December 28, 2017 at 4:27 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
YEAR IN REVIEW: Top 10 national news stories of 2017
Pride, gay news, Washington Blade, 2017 LGBT National News stories

The Equality March for Unity and Pride passes by the White House. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As many predicted, 2017 brought an end to the progressive Obama era and the beginning of an assault on LGBTQ rights from the new Trump administration. Below is a ranking of the 10 biggest LGBTQ stories of the year as determined by Blade staff.

10. The push for ‘religious freedom’ bills

Although anti-LGBT forces sought to pass an anti-trans bathroom bill in Texas, the measure was defeated in the state legislature following outcry from the business community and LGBT advocates.

The measure, which would have barred transgender people from using bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on their gender identity, seemed dead when it failed to pass during the general session, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session exclusively for the purpose of passing the bill.

Major businesses — including IBM, which has a large presence in Texas — opposed the legislation. Although the Senate approved the legislation, the House didn’t follow suit and the bill finally died.

Although the bathroom bill was defeated, the legislature passed and Abbott signed into law an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” measure allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies in Texas to refuse placements to LGBT homes. South Dakota and Alabama enacted similar laws this year.

9. Sexual misconduct scandals ensnare Spacey, Takei

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Actor Kevin Spacey drew widespread condemnation after coming out as gay in the wake of sexual assault allegations against him. (Photo by Vonora; courtesy Bigstock)

The tidal wave of allegations of sexual misconduct this year that brought down numerous public figures beginning with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein also affected gay men in media.

“Star Trek” actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him in 1986, when Rapp was 14. The “House of Cards” star issued a statement saying he didn’t recall the incident and was coming out as gay.

That didn’t stop outcry against him and 15 more accusers from coming forward, which essentially ended Spacey’s career. Netflix fired Spacey, his Gore Vidal biopic was cancelled and he was cut from scenes in the Ridley Scott film “All the Money in the World.”

Also accused of sexual misconduct was George Takei. A former model said the “Star Trek” actor groped him in 1981. Takei denied the allegation and was able to weather it after no subsequent allegations emerged.

8. Edith Windsor dies

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Edie Windsor served as one of the Grand Marshals of the 2017 Capital Pride parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Four years after her historic victory at the U.S. Supreme Court against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, Edith Windsor died this year at age 88.

Dubbed the “mother of marriage equality,” Windsor sued the U.S. government because under DOMA she was required to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after the death of her spouse, Thea Speyer. In 2013, Windsor’s lawsuit led the Supreme Court to strike down the law in a decision that was a precursor to the 2015 ruling guaranteeing marriage equality nationwide.

After the decision, Windsor continued her activism, serving as grand marshal for Capital Pride in 2016. Windsor supported the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

At her memorial service at Temple Emanu-el in New York City, Clinton made a surprise appearance and honored Windsor as someone who “helped change hearts and minds, including mine.”

7. Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico

Residents of La Perla, an oceanfront neighborhood in San Juan, that suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Maria, have erected handwritten signs asking for water and other basic supplies. (Photo courtesy of Wilfred Labiosa/WAVES AHEAD)

Amid a Trump administration response widely seen as inadequate, much of Puerto Rico this year was devastated in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, including its LGBT residents and an HIV/AIDS organization.

An estimated 70 percent of the island was without power six weeks after the storm, which claimed the lives of nearly 500 people there. More than 50,000 Puerto Rico residents were displaced from their homes, many of whom resorted to consuming water from a contaminated site.

Also without power was the San Juan-based organization Bill’s Kitchen, which delivers meals to people with HIV/AIDS. Food and Friends in D.C. donated between $30,000-$35,000 to the organization to buy a generator for the Puerto Rico organization.

San Juan Mayor Yulín Cruz, a Democrat, called the situation a “terrifying humanitarian crisis” and called for the U.S. government to speed up its response. That angered President Trump, who tweeted Puerto Rico officials “want everything to be done for them.”

6. Roy Moore loses Senate bid   

Alabama, gay news, Washington Blade

Roy Moore (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

In an answer to the prayers of LGBT people, Democrat Doug Jones defeated notorious homophobe Roy Moore this year in a special election for a U.S. Senate seat.

