News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals
2011: Wrapup of advances to LGBT equality
We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
See also the previous essay describing events during 2011-DEC
The Obama administration announced on 2011-FEB-23 that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. They cited an earlier decision in a Massachusetts federal court that found multiple reasons why the federal DOMA legislation violates the U.S. Constitution and is thus invalid.
Some commentators predicted that this decision will generate a tipping point that will lead to a more rapid decline in discrimination against sexual minorities in the U.S.
This prediction may be coming true. We have noticed an increase in events -- some important, some minor, some merely symbolic -- that indicate a gradual evaporation of animosity and homophobia against sexual minorities.
Developments toward marital equality and a lessening of discrimination against sexual minorities during 2011:
Perhaps more than any previous year, the LGBT made its greatest strides towards equality and acceptance during 2011. Consider:
- Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to Congress stating that the administration accepts the unconstitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and will not support it in the courts during constitutional challenges. This section prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages processed in the District of Columbia and in those states that allow SSMs.
- Same-sex marriage (SSM) became available in New York State -- the most populous state to do this. This was the first time in history that a marriage equality bill was passed by a Republican-controlled legislative body -- the NY Senate. It more than doubled the percentage of Americans who had access to SSM. On 2011-JUL-24, 659 marriages were solemnized in New York City -- an record for one day.
- Public support for SSM surged upwards, while opposition sank. For the first time, most American adults support marriage equality.
- In an uneventful transition, the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy was terminated.
- Civil unions became available in Delaware. A county clerk opened the office early on Sunday, 2012-JAN-01 in order to solenize eight civil unions. One included Lisa Goodman, President of Equality Delaware.
- A bill to allow civil unions was signed into law by the governor of Hawaii. It becomes effective on 2012-JAN-01
- A bill to allow civil unions was signed into law by the governor of Illinois and became effective on 2011-JUN-01.
- A bill to allow civil unions was signed into law by the governor of Rhode Island and became effective on 2011-JUL-02.
- Lawsuits to legalize SSM in New Jersey and California are being actively fought in the courts.
- Supporters of marriage equality have obtained sufficient votes to place a citizen initiative on the 2012 ballot.
- Support for SSM reached almost 70% among voters under the age of 40.
- For the first time, polls indicate that supporters of SSM hold their opinions as strongly as do those who oppose SSM.
At the time of the deactivated of DADT, Kim Flowers of the Windy City Times commented:
"I have always believed that DADT would need to be repealed before our next major milestone could be accomplished: marriage rights. The spouses of GLBT soldiers will be the ones who speed this along, as enlisted service members will require the same rights of housing and benefits as their straight counterparts. After the right to marry is ours, we will need to further address bullying, adoption, international couples and more. However, already the future of the next generation is brighter and I'm proud to be a witness." 1
Ari Ezra Waldman wrote an essay for Towleroad.com listing some of the developments in 2011 towards LGBT equality:
"The Prop 8 litigation -- thanks to the American Foundation of Equal Rights (AFER), its legal team run by Ted Olson and David Boies -- gave us the first federal court decision declaring gay judges can be impartial on gay rights cases, and it gave us a federal court's declaration that no evidence exists to suggest that natural procreation was ever a purpose of marriage, that no rational reason exist for keeping gays and lesbians out of the institution of marriage, and that marriage discrimination is an example of state action that classifies individuals on the basis on sexual orientation, which merits heightened scrutiny. And, let us not forget that Perry gave us a forum to say that marriage discrimination is unconstitutional...."
"Foreign Policy and Immigration: At the direction of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently made it clear to the world that the United States believed that human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights, and those countries that deny either are no friends of Washington. While the memorandum connected to the speech was light on details -- admittedly, all United Nations documents are light on details -- Secretary Clinton's speech had extraordinary rhetorical value."
"Also at President Obama's direction, the Administration has basically put an end to the deportations of the legally married foreign national spouses of same-sex American citizens."
"Extension of Federal Benefits: President Obama extended various federal benefits to gay couples through executive order, but even more important than that, Lambda Legal secured victories for gay federal employees seeking federal benefits." 2
Gina Caprio, a writer for Examiner.com, discussed the "It Gets Better" movement:
"In 2010, columnist and author Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller created a YouTube video channel dedicated to inspiring LGBTQ youth who are facing harassment to know that 'It Gets Better.' The message hoped to reach the youth of America in response to an increase in the number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school were being reporting at an astonishing rate. In 2011, the It Gets Better Project inspired a worldwide movement consisting of videos from celebrities, politicians, media personalities and everyday people who wanted to spread the message that the youth are not alone. Known public figures such as President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Adam Lambert, Tim Gunn, Joe Jonas, and Anne Hathaway and major corporations such as Facebook, Pixar, Google and Microsoft all created a video in support. ItGetsBetter.org provided a much needed resource where young LGBTQ people could see how many people support them for being themselves wit#hout judgment. It is a site where people share their stories, watch videos full of love and support and also provides information where help can be sought through the Trevor Project and GLSEN."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Kim Flowers, "Viewpoints: Next comes marriage," 2011-SEP-21, at: http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/
- Ari Ezra Waldman, "," Towleroad.com, 2011-DEC-22, at: http://www.towleroad.com/
- Gina Caprio, "2011: A look back on LGBTQ equality," Examiner.com, 2012-JAN-01, at: http://www.examiner.com/
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Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-JAN-02
Author: B.A. Robinson