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What a year 2011 has been for LGBT people in San Diego and around the world.
The movement to gain full equality took major steps forward, both in California and around the United States, and showed progress on a global scale. Still, setbacks show that much work still needs to be done.
Here are some of the major stories that played out in 2011.
10. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights creates LGBTI unit to protect rights: During its 143rd regular session, the IACHR creates a Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons, in order to strengthen its capacity to protect their rights. This follows the agency’s monitoring of serious human rights violations against the LGBTI community.
9. Belgium picks first gay male leader: Elio Di Rupo is named prime minister of Belgium, becoming the first gay man to head a nation. He follows Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who has been the openly lesbian leader of Iceland since 2009.
8. Lesbian couple save dozens of lives in Norway massacre: Want a hero story? How about a lesbian couple out boating who spring into action and pilot their boat on four trips to the island where a gunman is killing young campers. They are credited with saving as many as 40 lives that horrific day.
7. David Kato murder: One of Uganda’s leading LGBT activists is murdered in February in his home, shortly after a scandalous tabloid printed his photo in a front-page story with the headline "100 Pictures of Uganda's top Homos." Against all odds, Kato had won his case against the publishers of the tabloid in the Ugandan courts, where his face appeared next to a headline "Hang Them!" Ugandan police quickly arrest a man, who is convicted in a trial widely condemned as a sham.
6. Australia’s Labor Party endorses marriage equality: LGBT Australians rally by the thousands in December, after the ruling political party votes in favor of marriage equality. So far, no vote has been taken in parliament. In Queensland, civil marriage is approved in November.
5. Bishop Christopher’s tour: A straight ally, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda speaks out across the globe in support of LGBT rights, making him a target in his homeland for ministering to the LGBT community in a country whose Parliament is trying to pass the so-called “Kill The Gays” bill. The tour is organized by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of San Diego, a well-known activist for LGBT rights and AIDS prevention efforts.
4. Equality advances: LGBT people in some nations around the world get good news in 2011, as a global effort to decriminalize homosexuality finds powerful new allies in the faith and secular communities. Four countries vow to decriminalization: São Tomé and Príncipe, Nauru, The Seychelles and Northern Cyprus. In South America, Chile and Colombia pass anti-discrimination laws, but Brazil’s effort fails, because of the rising Evangelical clout coupled with the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church.
3. AIDS marks 30 years: The world pauses in December to remember three decades of AIDS and its profound impact on world health, including in the LGBT community. So far, no cure has been found, but people who have AIDS are living longer as the disease becomes more manageable with proper treatment.
2. Export and rise of homophobia: America’s Religious Right is losing the cultural wars at home, so to keep financially flush with cash, the anti-gay movement is exporting homophobia and the widely discredited "ex-gay therapy" to Africa, Russia and the Caribbean.
1. United Nations Human Rights Council: In December, the UNHRC issues a historic report that ambitiously recommends UN member states to use international human rights law "to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity." The 25-page report could be the most important report issued by the UNHRC for LGBT rights, because for the first time it documents the widespread discrimination and violence against LGBT people around the world. Also, the UNHRC in June passes its first-ever resolution calling for global rights for LGBT people.
10. Rampant discrimination against transgender Americans: Transgender Latinos and Latinas as well as blacks face staggering bias, according to a groundbreaking study. Yet at the same time, other surveys show that Americans are increasingly supportive of transgender people, thanks to advocacy work by celebrity Chaz Bono and transgender bodybuilder Chris Tina Bruce.
9. More than 50 LGBT candidates win elections across America: The November elections prove that being gay is becoming a non-issue in politics.
8. LGBT seniors face harder future: A new national survey details aging and health issues confronting LGBT baby boomers, a critical issue long ignored by health-care providers and the LGBT community.
7. Barney Frank to retire: The openly gay congressman has had a major impact on LGBT legislation for three decades, and his decision to retire at the end of this term leaves a void in LGBT leadership in Congress.
6. LGBT youth bullying/suicides: The U.S. and Canada are again rocked by anti-gay bullying and LGBT youth suicides in 2011, spurring calls for more awareness in schools. An informal SDGLN Poll showed that most of our readers have endured anti-gay bullying. San Diego public schools lead the way in implementing anti-bullying policy, thanks to efforts by such local heroes as openly gay school board member Kevin Beiser, Superintendent Bill Kowba and community leaders such as Dr. Delores A. Jacobs of The San Diego LGBT Community Center.
5. Marriage equality and civil unions: In June, New York becomes the sixth state to legalize marriage for gays and lesbians, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The District of Columbia also offers marriage equality. In 2011, civil unions go into effect or are approved in Illinois, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Even around the globe, marriage equality makes gains.
