Despite of some significant setbacks, 2008 brought Top 10 victories for reaching equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. Check them out...
#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.
Most importantly, an Obama presidency should at least maintain the current balance on the Supreme Court. Should one of the conservative seats become open, there is an opportunity for Obama to replace him with a pro equality Justice.
#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. This battle was led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights with the support of all the leading legal organizations in the country. Read the article about NCLR in eQualityGiving.
As a result of that decision, 18,000 same sex couples were able to marry the person they love. Unfortunately, the voters in California overturned that result by 52% to 48% in a very hard fought ballot initiative.
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. This victory was led by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the same organization that obtained the landmark Massachusetts marriage ruling. Read the article about GLAD in eQualityGiving.
#4 - DEFENDING MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN CONNECTICUT
Due to the efforts of Love Makes a Family and several other organizations, Connecticut voters rejected in November holding a Constitutional Convention, which could have overturned the marriage decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Read the article about Love Makes a Family in eQualityGiving.
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.
To have open LGBT Members of Congress is critical to advance equality. We need to ensure that other LGBT people will join Congress in the years to come.
#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 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.
Jeff Merkley joins Ron Wyden (D-OR) representing Oregon in the US Senate. This is the first time in which both senators representing the same state are pro-equality, and, therefore, are Equality Heroes.
#8 - RE-ELECTING A HERO WHO WAS IN A CLOSE RACE
eQualityGiving Equality Heroes are those current elected official (US President, Vice-President, members of Congress, or statewide elected officials) who support full legal equality for the LGBT community, including marriage equality.
Our priority is always to re-elect them and help them substantially when their re-election is in jeopardy. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), an Equality Hero and therefore also an eQualityGiving Endorsed Candidate, 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 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. This was effort was led successfully by the Empire State Pride Agenda and Gill Action with the collaboration of many organizations and donors.
The New York Assembly has passed marriage equality legislation that was introduced by then Governor Eliot Spitzer. The new Governor, David Paterson, is a strong supporter of this legislation. He already signed an Executive Order that treats same sex couples married in other states or countries as equals in New York State, with all the benefits and responsibilities as all married couples.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader 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
There is no decision yet about who will represent Minnesota in the US Senate. The incumbent, Norm Coleman (R-MN), has a record of anti-equality. The challenger, Al Franken (D-MN), is pro-equality and is an eQualityGiving Endorsed Candidate. If elected he will be the sixth Equality Hero serving next year in the US Senate.
BONUS #1: ELECTING OR REELECTING 47 OPEN LGBT PEOPLE
Thanks to the efforts of the Victory Fund and others, 47 LGBT people were elected or re-elected to office as follows:
- US House of Representatives: 3 people
- Judiciary: 8 people
- Statewide: 3 people
- State Legislatures: 21 people
- Mayors: 2 people
- Municipal: 8 people
- School Board: 2 people
BONUS #2: DEFENDING TRANSGENDER EQUALITY IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND
The Montgomery County Commission in Maryland voted unanimously last year to add transgender to their anti-discrimination ordinance, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Dana Beyer, an eQualityGiving Advisory Board Member.
The extreme right collected signatures to put the initiative in the ballot. Thanks to the efforts of Basic Rights Montgomery that, with the support of state and national organizations, dwartfed the initiative when the Maryland Supreme Court decided on September 9, 2008 that the opponents did not collect enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
BONUS #3: KEEPING MARRIAGE AMENDMENT OUT IN INDIANA
Working quietly as unsung heroes, the Indiana Equality PAC and other supporters managed to re-elect all of the members of the State Legislature who opposed a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality in that state. They also helped to elect three additional pro equality State legislators.
BONUS #4: KEEPING MARRIAGE AMENDMENT OUT IN PENNSYLVANIA
Equality Forum led the effort in 2008 to defeat in the Pennsylvania legislature the attempt to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. If it had passed the state house and senate, it would have been on the November 2008 ballot.
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