Bil Browning

Top 10 LGBT Stories of 2008

Filed By Bil Browning | December 29, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Marriage Equality, Weekly Reader
Tags: American Psychiatric Association, Barack Obama, California, Connecticut, constitutional convention, DSM V, Duanna Johnson, evangelical Christian, fundamentalist christians, gay marriage, gender, gender expression, gender identity disorder, hate crimes against LGBT people, larry king, lawrence king, lesbian, LGBT, Mainstream media, marriage, marriage equality, media coverage, Memphis, oxnard, reaction, reparative therapy, rick warren, same-sex marriage, school violence, supreme court, TDOR, Tennessee, The Advocate, top 10, transgender, Transgender Day of Remembrance, treatment, violence

Was 2008 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 worked 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. These are our picks for the top 10 news stories from around the LGBTQ world in 2008 and my conclusion and thoughts on 2009...

1. California Gets Gay Marriage

California tops the list as the biggest LGBT news story of 2008 when they became the largest state in the nation to recognize gay marriage. smile.jpgAlthough the state legislature had previously sent Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger same-sex marriage legislation, the liberal Republican vetoed all attempts. In 2008, the California State Supreme Court took the matter into their own hands.

When the court issued a ruling in May declaring that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marriage, the LGBT community nationwide celebrated wildly. While San Fransisco mayor Gavin Newsom was shown in the media often, the biggest hero of the moment was NCLR Legal Director and transman Shannon Minter who argued the case before the court.

When the weddings actually started, LGBT journalists across the state contributed to Bilerico Project's California Marriage Equality stream by filing stories and photos available for free use by other bloggers, journalists or readers. The photos and quotes have since been published in numerous sources.

2. California Loses Gay Marriage; Florida and Arizona Amendments Also Pass

Amendments to ban same-sex marriage passed in three states on Election Day. Florida and Arizona Prop8.jpgboth handily voted in favor of marriage discrimination and in California, voters passed Proposition 8, an amendment to ban same-sex marriage, stopping the state from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

The LGBT community acted in an uproar over the passage of the California amendment, although Florida and Arizona both received scant attention. (Which was also the case before Election Day!) Peaceful demonstrations broke out nationwide in reaction to Prop 8. The law was appealed to the California Supreme Court and Prop 8 supporters have requested that all previous licenses to LGBT couples be revoked. The California legislature, Governor and Attorney General have all expressed support for the court to repeal Prop 8.

3. LGBT Friendly Democrat Barack Obama Elected President

The LGBT community worked immensely hard to secure the election of Democrat Barack Obama as President in the November elections. Enthusiasm for Obama's history-making win was tampered, lgbt_logo.gifhowever, by the passage of state-level anti-gay amendments and propositions.

Obama's campaign was littered with missteps with the queer community. Scandal erupted twice over religious figures - Donnie McClurkin, an ex-gay gospel singer, and Rick Warren, a well-known anti-gay minister. While the President-Elect is undoubtedly the most LGBT-friendly President in history, Obama's support stops short of same-sex marriage; he supports civil unions.

(President-Elect Obama has guest posted twice on Bilerico Project - See: "Barack Obama: A Call for Full Equality" and "An Open Letter from Barack Obama to the LGBT Community")

4. Larry King Shot at School

On February 12th at California junior high, Larry King, a feminine, gay, and sometimes outrageous15-year-old was shot by another student. A1005x100.jpg While the community mourned, we also questioned what steps could have been taken by the school to have prevented Larry's death and argued about whether his killer should be tried as an adult or a child.

Some within and outside the community, like the AP, The Advocate, Newsweek, his killer's defense attorney, and even Larry's own parents, pinned the blame on Larry's gender-bending behavior and questioned why school officials would let him be so out. His death brought anti-LGBT school violence to the foreground, and reminded the community long before Proposition 8 passed what Californians and Americans thought of openly queer people.

