Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover

Top 10 Victories for LGBT Equality in 2008

Filed By Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover | December 26, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: eQualityGiving, LGBT, LGBT civil rights, top 10

In 2008, there were some significants setbacks for equality when we lost the ballot initiatives in California, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas.

But there were some significant victories that will help to advance equality in 2009 and beyond.

Read our Top 10 Victories for Equality in 2008...

#1 The Presidency
Barack Obama and Joe Biden support all Equality Goals with the exception of marriage equality (although they support repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and providing all the federal benefits and obligations of marriage).

After some critical priorities are dealt with (the economy, the wars), the LGBT community should stand firm in asking for full legal equality as promised during the campaign. With a solid Democratic majority in the House and Senate, there should be no impedance to gaining full legal equality for our community.

#2 Supreme Court Decision in California in Favor of Marriage Equality
The decision of the most influential State Supreme Court in the country was superb and advanced the cause of equality on several fronts, not just marriage.

We are hopeful that California will be able to offer again marriage to all couples. It will be either as a result of another California Supreme Court decision or repealing Prop. 8 at the ballot box.

#3 Supreme Court Decision in Connecticut in Favor of Marriage Equality
The Supreme Court of Connecticut broke legal ground by determining that despite that the legislature had approved Civil Unions, it was not enough and that the state needed to provide full marriage equality.

#4 Defending Marriage Equality in Connecticut
Connecticut voters rejected in November holding a Constitutional Convention, which could have overturned the marriage decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

As a result, same sex couples from any state have the right to marry in Connecticut and that right is safe from the forces that want to take it away all over the country.

#5 Electing the Third Openly Gay Member of Congress
Jared Polis (D-CO) was elected to the US House of Representatives. He is openly gay and totally pro equality (including marriage equality). He was an eQualityGiving Endorsed Candidate. Jared Polis joins Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) as the third openly gay Member of Congress.

#6 Defeating the Author of the Marriage Protection Amendment
This was a double victory: Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) was the most anti-equality member of Congress. She not only authored the Federal Marriage Amendment, but also worked very hard to convince Republicans and President Bush to put it for a vote (it was voted twice, but it failed both times).

The double victory is that Marilyn Musgrave has been replaced by Betsy Markey (D-CO), who is totally pro-equality, including marriage. She was also an eQualityGiving Endorsed Candidate.

#7 Winning Another Pro Equality US Senate Seat
Jeff Merkley (D-OR), another eQualityGiving Endorsed Candidate, became the new US Senator representing Oregon. He replaces Gordon Smith (R-OR) who, while good in general on our issues, was only a Heartbreaker.

Having a pro-equality Senator loyal to the Democrats will become important not only on our issues but in votes to confirm progressive Supreme Court justices.

#8 Re-electing a Hero who was in a Close Race
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), an Equality Hero, was facing stiff opposition this year for her first re-election bid. We are pleased that with the help of our donors she was re-elected.

In fact, all of the eQualityGiving Equality Heroes were re-elected, though Giffords was the only one who was vulnerable. Being pro-equality (including marriage) does not jeopardize election or reelection.

#9 Winning a Democratic Majority in the New York State Senate
An important victory for the LGBT community nationwide was switching the majority of the New York Senate from Republican to Democratic.

The New York Assembly has passed marriage equality legislation, but was never brought to a vote by the Republican NY Senate majority.

The presumed new Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Malcolm Smith, has stood strong for marriage equality despite opposition by three Democratic members of the New York Senate. This is the type of leadership we deserve and should nurture.

#10 Electing a Pro Equality Attorney General in Oregon
John Kroger (D-OR), an eQualityGiving Endorsed Candidate, won in a landslide as the new, pro equality Attorney General in Oregon. This is an important victory for LGBT equality given the importance of implementing the new Domestic Partnership legislation in that state as well as fending off the continuous efforts from the right to put forward ballot initiatives to discriminate against our community.

Not Yet Resolved: US Senator from Minnesota: pro-equality Franken or anti-equality Coleman?

Bonus #1: Electing or Re-electing 47 Openly LGBT People

Bonus #2: Defending Transgender Equality in Montgomery County, Maryland

Bonus #3: Keeping Marriage Amendment Out in Indiana

Bonus #4: Keeping Marriage Amendment Out in Pennsylvania

You can read here more details for each of the Top 10 Victories for LGBT Equality in 2008, including who were the leading organizations involved.

May these victories be a preface of reaching full equality in 2009.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

add to the list: Gov Patterson deciding to recognize all out of state marriages

Wow. (Yawn) Seven out of the ten things you mentioned had "marriage" in it, as did two of your four bonuses. Nice to see what people who only focus on marriage consider "victories."

The LGB & T community had many other "victories" that had nothing to do with marriage and one major marriage-related one you failed to mention. The nationwide, coordinated protest on November 15 was a big event for our community, and the first ever of its kind.

