Was 2007 the year of the queer? As our community gets more and more visibility, we've all had plenty to talk about this year but did anything actually get accomplished?
Alex and I thought we'd work together on this post recapping the past year. We had a lot to choose from but we've narrowed it down to a top ten list. Agree or disagree, these are our picks for the top 10 news stories from around the LGBTQ world in 2007 and my conclusion and thoughts on 2008...
1) ENDA split
Barney Frank made headlines across the nation when he guest posted to the Bilerico Project about his reasons for dropping the transgender community from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The LGBT community reacted with outrage and several of our organizational-based contributors led the fight for a fully inclusive ENDA. Lambda Legal disputed Frank's claim leading Rep Frank to guest post a 2nd time in response. Lambda's president, Kevin Cathcart, also guest posted to refute Frank's second post.
As the debate raged back and forth, Congress persons were confused as to whether or not to vote in favor of the bill which would be doomed to Presidential veto even if it made it past both houses of Congress. Rep Tammy Baldwin offered an amendment to include gender identity, but she ended up withdrawing it before the final vote and guest posting about her reasons for doing so. In the end, HRC supported the non-inclusive bill causing even further divides between the largest LGB(T?) organization and it’s transgender members.
The non-inclusive version passed the House but died in the Senate. On the HRC president’s “The Agenda with Joe Solmonese” radio show, Frank recently announced that transgender protections would also be left out of 2008 lobbying efforts. HRC and the trans community remain estranged and Joe Solmonese withdrew from the Bilerico Project citing an HRC unfriendly environment on the blog.
2) Hate Crimes
Since it was introduced in the House in March, sexual orientation and gender identity inclusive hate crimes legislation became a focal point for the Religious Right's opposition to queer equality. Yet amid protests that the legislation would infringe on religious freedom, a presidential veto threat, and new data showing increases in hate crimes, the popular Matthew Shepard Act passed the House on May 3 and got attached to the Defense Reauthorization Bill on September 27.
The legislation was so attached to save it from Bush's veto stamp, but speculation from all the way back in July warned that the plan might fail due to the War's unpopularity. The hate crimes legislation got separated from the war funding bill in conference amid threats that the legislation would draw the ire of both anti-war Democrats and anti-gay Republicans.
The fight is long from over. A wide coalition of civil rights, civil liberties, and criminal justice advocacy groups will continue to push the legislation, which all Democratic presidential candidates have promised to sign into law, in 2008.
The worldwide Anglican Communion's unity has been put even further in jeopardy this past year as the hierarchy decided to rebuke American Episcopalians because of their consecrating a gay bishop and blessing same-sex unions. The theological disagreement over homosexuality at the heart of what can best be described as a power struggle, divided along post-colonial racial, ontological, and economic lines, for the future of the Communion threatened schism.
American Episcopalians didn't back down even as seven conservative Anglican leaders refused to take part in communion with Kerri Jefforts-Schori and harsh words from rising-star and homophobe Bishop Akinola of Nigeria. But several American churches have begun to break away from the Episcopalian hierarchy and join conservative communions, including the entire San Joaquin diocese. And even presidential hopeful John McCain has cut-and-run from the Episcopal Church.
The divide will continue to deepen as more churches side with inequality in the face of the Episcopal Church's historic and continued agitating for social justice. And progressive voices like those of Jefforts-Schori and Desmond Tutu could be the forces that help queer liberation cross another set of national boundaries.
4) Larry Craig gets outed
When Roll Call got ahold of arrest documents from a Minneapolis/St. Paul bathroom sting operation, and Craig's sexuality seemed to be all the LGBT blogosphere could talk about. There was no denying it; this story had everything - a conservative politician with a solid anti-gay record, one of the most embarrassing ways for anyone to come out, and a protracted political and legal battle over his job and dignity.
Despite announcing that he would resign a month after the story broke, Craig fought to take back his guilty plea, and failed, and remained in the Senate to call the Religious Right's and Republican leadership's bluff in calling for his resignation.
Craig's actions also brought back memories of a less pleasant time in gay America's history, when public spaces provided some of the only avenues of connection for closeted gay men and police officers did what they could to hassle up queens. Cruising and Bag a Fag were back on center-stage as the ACLU filed a brief in Craig's support.
Larry Craig did his part to help debunk the GOP's faux-1950's morality and remind gays that the nastiest effects of that morality are still around.
5) HRC/Logo debate
All of the Democratic candidates for President have courted the LGBT vote this election cycle, but never was it more obvious than the HRC/Logo debates. The televised event was the first time all of the candidates have met to talk specifically about LGBT issues.
