The year 2012 will go down in the history books as among the most pivotal in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement.
We witnessed a massive turning point in the political arena, as LGBT issues were no longer a political liability for gay-supportive politicians and actually turned out to be a boon as Americans embraced fairness for gay people. Marriage equality had big wins in four states for the first time at the ballot after years of losing in over 30 states. President Barack Obama came out for full equality, including marriage, ran on that in his re-election, and won. Transgender equality scored big with major rulings by government as well as changes by medical authorities. Lesbians flexed their political muscle, bisexuals got a representative in Congress, hate crimes laws were put to the test, and we finished out the year heading to the Supreme Court.
Check out the slideshow below to relive some of the biggest LGBT political moments of 2012. Tell us your favorite -- or one we might have missed -- in the comments section below.
Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield, author of the infamous <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-02-16/tennessee-bill-homosexuality/53116470/1">“don’t say gay” bill</a> in his state (which would have banned schools from teaching about homosexuality), created headlines across the country in January when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/26/stacey-campfield-tennessee-senator-dont-say-gay-bill_n_1233697.html">he told Gay Voices in an interview</a> that it is virtually “impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex,” in an addition to calling antigay bullying in schools a “lark.” Condemned by AIDS groups and health authorities across the U.S., he was also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/31/martha-boggs-stacey-campfield-restaurant-removal-_n_1243967.html">booted out of a popular restaurant in Knoxville</a>, garnering still more headlines.
Frank Mugisha, Ugandan gay activist, reported that he received death threats in January and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/12/frank-mugisha-ugandan-gay_n_1201602.html">feared for his life</a>, as the country moved forward on the horrific <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-peron/whos-helping-finance-ugandas-kill-the-gays-bill-you-are_b_2229509.html">“kill the gays” bill</a>, which had been inspired by American evangelical activists and would punish homosexuality by death or life in prison. In March, Mugisha <a href="http://www.policymic.com/articles/7699/u-s-culture-wars-gone-global-the-american-evangelical-behind-the-kill-the-gays-bill-in-uganda">filed a lawsuit</a> in U.S. federal court against the American evangelicals who laid the groundwork for the bill. The bill, which had been shelved in 2011, threatened to surface <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-mirabella/uganda-kill-the-gays-bill-could-be-voted-on-any-day_b_2174160.html">throughout 2012</a>, but is <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201212150001.html">reportedly shelved</a> again perhaps until at least early 2013.
In February <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/nyregion/christie-vetoes-gay-marriage-bill.html?_r=0">Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey vetoed a bill</a> that would have had New Jersey become the next state offering marriage equality, outraging LGBT activists in the state and across the country. "An issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide,” Christie said in a statement, while many surmised that Christie was ducking because he was seeking higher office in a GOP hostile to gay rights.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/07/proposition-8-california-same-sex-marriage-ban-ruling_n_1260171.html">ruled in February that California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state, is unconstitutional</a>, affirming U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling from 2011 but narrowing the decision to apply solely to California. Gays and lesbians cheered in the streets across America while superstar attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies prepared for Prop 8 proponents to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Phoenix New Times <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/18/paul-babeu-arizona-sheriff-gay-immigration-scandal_n_1286353.html">reported in February</a> that Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu, a conservative who’d become known for his tough stand on illegal immigration, threatened his 34-year-old Mexican boyfriend with deportation if he disclosed details of their relationship. Semi-nude photos of Babeu that he’d posted online on gay sex sites went viral as he was forced to acknowledge that he is gay -- and stepped down as Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign co-chair. The revelation torpedoed his chances to run for a seat in Congress, but Babeu <a href="http://www.towleroad.com/2012/11/gay-arizona-sheriff-paul-babeu-wins-re-election.html">was re-elected</a> as sheriff of Pinal County in November.
