The story of the year was the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Here are our picks for the rest of 2011’s top LGBT news stories.
#2 N.Y. approves marriage
The Empire State became the sixth and most populous state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage in June when the legislature passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law a bill legalizing marriage rights for gay couples.
Upon passage of the legislation, Cuomo said New York has “finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted.”
The achievement marks the first time that a Republican-controlled legislative chamber — in this case, the New York State Senate — passed legislation in this country legalizing same-sex marriage.
The law went into effect in the state on July 24. Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd, a lesbian couple from Buffalo, N.Y., wed in Niagara Falls at midnight and became the first couple in the state to benefit from the law.
#3 Rep. Barney Frank retires
The longest-serving openly gay member of Congress announced in November that he wouldn’t seek a 17th term in the U.S. House.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), 71, was first elected to Congress in 1980. The lawmaker made his sexual orientation known in 1987 — becoming the second to do so after Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.).
Frank said redistricting in Massachusetts and his desire to retire before reaching age 75 prompted his decision not to run.
“I have enjoyed — indeed been enormously honored — by the chance to represent others in Congress and the State Legislature, but there are other things I hope to do before my career ends,” Frank said.
The lawmaker is credited with helping shepherd through the passage of hate crimes protections legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the 111th Congress. But Frank was criticized by transgender activists in 2007 for dropping gender identity protections from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The gay-only bill ultimately died in the Senate.
His most enduring legacy will likely be the passage of Wall Street reform legislation commonly known as Dodd-Frank, which he pushed through as chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
#4 Obama won’t defend DOMA; Boehner hires counsel
The Obama administration made a significant reversal in policy in February when it announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
In a Feb. 22 letter, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder notified Congress that laws related to sexual orientation, such as DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, should be subjected to heightened scrutiny.
“The president has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional,” Holder said.
Obama’s decision riled House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who accused the president of abandoning his constitutional duties. In March, Boehner convened the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which on a 3-2 party-line basis voted to defend the law in court in the administration’s stead.
To assist the House general counsel in defending the law, Boehner hired private attorney Paul Clement, a U.S. solicitor general under former President George W. Bush. The cost of the private attorney was initially announced at a blended rate of $520 an hour and total cost cap of $150,000, but Boehner later bumped up the cost cap to $1.5 million.
#5 Giffords shot; gay intern hailed as hero
The nation recoiled in horror in January after pro-LGBT Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) became one of 20 people shot people by a gunman during a town hall event in her district.
Daniel Hernandez Jr., a gay 20-year-old who had worked as an intern for Giffords for just five days at the time of the shooting, was credited with providing the first aid that saved her life.
“The attitude that I had,” Hernandez said, “was trying to make sure that those who had been injured were going to be OK, so to try to provide whatever first aid I could until someone else could come in and take over.”
Medics arrived on the scene to take Giffords and others to the University Medical Center in Arizona. Giffords slowly recovered and made her first appearance on the House floor in August to vote in favor of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling limit.
At a memorial service, President Obama called Hernandez a “hero” during his eulogy. The White House invited Hernandez — along with his father, Danny Hernandez Sr., — to sit alongside first lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address in January.
#6. Clinton, Obama endorse int’l LGBT rights
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December gave a high-profile speech in Geneva, Switzerland in which she spoke out against human rights abuses committed against LGBT people overseas.
During the speech, Clinton reiterated her previously held belief that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights and said LGBT people overseas “have an ally in the United States of America.”
“It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave,” Clinton said.
Clinton gave the speech on Dec. 6 in observance of Human Rights Day, which recognizes the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948 by the U.N. General Assembly. More than 1,000 diplomats and experts were in attendance.
On the same day, President Obama issued a memorandum to government agencies urging them to step up efforts against anti-LGBT human rights abuses abroad. Among other things, the memo calls on agencies to work against the criminalization of homosexual acts overseas and directs the State Department to lead a “standing group” to respond swiftly to serious incidents threatening LGBT human rights abroad.
#7 Jamey Rodemeyer commits suicide
A 14-year-old from Williamsville, N.Y. took his own life in September after his parents said he was subjected to bullying in school over his sexual orientation.
Jamey Rodemeyer, who attended Williamsville North High School, took his life in an apparent hanging. Prior to his death, he sent his last message in the form of a tweet to Lady Gaga, which read, “Bye Mother Monster. Thank you for all you have done. Paws up forever.”
Rodemeyer made a video for the “It Gets Better” project, a website dedicated to preventing teen suicide, in which he identified as bisexual and described the harassment he endured from other students.
“I just want to tell you that it does get better [be]cause when I came out for being bi I got so much support from my friends and it made me feel so secure,” Rodemeyer says in the video.
Rodemeyer’s death inspired outrage across the nation. Lady Gaga told her fans via Twitter she spent the days after his suicide “reflecting, crying and yelling.” She later met with President Obama over the issue of bullying.
#8 GOP hopefuls tout anti-gay views
Presidential election season officially kicked off this year as Republican candidates seeking to oust President Obama from the White House touted their anti-gay views.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum likely took the prize for emphasizing anti-gay positions most often in his campaign. In addition to pledging to reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Santorum said, “our country will fail” as a result of same-sex marriage. He also raised eyebrows in August when he said same-sex marriage is like “saying this glass of water is a glass of beer.”