While some candidates faltered (Richardson’s gaffe, Clinton’s “I’ll repeal part of DOMA.”) others took the opportunity to shine (Edward’s straight-forward conversation, Kucinich’s stance on everything). Hosted by HRC President (and former Bilerico Project contributor) Joe Solmonese, musician Melissa Etheridge and journalist Jonathan Capehart and moderated by (straight) journalist Margaret Carlson, the event was praised and panned by the LGBT blogosphere. The questions were easy and the stances already taken. Like most of the presidential debates we didn’t learn anything new, we just watched the candidates posture and preen while we rated them on their poise and polish.
6) Mary Cheney’s baby
Mary Cheney, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter, had a son with her partner Heather Poe. Mary helped the Bush/Cheney team to win the presidential election on a platform of anti-gay rhetoric and war mongering. While her father and his boss opposed gay families at all costs on the campaign trail, the veep’s little princess defended her family with a weak “My child is not a political statement.” The official White House photo, of course, only showed the smiling grandparents with the baby – but no sign of his lesbian mothers.
7) New Jersey Civil Unions
Garden Staters began being able to apply for civil unions in February of this year, and the gap between a civil union and a marriage has never been more apparent. From UPS to private insurance, businesses and employers have been refusing to recognize one of every 6.3 civil unions as they would a marriage. The good news as marriage advocates publicize this new information and develop tactics around it is that New Jersey voters have moved closer to accepting same-sex marriage.
8) Jerry Falwell's death
Noted homophobe and political meddler Jerry Falwell died this year after a group of lesbian witches put a hex on him. (Or so we said!) The passing of the LGBT community’s foremost enemy was marked across the country by not only gay and lesbian groups, but the majority of America, as an end to Falwell’s religious bigotry and gospel of Republican hate.
9) Don't Ask Don't Tell
While politicians cling to Don't Ask Don't Tell, soldiers are coming out and are valued for their ability to shoot straight, not be straight. Darren Manzella became the first openly gay, active-duty soldier to speak with the media on the matter, showing that the only people who oppose gays serving openly and with dignity running for the GOP presidential nomination.
The secret's out and everyone knows there are gays in the military - how long until our politicians catch up?
10) The Bilerico Project launches
You didn’t think we were going to let this one pass us by, did you? The Bilerico Project launched at the beginning of July. As we’ve grown over the past six months, we’ve more than exceeded our original expectations. We were nominated for the 2007 Blog Awards for Best LGBT blog and the 2007 Gay Verve Awards for Best Brand New Blog and Best Political or News blog. We were also listed as one of Advocate magazine’s top ten blogs of 2007. With our roster of 50 prominent contributors from around the queer world, we quickly became the nation’s largest LGBT group blog and helped shape the national debate on LGBT issues by including groundbreaking guest posts from Presidential candidates Bill Richardson and Barack Obama and Congresspersons Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth, and Tammy Baldwin among others. We made history as the first LGBT blog to have a presidential candidate directly speak to the readers and we look forward to continuing our upwards trend in 2008.
As we look at the list, which items actually had a definite conclusion? Where did we win an actual victory?
- ENDA - Still not US law - with or without gender identity
- Hate crimes - Still not US law
- Episcopals - Still not split
- Larry Craig - Still hasn't left office
- HRC/Logo debate - Still haven't chosen a Democratic nominee
- Mary Cheney - Resolved. (But we didn't have anything to do with it!)
- NJ Civil Unions - Still not equality. State is looking at marriage already.
- Jerry Falwell - Resolved. (But we didn't have anything to do with it!)
- DADT - Still not overturned.
- TBP - Still growing.
The only place where we benefited from direct accomplishments were the two items we had nothing directly to do with! While we made huge gains in some areas (DADT and legislative advances around the country), we've still not reached our ultimate goals.
As we head into 2008, we should remember how many things we still have to accomplish. We should gather our friends and surge ever onwards. We may not always agree on the goals or the strategies, but we have one things in common.
We're different. We're queer. We're not the same as "everyone else" and a surprisingly large amount of our fellow citizens don't like us because of it. There is strength in numbers and coalitions are the background of movements. To quote radical community organizer Lew Alinsky:
We will start with the system because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy. It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without the supporting base of a popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics.
We're honored to be part of the movement - a spot where folks of differences can come together and discuss the goals and strategies behind our lives. Now let's get ready for 2008.
We have work to do.