The inauguration of the nation’s first black president. A national LGBT march on Washington. A Stonewall commemoration at the White House. The federal hate crimes bill is signed into law. Maine voters reject marriage rights for gay couples. The Washington Blade celebrates 40 years, then weeks later, is shut down. Same-sex marriage is legalized in D.C.
Covering just a few of those momentous stories would make for a memorable year in the LGBT press, but 2009 brought all of those and more. Now, as we look ahead to 2010, there are a handful of stories and upcoming events that have me in an optimistic mood.
First, we are on the verge of witnessing same-sex couples walk the aisle in Washington, D.C. The city joins a handful of states — Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut — that wed same-sex couples. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the bill two weeks ago and now it must survive the 30-day congressional review period. Assuming it does, D.C.’s gay and lesbian couples could be marrying by March.
The successful fight for marriage rights proved exhilarating and inspiring to watch unfold and other states contemplating such a move should take lessons from the activists here. Black and white residents joined in a coalition with gays and straight allies from all wards of the city; faith leaders from multiple denominations were engaged early; politicians spoke out and stood up to our bigoted critics, unbowed by their angry threats. The mainstream media played a vocal, aggressive role pushing for our equality. And on a personal note, I was proud of the Blade’s work, particularly Lou Chibbaro Jr.’s exposé of Harry Jackson’s dubious claims of D.C. residency as he worked overtime to thwart marriage rights. No one should be allowed to come into the city, bully its residents and politicians and dictate its policies.
Of course, nothing in D.C. politics is ever really settled thanks to the Home Rule charter that gives Congress ultimate authority over the city’s budget and affairs. Rest assured that if the Republicans retake the House in 2010, local activists will have their work cut out for them as conservatives take aim at the marriage law during the annual budgeting approval process. We’ve seen it before, as Congress meddled with the city’s needle exchange program and progressive domestic partner registry.
Despite the inevitable fights ahead to preserve marriage rights, it will be a joy to witness the legal wedding ceremonies that will begin taking place this spring.
Meanwhile, in nearby Maryland, a move to recognize those legal marriages being conducted just across the border should be resolved soon. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, a vocal LGBT rights supporter, has dragged his feet on issuing a legal opinion, which was requested eight months ago. Such opinions normally take eight to 12 weeks, but Gansler spent the better part of 2009 dithering over whether state law allows for legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Legal experts have insisted Maryland should recognize the unions.
Gansler can’t duck and hide forever; 2010 should bring answers and soon the state’s same-sex couples could be marrying in D.C. and driving home to have those marriages recognized by the Free State.
On the national agenda for 2010, there’s hope that Congress will finally pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act. Sources tell us to expect movement on both in early 2010. Also on deck: a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which experts also hope will come this year.
All of this action on LGBT-related legislation comes during an election year, as the mid-terms arrive in November. Will conservative Democrats get cold feet on our issues with the midterms looming? It’s a fair question, but there is so much momentum now that I’m confident in more legislative wins in the near term.
Rep. Jerry Nadler recently told the Agenda not to expect any movement on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act this year. It’s a disappointment, especially since President Obama supports DOMA repeal, but there are enough other priorities to keep our congressional allies busy in 2010. With more states marrying same-sex couples or recognizing such marriages, the federal government will not be able to avoid the subject of DOMA for much longer.
Another key event to watch in 2010 is the lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8 filed by Ted Olson and David Boies, two nationally prominent lawyers with Supreme Court experience who make for strange bedfellows. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 11 and may be televised.
And closer to home, 2010 also holds much promise for the new DC Agenda. The now employee-owned business is free from out-of-town corporate control, allowing us more freedom to innovate and reconnect with our local audience while expanding our coverage that a large national readership has come to expect. Look for major changes ahead as we re-launch our web site with more breaking news and analysis and introduce new print features, including local business and nightlife coverage. Happy New Year.
Kevin Naff is editor of DC Agenda. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.