Activists with Truth Wins Out revealed the therapy clinic that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) co-owns with her husband, Marcus Bachmann, engages in widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy aimed at turning gay people straight. The candidate has refused to answer questions about the clinic.
A total of five contenders — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Bachmann — each penned their name to an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage. Signing the document commits them to backing a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage and to defending the Defense of Marriage of Act in court.
#9 Prop 8 fight continues in California
Litigation seeking to overturn Proposition 8 progressed through the courts this year amid questions over whether proponents have standing to defend the law and whether the sexual orientation of the judge who ruled against the marriage ban should have disqualified him.
In the case of Perry v. Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in January sent the question of whether Prop 8 proponents had standing to defend the amendment in court to the California Supreme Court. The question emerged after state officials declined to litigate on behalf of the same-sex marriage ban.
In November, the California high court issued a unanimous decision that Protect Marriage and other groups who worked to pass the anti-gay initiative in 2008 indeed could continue the case.
Another challenge to U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision emerged in April after the retired magistrate told reporters he’s gay and has been living with a same-sex partner for 10 years. Proponents of Prop 8 said Walker should have recused himself from the case.
But in June, U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled that Walker’s sexual orientation wasn’t a factor in the judge’s decision to rule against Prop 8 and upheld the previous decision. The anti-gay activists appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on whether Walker’s sexual orientation should have disqualified him as well as whether the tapes of the trial should be made public. The appellate court has yet to make a decision on any of these issues.
#10 Solmonese steps down from HRC
The head of the Human Rights Campaign announced in August that after six years he would be stepping down as president of the nation’s largest LGBT organization.
The co-chairs of the board of directors of HRC and its sister organization, the HRC Foundation, said Joe Solmonese will remain as head of both organizations until the completion of his contract in March to ensure a smooth leadership transition.
Solmonese oversaw the defeat of the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 as well as passage of hate crimes protections legislation and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But he alienated many transgender activists in 2007 when he declined to oppose a decision by House Democratic leaders to remove protections for transgender people from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The search committee seeking Solmonese’s replacement is being co-chaired by board members Joni Madison of North Carolina and Dana Perlman of Los Angeles. The replacement has yet to be announced.
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State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world
Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs
The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.
Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.
• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia
• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights
• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda
• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK
• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.
Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.
Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.
More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.
“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.
Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.
“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”
The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.
Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.
Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth.
A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.
Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”
“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”
The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.
Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.
Federal government prepares for looming shutdown
White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’
However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.
As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.
This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.
Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.
Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.
“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.
“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.
The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”
Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.
Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
QAnon follower pleads guilty to threatening member of Congress
Conspiracy movement claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world
A New Mexico man has entered a plea deal after being charged with a federal criminal complaint of making threats through interstate communications directed at a member of Congress.
Federal prosecutors charged Michael David Fox, a resident of Doña Ana County, for calling the Houston district office of an unnamed member of Congress on or about May 18, 2023, and uttering threats that included knowingly threatening to kill an active member of Congress.
The plea agreement was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Damian L. Martinez of U.S. District Court in New Mexico in the Las Cruces by Fox’s attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in August.
According to the criminal complaint as outlined by a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator for the Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency, on May 18 at approximately 9:04 p.m. Fox called the office of a congresswoman for the District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives (Victim One/”V1″), who is from Houston. The call was received by V1’s office.
In the phone call Fox stated “Hey [Vl], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking satanic cock smoking son of a whore. You understand me you fucker?”
Law enforcement was able to trace the call back to Las Cruces, N.M., and it was believed that Fox was the user of cell phone account used to make the call. According to the FBI agents who interviewed Fox, he admitted to making the call.
Fox acknowledged that the threat was direct but claimed that he did not own any guns. Fox
claimed to be a member of the Q2 Truth Movement, the Q Movement. Fox explained these
movements believe all over the world there were transgender individuals running
governments, kingdoms and corporations.
Fox told the FBI that there is a plan called “Q the Plan to Save the World” which he learned about from an online video. Fox claimed that he believed Q was going to engage in the “eradication” of the people who were causing all the world’s misery. He believed that part of the eradication had already happened.
Fox explained that he had run Vl’s skull features through forensic analysis and determined
that Vl was born male and is now trans. Fox discussed his military service with the
U.S. Air Force, “Q the Plan to Save the World,” and how God communicates using
Fox continued to reiterate several different types of conspiracy theories indicating
extreme far right ideologies as his explanation for why he conducted the phone call to
According to the FBI, Fox rescinded his threat against Vl and apologized. Fox claimed he was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he made the call. Fox stated he understood how Vl would feel threatened by his phone call, and he acknowledged that anyone he knew or cared about would also be concerned with such a threat.
The charge of interstate threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. It is claimed by QAnon adherents that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat them.
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist Ana Valens, a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship and sex workers’ rights noted that Fox appears to be a “transvestigator.” Valens noted that the transvestigation conspiracy theory is a fringe movement within QAnon that claims the world is primarily run by trans people. Phrenological analysis is common among transvestigators, with a prominent focus on analyzing celebrities for proof that they are trans.
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