Moore was defeated after nine women accused him sexual misconduct. Six said he inappropriately dated them decades ago when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Three others accused him of sexual assault.

Over the course of his long career, Moore established an anti-LGBT record. Moore urged Alabama probate judges to refuse to marry same-sex couples after the 2015 Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality, which resulted in him being removed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Jones, however, was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and supports LGBT rights. He said on video President Trump was wrong to have rescinded Title IX guidance protecting transgender students to ban transgender people from the U.S. military.

5. Vegas replaces Orlando as deadliest shooting

Cameron Robinson, on right, died and his boyfriend Robert Eardley was wounded in the Las Vegas shooting. (Photo courtesy of GoFundMe)

A deadly attack at a country music show in Las Vegas this year surpassed the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., as the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The shooter, Stephen Paddock, killed 59 people by converting an assault rifle into an automatic weapon and firing upon concert-goers from a room in Mandalay Bay hotel. An additional 546 individuals were wounded.

The motive for Paddock, who killed himself as law enforcement officials entered his room, remains unknown.

Among the victims was a Utah gay couple: Cameron Robinson and Robert Eardley. Robinson died after being struck in the neck. Eardley was wounded after being shot in the back.

The tragedy — and an additional shooting this year at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas — did nothing to influence Congress to advance gun control legislation amid ongoing efforts from activists like Gays Against Guns to convince lawmakers to act.

4. National Equality March draws thousands

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Organizers estimated between 50,000-80,000 participated in the Equality March. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets this year for the National Equality March on Washington, including many demonstrators who waved Pride flags and carried signs in opposition to President Trump.

An estimated 50,000-80,000 people demonstrated in the streets of D.C. and marched in front of the White House before emptying onto the National Mall.

The Women’s March on Washington, which drew between 440,000 to 500,000 people as well as 5 million supporters worldwide, served as the inspiration for the Equality March. The idea came about after New York gay activist David Bruinooge started a Facebook page scheduling the march for D.C. on June 11.

Although protesters were energized, the media attention to the march was scant in comparison to coverage of the Women’s March. Some insiders said the event was haphazardly organized and saved at the last minute by contributions from the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood. The Washington Blade also made a financial contribution to the march.

3. Supreme Court hears Masterpiece Cakeshop case

Activists gather in front of the United States Supreme Court on Dec. 5 during oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

In its first major consideration of a gay rights case since the ruling for marriage equality, the U.S. Supreme Court this year heard arguments on whether the First Amendment allows a Colorado baker to deny making wedding cakes to same-sex couples despite a state non-discrimination law.

The Supreme Court agreed to take up the Masterpiece Cakeshop case after state courts determined Jack Phillips violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to make wedding cakes for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who sought to purchase a custom-made cake for their wedding in 2012, but were denied service.

U.S. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy gave conflicting signals during oral arguments. At times, Kennedy expressed concern about the dignity of the same-sex couple, but Kennedy also expressed consternation Colorado wasn’t tolerant of Phillips’ religious beliefs.

Oral arguments yielded no clear indication of how the court will rule. A decision is expected in June.

2. Trans candidates score historic wins

Transgender candidates won a slew of historic victories in local races this year on Election Day, a milestone that could lead to more wins in 2018.

The most prominent win belonged to Danica Roem, a transgender journalist in Virginia who unseated notoriously anti-LGBT Del. Bob Marshall. Roem was set to become the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a state legislature in the United States.

Other transgender candidates — Andrew Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham — claimed notable victories in the election for the Minneapolis City Council. Both were the first transgender candidates elected to a major U.S. city council and the first transgender people of color elected in any public office in the United States.

Meanwhile, Tyler Titus won election to the Erie School Board in Pennsylvania, Lisa Middleton won election to the Palm Springs City Council and Stephe Koontz won a spot on the Doraville City Council in Georgia.

1. Trump takes office, breaks promise to support LGBT Americans

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Donald Trump took office this year and almost immediately began attacking LGBT rights. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Although President Trump campaigned in 2016 on being a friend to LGBT people, his first year in office was marked by an erosion of LGBT rights after significant gains in recent years.

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Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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