- First ever Congressional hearing on transgender employment discrimination.
- Diane Schroer's victory in court against the Library of Congress.
- A larger participation of LGBT people at the DNC Convention.
- Diego Sanchez being hired by Barney Frank.

I'm sure people can come up with other non-marriage-related victories that could out shine all that are listed here.

I agree. Marriage is a big part of our struggle for equality, but it's only ONE part.

In that vein, I think that both the Schroer case and the case in Florida that overturned the decades-old, Anita-Bryant-backed ban on gay people adopting were more important victories for LGBT equality than re-electing Gabby Giffords. She is a lovely person and was my State Senator when I lived in Tucson, but the re-election of one pro-LGBT House member isn't really a monumental victory.

Next month call up the White House and make an appointement to talk President Obama to discuss your economic needs (ENDA). He doesn't like gay marriage either.

I not only support same-sex marriage, but I have been a speaker at important rallies on that subject here in Atlanta. What bothers myself and many others (not just trans people) is pushing this issue to the front and ignoring other issues that have a greater impact on the LGBT community as a whole.

Even the strongest supporter of SSM will agree that it is not an issue that affects ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the community. I would be surprised if 30% of the LGBT community consider marriage their top issue. But, probably 95% of the LGBT still not protected by existing state laws would like to be assured they wouldn't get fired for being who they are.

People who have been fired are probably more concern with keeping a roof over their heads and buying food then whether they can get married or not. Having a job allows more of us to survive, to get married when times are good. The right to get married doesn't affect our survivability. I'm even willing to bet that a good portion of the LGBT community would never get married, even if it was possible all over the country. And, even the richest of LGBT people are affected by hate crimes.

So, it appears that marriage is the concern of those who can afford to do it, which happens to be the people running the gay and lesbian organizations out there. They set the agenda according to what the rich people want who donate to them, and the rest of us are suppose to follow like sheep. Sorry, but I'm too independent to have my issues spoon-fed to me.

Oh, it isn't Obama I want to speak with, but it is the new Secretary of the VA when he's sworn in. He has control of helping TAVA get our issues resolved.

The interesting thing about Kroger was that the republicans didn't put forth their own candidate and in fact nominated Kroger as well -- he had both the democrat and republican nominations.

Great to remember how far we have come because it is so easy to get discouraged.

i was living in CA in 2000 when the anti-gay ballot passed by 22 points or so, Then in 2008 Prop 8, although it passed, only did so with a little over 4 points. That is progress!

i also agree with Monica Helms that we need to recognize victories in ALL areas of LGBTQ victories and not just pro-marriage.

Thanks for posting this as i had not heard of all the congressional wins.


This list once again points out that too many people in this community are myopically focused on marriage at the expense of meaningful legislation such as ENDA and hate crimes that will truly benefit all sectors of the GLBT community.

Wait until you read the yearly list Alex and I put up. We're a little more inclusive of the entire community with our checklist. We're writing it now; it should be up on Monday.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 27, 2008 9:26 AM

Monica, you are right. In 1969 when Stonewall occurred and I heard about the "Homosexual riot" on Chicago Radio where we are as a group today would have been unimaginable. With the new year I hope we stop and take stock of what we have achieved rather than just rail on about what is not yet achieved. Grim, consistent, clear determination is what is needed. Emotion gets people to a rally, but it rarely gets anything decided.

Every state, every member of congress should be called on by a serious group in their home state and in Washington to address the agenda. The damn door is open...push it.

Thanks for all the comments and good insights. We were surprised by the characterization that this list was predominantly about marriage. A careful reading of each victory and its implications will show that not to be the case.

We use as a cornerstone of our analysis the Equality Goals that we describe in www.eQualityGiving.org/Equality-Goals (of which marriage is only one out of seven goals).

One reason that may confuse some people: When we characterize a politician as pro-equality, it means that he or she supports ALL of the seven equality goals. In our experience, the toughest goal for them to support is marriage. In fact, we have not found in our analysis of members of congress one who would support marriage but not trans rights or repeal of DADT for example.

The victories in 2008 are different from the priorities for 2009, which need to be based in the new realities in the White House, Congress, the State Legislatures, the Courts, and the other issues fighting for attention (two wars, financial crisis, etc.).


Juan and Ken

I consider the fact that Palin got called on her attempts to ban books a victory. The press asked some serious questions about that and some people were really bothered.

Re: #9 Winning a Democratic Majority in the New York State Senate

The writers note that the Assembly passed marriage equality legislation this past session. They failed to note that the Assembly also passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which has also languished in the Senate. Some of us in the GENDA Coalition believe GENDA is more likely to pass the the Senate this session than marriage equality, which has fewer senators on record as supporting it.

But don't worry, GLB's--if we get GENDA passed the trans activists promise to come back and help you on marriage.