Washington State passed a marriage equality bill in February which Democratic <a href="http://www.seattlepi.com/local/connelly/article/Make-History-Gregoire-signs-same-sex-marriage-3312315.php">Governor Chris Gregoire promptly signed</a>, telling <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/28/chris-gregoire-washington-governor-gay-marriage_n_1239058.html">Huff Post Gay Voices</a> “I wished I could have come to the point that I am today six years ago, seven years ago, five years ago. But it took me a journey and for that, I’m sorry that it took me as long as it did. But it’s genuine. It’s not about politics. It’s very heartfelt. it’s about my [Catholic] faith and I have struggled with it.” Antigay activists began organizing immediately to have the bill voted on at the ballot in the fall.
In March Governor Martin O’ Malley <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/maryland-gay-marriage-martin-o-malley-signs-bill_n_1314352.html">signed a marriage equality bill into law in Maryland</a>, which saw antigay forces immediately begin gathering signatures to bring the issue to a vote in the state in the fall. A spokeswoman for the Maryland Marriage Alliance, one of the groups opposed to marriage equality, told the Associated Press,"We will have the last say on how marriage will be defined in Maryland.”
A New Jersey jury found Dharun Ravi <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/16/dharun-ravi-guilty-of-invasion-of-privacy_n_1353616.html">guilty of invasion of privacy and hate crimes</a> in March for spying on his Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide the year before, focusing more attention on the national debate about antigay bullying. The 15-count indictment included several bias intimidation charges as prosecutors claimed Ravi bullied Clementi for being gay. A debate about hate crimes laws erupted, with some politicians and pundits vowing to change the laws, seeing the verdict as unjust, while many activists felt that justice had been served.
The Defense of Marriage Act <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/doma-unconstitutional-ruling-appeals-court-boston_n_1559031.html">took the first of severals blows</a> in federal appeals court as the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it unconstitutional in May, in suits brought by both gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts and the state of Massachusetts itself. Another big hit came in June and July, when a U.S. district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, respectively, ruled DOMA unconstitutional in the case of Edie Windsor, an 83 year old Manhattan widow who was forced to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes upon the death of her wife, Thea Spyer, in 2009.
In a crushing defeat for gay and lesbian activists, North Carolina’s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/amendment-one-north-carolina_n_1501308.html">Amendment One passed</a> in May by a wide margin, banning gay marriage in the state’s constitution. Voted on during a primary race in which many Republicans were on the ballot, the campaign brought out much antigay rhetoric, as Christian evangelicals preachers across the state railed against homosexuality, with one <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/05/north-carolina-pastor-trap-gays-and-lesbians-behind-electrified-fences/52633/">calling for rounding up</a> gays and lesbians and holding them behind an electrified fence.
Antigay rhetoric dominated the Republican presidential primaries, kicking off early in the year at the caucuses in Iowa, a state in which antigay activists have been intent to ban gay marriage ever since the Iowa Supreme Court handed down a decision in 2009 allowing gays and lesbians to marry, and continuing throughout the summer. Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney tried to outdo each other on bigoted attacks on gays, <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/nom-chairman-hails-mitt-romney-expect-honor-pledge">having signed pledges</a> to ban gay marriage in the U.S. constitutional and <a href="http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/2012/02/video-romney-at-cpac-ill-defend-defense-of-marriage-act-fight-for-amendment-to-define-marriage-as-between-a-man-and-woma.html">vowing throughout the campaign</a> to fight LGBT rights.
In May President Obama energized LGBT activists and made history by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/obama-gay-marriage_n_1503245.html">coming out for marriage equality</a> in an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC, the culmination of a chain of events in which Vice President Biden <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/06/vice-president-biden-gay-marriage_n_1489235.html">appeared to jump ahead of the president</a> just days before amid tough criticisms of the president for not having "evolved." The news preempted daytime soap operas as the president said, "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."
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/24/transgender-employees-anti-discrimination-law-eeoc-_n_1449282.html">in a landmark ruling</a> and a huge victory for transgender equality, handed down a decision in June stating that if employers discriminate against individuals based on gender identity they are violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination. Transgender activists hailed the ruling as a game-changer for trans workers.