5. Stonewall 2.0

Grassroots organizing topped organizational might after the passage of California's Prop 8 amendment to repeal same-sex marriage rights. launched as a DCProtest2.jpgsmall site advocating a day of nationwide protest, but was quickly overwhelmed and had to move to a larger capacity server. Their call for protests culminated in tens of thousands of LGBT people to demonstrate in cities across the country.

Dubbed Stonewall 2.0, the grassroots effort also attempted a "Day Without a Gay" protest that fizzled. A subsequent "Light Up the Night" vigil also failed to gather much support as well, leading some pundits to question whether the outrage was short-lived and won't result in a larger movement for LGBT rights.

6. The APA Picks Work Group to Rewrite GID

In May, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members to revise the entry for dsm.jpgGender Identity Disorder for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders due out in 2012. The entry will change the definitions of GID and transsexuality themselves.

When Kenneth Zucker of Toronto's notorious CAMH was announced as Chair, controversy ensued. His views on gender variance, and his stigmatizing treatments, don't bode well for the future of GID. Other members of the committee troubled the trans community and its allies as well.

These people will have the ability to affect the standard care for transsexuals as well as non-transsexual transgender people, determine many people's access to gender-related treatments, and affect the ways transgenders are perceived in the media for generations to come.

7. Connecticut Starts Marrying Same-sex Couples

connecticutmarriagelicence.jpgOn October 10th, Connecticut became the third state to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couple with a 4-3 supreme court decision. The decision also made sexual orientation a "quasi-suspect class." On November 5th, Connecticut rejected Question 1, barring same-sex marriage from being banned for at least 22 years. Same-sex marriage started on November 12th in the Nutmeg State and is safer there than anywhere else in the country.

8. Rick Warren Announced as 2009 Inaugural Invocation Speaker

Just a few weeks ago, Barack Obama announced that pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, would be delivering the invocation at his inauguration. 1.JPGNewly politically aware and creating new methods of organization in the aftermath of Proposition 8, grassroots LGBT activists responded swiftly.

Rick Warren, who doesn't allow LGBT people in his church, runs a reparative therapy group, supported Prop 8, doesn't seem to particularly like gay people, and is against freedom and equality on a host of other issues including reproductive choice, is one of the most popular evangelicals in the country and has generally tried to avoid controversy. But traditional media outlets gave this story prime-time attention and began asking deeper questions about his homophobia. He's responded weakly, and we'll see what happens as this story continues into January.

9. Duanna Johnson Beaten by Police on Tape

duanna johnson.jpegIn June, a video tape of a Memphis transwoman being held by one police officer and beaten by another hit the internet after her attorney, frustrated by the Memphis Police Department's reluctance to punish the involved officers, released it to local media. The woman was Duanna Johnson, who was arrested for "walking while trans."

The brutality of the event raised awareness of the violence transgender people face constantly, to the police's violence and reluctance to protect the trans community, to how being transgender is still a crime, and to Memphis's particularly violent climate for trans folk. Transgender Day of Remembrance, for some transgender people, was particularly sad this year as the community experienced an apparent epidemic of anti-trans violence.

In November, Ms. Johnson was found murdered.

10. Jared Polis, First Out Gay Man Elected To Congress

Incoming Colorado Representative Jared Polis (D) made history in 2008 when he successfully ran for Congress as an openly gay man. I ran into him at the DNCC in Denver. I was quickly impressed by our short conversation and his campaign team. Still running for office, Polis made the shortest video shoutout to Projectors in the history of the site.

2008 In Review

2008 ends as the year with the most LGBT political participation in history. Tens of thousands of us voted in massive numbers, worked on political campaigns, volunteered for state-level campaigns, gave money to political candidates and causes, and became vocal about LGBT rights. When marriage amendments passed in three states even after all of our hard work, thousands more took to the streets in days of protest. Hopefully the enthusiasm won't die down and our community will focus our time and energy not only on marriage, but the other myriad LGBT issues and other progressive causes.

