No one can deny that 2012 was simply an awesome year for gay rights in the USA, but now LGBT rights advocates are looking to 2013 to deliver even more.
Below are five things that we saw happen in 2012 that we’re so grateful for, and also five things America still has to do to in 2013 to continue to progress to full equality.
1) Gay Marriage is Victorious at the Ballot — Election Day 2012 broke the 30 plus curse of gay marriage ballot defeats with marriage equality being legalized at the ballot in Maine, Maryland and Washington. All of the ballot questions were slightly different but they all show stunning victories that, just a few years ago, would have been unthinkable.
2) Minnesota Rejects Same-Sex Marriage Ban — While technically not the first time this has happened, Minnesota’s rejection of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was a decisive statement that the state would not tolerate the lies told by anti-gay forces. The campaign also seems to have served as a strong driving force for an effort to overturn the state level ban.
3) President Obama Supports Gay Marriage — In May, President Obama affirmed, in a first for any sitting POTUS, that he supports same-sex marriage. In an interview with ABC news’ Robin Roberts he said that “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
4) Tammy Baldwin Becomes America’s First Out Gay Senator – Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin made history on Election Night when she was elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first openly lesbian, and first openly LGBT, member of the upper chamber. Said Baldwin in a statement, “I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference — a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives of veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security.”
5) San Francisco Votes to Offer Subsidized Gender Reassignment Care – San Francisco’s Health Commission voted unanimously in November to extend its existing health care program to cover the cost of gender realignment surgery. Currently, while hormone treatment, counseling and routine health care for trans people is covered by the city’s program, surgical intervention is not subsidized. This change doesn’t immediately cover trans related healthcare but starts the long process toward coverage for surgical intervention, a first for any U.S. city.
Read on for what America needs to do next >>
5 Things America Needs to Do in 2013 to Advance Gay Rights
1) Pass ENDA – The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), a piece of legislation that would make it illegal to fire someone solely because they are LGBT, should not be controversial. Such protections already exist for ethnic and racial minorities and people of faith. Yet the legislation has languished in Congress for years. The legislation, which when introduced must be trans inclusive with no compromise on basic access to public accommodations, should as a matter of civil rights be a priority for legislators in 2013 who for too long have allowed this basic inequality in the law to persist.
2) Repeal DOMA — The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional by a number of federal courts and looks set to be examined by the US Supreme Court next year. However, the repeal bill the Respect for Marriage Act sits in Congress and, with President Obama’s support for marriage equality, a legislative remedy to the DOMA problem should be advanced. Indeed, this would save the taxpayer a great deal of money as House Republicans have just increased the DOMA defense spending limit to $2 million.
3) Repeal the Ban on Transgender Servicemembers — The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell rule was repealed in 2011 but a ban on transgender servicemembers remains in force. This means that any trans servicemember seeking transgender related health care can as such be separated from the military for no other reason than their identity. This puts trans people in the military at severe risk of depression and largely allows anti-trans discrimination to go unchallenged in the military. This ban should be repealed and appropriate measures to recognize and help trans servicemembers put in place.
4) Stop Putting LGBT Rights to a Public Vote and Just Do the Right Thing — While 2012 may have shown that a majority of Americans in some states are prepared to vote in favor of marriage equality, the point still stands that basic civil rights should not be put to a public vote. Instead, state lawmakers should move as a matter of urgency to remedy anti-LGBT provisions in state law and federal law, something that should be a point to drive home in 2013.
5) Recognize Gender Realignment Treatment as a Medical Necessity — Gender realignment treatment is a medical necessity and as such there should not even be a debate about allowing gender realignment treatment to members of the public and, also, prisoners, something that several courts have affirmed and something with which lawmakers should not be playing politics.