With the backing of Billie Jean King, Jane Lynch and other prominent lesbians, a lesbian super PAC, LPAC, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/lpac-lesbian-super-pac-launches_n_1663789.html">was founded in July</a> by Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Rickets. Sarah Schmidt, spokesperson for LPAC, said, “There's a real opportunity here to engage women who haven't been engaged before -- for lesbians, in particular, to speak for ourselves about the issues that are important to us and to define those issues in our own words. It's a chance to really have a seat at the table when these critical issues are being discussed and the policy is being developed."
For the first time since 1990, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post_now/post/international-aids-conference-2012-what-you-need-to-know/2012/07/16/gJQAQul7oW_blog.html">the International Conference on AIDS</a> was held in the United States, in Washington, because President Obama had lifted the horrendous <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/30/hiv-travel-ban-lifted-by_n_340109.html">HIV travel ban</a> in 2009. Activists were hopeful in a year which saw more and better treatments but were <a href="http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/07/09/aids-group-criticizes-obama-as-intl-conference-approaches/">critical of the Obama administration</a> for not providing the funds to fight HIV now that the more tools are available. In positive news this year in prevention, at a time when gay men are still the number one group at risk, the FDA <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/health/oraquick-at-home-hiv-test-wins-fda-approval.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1355929508-VgDuJC6nAe2B2NpUbusWXw">approved an at-home HIV test</a> in July. Also that month, the FDA <a href="http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-07-16/national/35487751_1_truvada-hiv-infection-aids-advocates">approved</a> a drug to prevent HIV infection, though the decision was controversial, supported by many AIDS advocates and researchers while it was <a href="http://www.aidshealth.org/archives/news/gilead-must-halt-fda-approval">strongly criticized</a> by one prominent AIDS group.
Mary Gonzalez, elected to the Texas House of Representatives in August, became the first elected politician <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/mary-gonzalez-texas-state-representative-pansexual-_n_1764824.html">to identify as "pansexual,"</a> once again challenging LGBT people, and everyone, to rethink labels and categories of gender and sexual orientation. She said in an interview that, like other self-identified pansexuals, she doesn't believe in a gender binary because “gender identity isn’t the defining part of my attraction." Though she'd previously termed herself at different times as both "lesbian" and "bisexual, "Gonzalez said she has also dated transgender and "gender-queer" individuals, in addition to women.
The Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention, in August and September respectively, underscored where the major political parties were on the issue of LGBT equality in 2012. While the DNC had been transformed, with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/evolution-matters-how-pre_b_1870189.html">calls for marriage equality</a> coming from the stage and a party platform that for the first time in history embraced gay marriage, the RNC featured the Log Cabin Republicans and the even more conservative gay group, GOProud, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/log-cabin-republicans-goproud-gop-party_n_1901266.html">fighting for even a shred of recognition</a>. As usual, antigay Christian right leaders won the day at the RNC, installing a plank calling for a federal marriage amendment in the party’s platform, which reflected candidate Mitt Romney’s antigay position as well.
California took on the so-called "ex-gay" purveyors, passing the first ever bill to ban "reparative" therapy -- quack therapy which claims to be able to convert people from gay to straight -- by therapists for minors. Governor Jerry Brown <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/01/us/california-gay-therapy-ban/index.html">signed the bill in October</a> as activists hoped California would once again be a pioneer for the entire country on LGBT rights. Soon enough, an effort was underway <a href="http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2012/12/legislation_bans_gay_minors_fr.html">in New Jersey</a> to pass similar legislation.
In Iowa Justice David Wiggins, a state supreme court justice who’d decided in favor of marriage equality, <a href="http://westdesmoines.patch.com/articles/election-2012-judicial-retention-vote">survived a retention vote</a> in November, thwarting antigay forces who worked hard to remove him at the ballot. Gay foe Bob Vander Platts had successfully targeted several Justices in 2010 in retention votes after they ruled in favor of marriage equality. But the vote this year was another indication that perhaps the power of antigay leaders on the issue of marriage equality is waning.