4. Hillary Clinton speech: In a remarkable speech to the UN Human Rights Council in December to observe Human Rights Day, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focuses on "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." The forceful speech, a blunt rebuke of Russia and African nations that want to criminalize homosexuality, is one of the most important statements in U.S. history against institutionalized discrimination and religion-based homophobia.
3. DOMA under attack: The Justice Department declares in February that it will not defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but the GOP House leadership decides to spend significant amounts of taxpayer money to do so. In November, a Senate panel votes to repeal DOMA and sends the bill to the full vote in the Senate, possibly in 2012.
2. DADT is repealed: What a celebration breaks out on Sept. 20 in San Diego, a military town, and elsewhere around the U.S. when the discriminatory "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy is finally repealed. Post-DADT is also a big story as firsts are made: A proud gay sailor takes his partner to a Navy Ball and a lesbian couple share the Navy’s traditional "first kiss." A promotional "pinning on" ceremony is a big deal for a lesbian couple, and the first sailor to re-enlist after being discharged under DADT writes a commentary on why post-DADT "firsts" matter.
1. Obama Administration: To his credit, Barack Obama has become the gay-friendliest President in American history, even if he has not evolved yet in support of marriage equality. He pushes for the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," which goes into effect on Sept. 20; changes laws to provide protections for LGBT people and their families, including hospital visitations; organizes White House meetings on bullying prevention, LGBT elderly issues and AIDS; along with dozens of other issues.
10. Jenelle Hutcherson: A master stylist from Long Beach makes history in November as the first known lesbian to compete in the Miss Long Beach pageant.
9. Elizabeth Taylor: The legendary actress dies in March and is fondly remembered by the LGBT community for her longtime support and for being a pioneer in raising money and awareness of HIV and AIDS.
8. Target loses case trying to stop Canvass For A Cause from petitioning: David slays Goliath in a free speech case that draws national attention. The Hillcrest-based Canvass For A Cause sues Target after the big-box retailer boots the grass-roots activist group from seeking petition signatures outside its stores. It doesn’t help that Target managers complain that some of the petitions are in support of same-sex marriage or that Target’s top management has a history of supporting anti-gay causes.
7. Massive Blackout: The San Diego region is hit by a huge power failure in September that affects more than 5 million people. Even the gayborhood businesses are impacted, but San Diego Gay & Lesbian News is unaffected as the online news source is finished publishing for the day. Publisher Johnathan Hale and Editor in Chief Ken Williams tweets vital information about the blackout to their followers on Twitter for hours until cell phone service is reduced to emergencies only.
6. "The Great Hillcrest Fire": A three-alarm fire destroys a historic building in Hillcrest and disrupts traffic in the gayborhood for many hours. The owner of Obelisk Shoppe, San Diego’s only LGBT bookstore, vows to return to business by mid-2012.
5. Doug Manchester sells the Manchester Hyatt, and later buys the The San Diego Union-Tribune. He is scorned in the LGBT community for his significant cash contribution to the Yes on 8 campaign that took away marriage equality in California. The LGBT community calls off its boycott of the hotel after Papa Doug, as he likes to be called, closed the deal. The successful boycott costs Manchester a ton of money.
4. EQCA struggles: Equality California is the state’s largest LGBT rights advocacy group, but it is being shaken by internal strife and the loss of its executive director. EQCA decides against leading a Prop 8 repeal effort in 2012, and seems to be searching for a new direction.
3. Military contingent marches in San Diego Pride Parade: San Diego reaps international headlines when more than 250 active-duty service members and veterans march in July in the San Diego Pride Parade. The troops follow military regulations and do not march in their military uniforms, but instead wear T-shirts that indicate which branch of service they came from: Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Army and Air Force. All along the parade route, the troops and veterans receive rousing applause and cheers.
2. The 2011 California Legislature is the gay-friendliest in history, as it passes legal protections for LGBT Californians on numberous issues. Gov. Jerry Brown signs SB48 into law, but anti-gay groups vow to overturn the measure.
1. Proposition 8: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently weighing the issues in the appeal of Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s historic ruling in 2010 that California’s Proposition 8 law is unconstitutional. Proponents of Prop 8 tie up the appeals court with a flurry of motions in a blatant attempt to delay a ruling as long as possible. The appeals court, having heard all arguments, is expected to announce its ruling early in 2012. Regardless of which side wins this case, it is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, further delaying the legal process. Meanwhile, Love Honor Cherish gets the green light to gather signatures on its initiative to repeal Prop 8, which the group hopes to qualify for the November 2012 presidential ballot.