As our top ten shows, LGBT visibility in the national conversation has never been higher. Setting aside the marriage amendments, the American public has grown ever more gay and trans friendly - including the new President-Elect. As we end the year with murmurings of a delay on Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the legislation commonly thought to be the first to pass, it becomes ever more clear that while we're advancing slowly, a lot of work still needs to be done. Thankfully, our community is still full of energy and ideas on how to advance the cause.

Last year we quoted community organizer Lew Alinsky in the conclusion and it seems a proper way to end the post this year too:

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.

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A lot has happened this year. At PFLAG, we keep plugging away. Our Indy Chapter held our first "Straight for Equality" party with over 50 people in attendance! We continue to have new people come to our meetings. We've worked at the State School Counselor's conference, spoken to employees at State Farm Insurance and Wellpointe, and shared our stories with college social work students at IUPUI. I will talk to anyone I can. We just continue to work on our mission - support, education and advocacy. One person at a time. I like to think it's made a difference.

Happy and Healthy New Year's to You All!!!!

Excellent list! Much better than others. Okay, since you looked at all of the stories, I'd love to see what the next ten are.

Not a bad top-10 list. They're often hard to do, because of having to narrow it down. My only disagreement would be where I'd choose the Brooklyn murder of Sucuzhanya or the Richmond gang rape as the definitive homophobic assault examples of the year over the Larry King story. (Though, yes, we have to be careful because the Richmond assault is still "alleged").

Thanks for commenting.

The reason Larry King was chosen instead of the many, many other hate crimes that happened this past year was because of the sheer volume of discussion created by his death as well as the amount of MSM time spent covering it. If you search Larry King on Bilerico, more results come up for that than most of the other stories on this list (except for the ones related to California and the presidential race).

And, yeah, it was hard narrowing it down. Florida's gay adoption decision, Rachel Maddow getting her prime time show, the Arkansas referendum, and the hate crimes you mentioned could have all been up there.

Yes, I can see the King story choice. Also, that it happened in a school might add significance, because it brings up the whole school/bully/gay subject. I just thought the other cases I mentioned seemed more representative of the danger every GLBT person faces. But, yes, I understand your choices.

beachcomberT | December 30, 2008 4:43 AM

Nice job on a hard selection process. I would quibble with Warren and Stonewall 2.0 making the Top 10 list. Is there any lasting significance to Warren's 5-minute prayer? We don't know yet. Just because a ceremonial decision gets lots of MSM press doesn't mean it's a "big" story. Stonewall 2.0 seems to have lasted all of one weekend. Maybe it will get its nebulous act together as key issues come up for Congressional votes or White House action/inaction. Let's hope so.
I am glad to see no celebrity gossip item was put on the big list. But release of the "Milk" film maybe deserved at least an "also-ran."
I thought the Democratic candidates' debate of gay issues was pretty significant. That made it clear only fringe candidates like Dennis Kucinich support gay rights across the board, while the major contenders, Obama and Hillary, were less supportive.

Hello there!

I realize that this has nothing to do with your post but I wanted to congtratulate you on being nominated as a finalist of the 2008 Weblog Awards!


{thumbs up}

Stonewall 2.0 began to fizzle because the frightened LGBT leadership, in and out of the HRC, preached and advised against it. It did not have one of the inner sanctum as a leader and the Christian Right accused us of all kinds of bad things, as if that were new, and we, predicably, scampered away.

We may have thrown away our best chance of a generation because too many LGBT leaders are too conservative to deal with radicalism

beachcomberT | February 8, 2009 6:39 PM

I hope the Stonewall 2.0 movement is not totally dead. Try to regroup and plan something for June, the 40th anniversary of the original Stonewall.

I don't envy you coming up with the list, but I've got to nitpick the absence of Diane Schroer winning her discrimination suit against the LoC.