The first transgender person <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/stacie-laughton-new-hampshire-legislator-elected_n_2092893.html">was elected</a> as a state legislator in the U.S. in November when Stacie Laughton won a seat in Vermont’s House of Representatives. The news turned from celebration to disappointment, however, when Laughton announced she would <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/election/2012/11/27/nh-transgender-legislator-step-aside">not take office</a>, after it was revealed that she was convicted of a felony in the past, something she didn’t disclose during the campaign.
Kyrsten Sinema became <a href="Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. House of Representatives after she won a very close rose in Arizona. She joins three newly-elected gay men in the House’s LGBT Caucus, and two other openly gay men who were re-elected, bringing the number of openly gay and bisexual House members to a high of six.">the first openly bisexual person elected</a> to the U.S. House of Representatives after she won a very close rose in Arizona. She joins three newly-elected gay men in the House’s LGBT Caucus, and two other openly gay men who were re-elected, bringing the number of openly gay and bisexual House members to a high of six.
The first openly gay person of color was elected to Congress when Japanese-American Mark Takano <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/election/2012/11/07/mark-takano-becomes-first-lgbt-person-color-congress">won a House seat</a> in Riverside, California. He also became the first openly gay person from California to be elected to Congress, one of four newly elected openly gay and bisexual House members in 2012, including the first from New York State, Sean Patrick Maloney.
Making major history in 2012, Wisconsin openly lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/tammy-baldwin-election-results-2012_n_2049837.html">was elected to the U.S. Senate in her state</a>. She became the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the Senate and is one of 20 women who will serve in the next Senate, a record high.
After losing at the ballot in over 30 states, gay marriage <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/gay-marriage-victory_n_2085900.html">won in all four states</a> where it was voted on in November 2012, stunning gay activists as well as antigay conservative leaders. In Minnesota, an amendment to ban gay marriage in the state constitutional went down in flames, while in Maine, Maryland and Washington State gay marriage itself was on the ballot and won. As the wedding plans began in all three states, activists plotted what the results meant for moving forward and voting on equality at the ballot box.
President Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/gay-mega-history-in-the-m_b_2087874.html">won re-election in November after coming out for full equality for LGBT people</a>, including marriage equality, making history as the most pro-gay president and candidate ever. The election results defied the warnings of some political pundits, as well as some in the Democratic Party, who said supporting gay marriage would hurt Obama, and it vindicated LGBT activists who said it would in fact help him by energizing his base.
In changes that transgender activist have long fought for, the American Psychiatric Association <a href="http://dot429.com/articles/1119">updated its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual</a> in November. “Gender Identify Disorder” now does not exist as a condition to describe the experience of transgender individuals, replaced with “Gender Dysphoria.” What is means is, just as when the APA stopped listing homosexuality as a disorder back in 1973, being transgender will no longer be considered an illness in legal, social and political contexts, which goes a long way toward achieving civil rights.
In December a federal judge in Nevada <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2012/12/nevada_gay_marriage_ban_judge_upholds_ban_with_no_rational_basis.html">upheld that state’s ban on marriage for gays and lesbians</a>, in a ruling that was a polar opposite of Judge Walker’s decision which ruled Prop 8 in California unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Robert Jones, a Mormon appointed by George W. Bush, ruled that marriage is for procreation and that if it is open to lesbians and gays, “it is conceivable that a meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons would cease to value [it because] they no longer wish to be associated with the civil institution as redefined.” Lambda Legal, the LGBT legal group, announced it would appeal the ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court surprised political activists, court watchers and gay advocates when it <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/07/supreme-court-gay-marriage_n_2218441.html">announced in December</a> that it will not only take up the Defense of Marriage Act next year -- a case which activists expected the court to hear -- but it will take up the Prop 8 case as well. The case of Edie Windsor, the 83-year-old widow who challenged DOMA, was accepted by the court, making Windsor the hero of many heading into 2013. And, while many speculated on what the court would do on Prop 8, with some <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/12/prop-8-gay-rights-advocates-resigned-to-more-waiting.html">more nervous than others</a>, the news certainly set up 2013 as yet another exciting year for LGBT rights.