been coerced into the therapy by family, friends, and their communities.

A little progress in transgender rights

California passed a law to guarantee equal access to public school facilities for transgender kids, although conservative bigots have decided their best way to fight for their right to anti-gay bigotry and intolerance is to personally attack the kids in question. That is, when the transphobes can be persuaded to admit transgender kids exist at all.

Delaware expanded their civil rights protections to include transgender persons, for employment, housing, accommodations, contracting and insurance.

As for ENDA, well…

Despite the fact the U.S. Senate passed yet another Employment Non-Discrimination Act bill, there remains little hope for passage in the near future due to House GOP intransigence, bigotry, homophobia, and sycophancy to their radical conservative right.

GOP House Speaker John Boehner and his pack of howler monkey Tea Party radicals are why LGBTs don't have employment discrimination protection

GOP House Speaker John Boehner and his pack of howler monkey Tea Party radicals are why American LGBTs don’t have employment discrimination protection

There are still 29 states in which a person can be fired for being gay and 34 where one can be fired for being transgender.

The fight for ENDA is one of the big ones for us in the coming months. In addition to the push for nationwide marriage equality.

Internationally, a mixed bag

This past year, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Brazil and Uruguay all legalized gay marriage.

The situation in France was especially tense, with far right radicals engaging in anti-gay riots and police provocation to try to turn back France’s marriage equality law.  They even endangered the very children they claimed to want to protect.

“On met les enfants devant, on met les enfants devant.” TRANSLATION: “Put the kids in front, put the kids in front,” a father yells to other protesters, as he approached the police line with his three year old child perilously perched on his shoulders right after the police used tear gas and batons, telling the protesters to back up.

“On met les enfants devant, on met les enfants devant.” TRANSLATION: “Put the kids in front, put the kids in front,” a father yells to other protesters, as he approached the police line with his three year old child perilously perched on his shoulders right after the police used tear gas and batons, telling the protesters to back up.

In addition, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling to grant automatic asylum for any LGBTs living in African countries with harsh anti-gay laws. And this couldn’t come soon enough, given the horrific “kill (or imprison forever) the gays” laws passed in Uganda and Nigeria.

Protester in India (photo: NDTV screenshot)

Protester in India (photo: NDTV screenshot)

Then, in recent weeks came the surprise disappointment of India’s Supreme Court through a Division Bench issuing a ruling to recriminalize homosexuality in that country, after four years of the law being suspended. On a more positive note, the decision was greeted not with happiness — except by homophobes, hater, and bigots, especially in America — but with demonstrations, protests, and vows even from Indian government officials to challenge the ruling to a higher level of the Indian Supreme Court.

And finally there’s Russia

Look, I know it seems bad, but I’m finding cause for hope for LGBTs in Russia, too. Not a lot, but some.

What started out as a vodka boycott (a story broken by our own John Aravosis) to draw attention to the 2014 Olympics games in Sochi Russia has grown into something far larger. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has been forced to respond repeatedly to the hypocrisy of their charter when compared to the anti-gay laws and anti-gay violence countenanced by Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

"Tsarina Putin."

“Tsarina Putin.”

John followed the story doggedly, reporting again and again and again and again on the graphic and often horrific violence committed against Russian gays and transfolk.

johnny weir

Johnny Weir appeared on Keith Olbermann’s show earlier this year dressed in a Russian/Soviet military uniform.

Why a bit of hope, even though the Olympics sponsor boycott seems not to be having much success? Because the bright light of world attention has been shining on Russia’s anti-gay pogrom. While the feckless pro-Russia sycophancy of Johnny Weir and the erratic “so NOT helping” outbursts of anti-semite Nikolai Alexeyev have tended to provide cover for Russia as, contrary to the claims of both Weir and Alexeyev, gays and transfolk are being violently assaulted, kidnapped, sexually abused, and sometimes murdered, others have been more effective.

In response to the question as to whether Elton John would speak out against Russia’s anti-gay campaign during his Moscow performance, the answer was an emphatic “Yes!” Would western leaders also speak up, whereas in the past they might’ve just kept quiet or said something like, “It’s the right of a country to do what they want”? Also yes.


I honestly don’t know what 2014 will bring. No doubt there will be continued opposition. Anti-gay homophobes in America will continue to try to export the hate that isn’t selling so well here at home. Bigots will erupt as they’re wont to do, even if they’re a millionaire and phony pretend-redneck of an even more phony ‘reality’ TV show.

But we’re winning. Unlike in the 1990s and early 2000s, the fight is measured in victories now, large and small, and not by defeats and routs to be reversed, but successes to be protected, appreciated, and celebrated.

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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