Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in Review

The last 365 days have brought me from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to the New York Blade, EDGE Publications, and even the Advocate. What a year it has certainly been! These 10 stories helped shape the year that will soon pass into the annuls of LGBT history and time...


The House passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in November without gender identity and expression. The Human Rights Campaign stood alone as the only national LGBT rights organization to back the transgender-exclusive bill despite repeated pledges and assurances to the contrary. This nearly unilateral endorsement sparked widespread outrage among local, statewide and national LGBT activists and their allies. The HRC's own credibility remains the most glaring casualty of this very public schism which exposed an ever-growing rift between the lobbying organizations and those on whose behalf it repeatedly claims to advocate.

Logo/HRC Debate

The Logo and the HRC-sponsored Presidential forum in Los Angeles in August made history as the first televised event to feature leading Presidential candidates responding to questions about marriage for same-sex couples and other LGBT issues. The composition of the panel -- HRC President Joe Solmonese, lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge and journalists Jonathan Capehart and Margaret Carlson -- sparked controversy alongside the separation of the candidates themselves during the two-hour forum. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson rather tragically asserted homosexuality remains a choice. But the forum, despite its problems, will go down in the history books as a watershed moment in the movement for LGBT rights in this country.

Campaign 2008

The Logo and HRC forum is one small sliver of the broader Presidential campaign which captivated and even galvanized LGBT politicos, activists and reporters alike throughout the year. Congressman Dennis Kucinich [D-Ohio] and former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel [D-Alaska] remain the only leading White House hopefuls to support full marriage for same-sex couples while a number of leading LGBT figures, such as New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have backed U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.]

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.], came out in support of same-sex nuptials in June while U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] sparked controversy in October with his "Embrace the Change" tour in South Carolina that included self-described "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin.

Republican White House hopefuls have also faced scrutiny. Social conservatives remain largely skeptical of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's previous support of civil unions and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during his previous Senate and gubernatorial campaigns in the Commonwealth. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to back away from his previous pro-LGBT overtures during his two terms in City Hall while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee sparked widespread consternation earlier this month after previous comments suggesting Washington should isolate people with HIV and AIDS came to light.

Stay tuned...

International LGBT Human Rights Abuses

LGBT people in Iran, Russia and other countries around the world face continued oppression and even death in 2007. The Iranian government executed Makwan Moloudzadeh, 21, on Dec. 5 on charges he had sex with boys as a young teenager. This executions comes on the heels of the arrest of more than 80 people who attended a birthday party in the city of Isfahan in May

Ultra-nationalists, members of the Russian Orthodox Church and others attacked LGBT activists and politicos with eggs, stones and fists as they attempted to hold a gay Pride celebration in Moscow in May. British gay activist Peter Tatchell, German MEP Volker Beck and Right Said Fred front man Richard Fairbrass were among those attacked in the Russian capital is Moscow police apparently failed to respond to the assaults. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov repeatedly described the march as "satanic" and banned the march but openly gay Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe was among those who condemned the violence.

Marriage Advances

New Jersey became the third state to extend civil unions to same-sex couples after a bill Gov. Jon Corzine signed into law took effect in February. New Hampshire lawmakers passed a similar bill in April that allows gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions beginning on New Year's Day.

Oregon and even Iowa saw advances towards full marriage for same-sex couples while Massachusetts lawmakers killed a proposed state Constitutional amendment to ban gay and lesbian nuptials in the Commonwealth in June. The vote came more than three years after same-sex couples began to legally marry after the landmark Goodridge decision.

GOP Hypocrites Fall Hard

It remains a fact that hypocrites often fall hard; but no scandal seemed to generate more jokes (or grimaces) than the arrest of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig [R-Idaho] inside a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after he allegedly solicited an undercover police officer inside a restroom in June. Craig, who repeatedly supported the Federal Marriage Amendment and other anti-LGBT legislation, plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge but maintained he is 'not gay.' Bloggers, such as Michael Rogers, and newspapers, including the Idaho Statesman, brought evidence to light which seemed to suggest otherwise based on interviews with escorts and others who claimed the anti-LGBT social conservative slept with them. Craig remains in the U.S. Senate despite his announcement to resign shortly after his arrest came to light.

Transgender Immigrant with HIV Dies in Federal Custody

Victoria Arellano's tragic and untimely death during her incarceration at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in San Pedro, Calif., in July remains one of the most under reported stories of 2007. Arellano, 23, died after ICE officials allegedly denied her medication to temper HIV-related side affects during her more than two-month detention at the Southern California facility. Bienestar and other organizations across the country have rallied behind Arellano's family, who plans to file a lawsuit against ICE and other officials in the coming year. It is also worth noting that Arellano was the third detainee to die in San Pedro since 2004.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell's Legacy

The so-called anti-gay industry arguably continues to lose its clout among political, social and even economic spheres and it lost one of its founders in May when the Rev. Jerry Falwell suddenly died from a heart attack.

Falwell publicly launched his anti-LGBT career in the late 1970s with his support of Anita Bryant's efforts to repeal a South Florida gay rights ordinance. He routinely enraged LGBT activists with his categorization of AIDS as God's condemnation of homosexuality and his assertion gays and other progressives caused the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks. Falwell also denounced Tinky Winky based on his belief that the purple Teletubby was gay. Absurd? Absolutely. But the outspoken minister certainly secured his influence on the social, political and even economic fabric of this country for more than three decades.

Isaiah Washington Sparks Controversy, Debate on Hate Speech

Former "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington sparked widespread outrage among several LGBT activists and organizations after he used an anti-gay slur during an interview with reporters after the Golden Globe awards in January. He reportedly used the same slur against openly gay co-star T.R. Knight during a confrontation in Oct. 2006.

GLAAD and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network immediately blasted Washington. He soon apologized for the slur and agreed to appear in a PSA. The incident, which both organizations repeatedly milked for their own purposes, received widespread coverage throughout the first half of 2007. ABC decided not to renew his contract on "Grey's Anatomy" in June despite his very public 'mea culpa.'

Ahmadinejad Denies Homosexuality

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one of the world's great provocateurs in 2007 but his denial of homosexuality in Iran during a speech at Columbia University in September sparked widespread ridicule among observers -- and especially those in attendance.

The story would remain purely comical if it were not for the fact LGBT Iranians face widespread oppression, persecution and even death in their own country. Boy in Bushwick blogged about Ahmadinejad's speech under the headline "Iranian President Mocks Reason at Columbia." Words often speak for themselves.

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