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National news in 2012: a look back
Extended for the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2012-12-31

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Barbara Johnson. Photo by Chuck Colbert


It certainly was an eventful year for the LGBT community on the national front. Here is the list of national highlights and lowlights for 2012, largely in chronological order:

—"Secret" lovers?: In the book Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President, Don Fulsom claims that former President Richard Nixon had an affair with Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, a banker with apparent ties to the mob.

—Fatal hazing: The National Black Justice Coalition called for an investigation into the hazing death of gay Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion Jr. Ultimately, the school offered to settle; however, Champion's parents rejected the offer.

—Bachmann's end: The notoriously anti-gay Michele Bachmann ended her run for president in the GOP primary. Her husband, Marcus, owns a clinic that Truth Wins Out reported practices reparative therapy, a controversial and discredited clinical method designed to "cure" LGBT people. Gradually, other candidates—including Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum—exit the race, leaving Mitt Romney as the last person standing.

—A plan for youth: Youth Pride Services has issued a report entitled "A National Strategy for Black Gay Youth in America." The report containeda plan called Year for (You)th. The goal of said plan "is to improve the quality of the lives of Black gay youth living in the United States."

—Teen study: A study found that the quality of life of 17-year-olds raised in lesbian-parent families did not differ from that of a group of adolescents who grew up in heterosexual-parent families. The study—published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics—also found, among teens with lesbian mothers, that there was no difference in quality of life based on donor status, stigmatization or maternal relationship continuity.

—Appointment: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed Planning Commission President Christina Olague to the city's board of supervisors. The bisexual Olague first made her mark in the city's political circles as an organizer with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition.

—Stellar achievement: At its 219th semiannual meeting, the American Astronomical Society presented a certificate of appreciation commemorating the late gay-rights activist Dr. Frank Kameny's lifetime efforts to secure equal employment rights for all.

—Mayors for marrying: Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, launched "Mayors for the Freedom to Marry" at a press conference during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20. Among the 75 mayors supporting the initiative were Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker and New York City's Michael Bloomberg.

—HUD makes history: U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that HUD would publish a "new regulation" in the Federal Register to ensure that any HUD-assisted housing program does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

—Roland's apology: CNN's Roland Martin apologized to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for tweets the organizations viewed as anti-LGBT. One tweet read, "If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham's H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!"

—Christie's veto: After the New Jersey Assembly passed the marriage-equality legislation, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie quickly vetoed the bill. Lambda Legal vowed to continue its battle in the courts.

—Death-certificate challenge: Lambda Legal filed suit against the Iowa Department of Public Health on behalf of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer, a married Iowa couple seeking an accurate death certificate for their stillborn baby, Brayden. The Iowa District Court for Polk County ordered the state's department of public health to issue an accurate death certificate, acknowledging both women.

—It's settled: The departments of Justice and Education, together with six private student plaintiffs and the Anoka-Hennepin School District, filed a proposed consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, resolving complaints of sex-based harassment of middle and high school students in the school district.

—Denial: Maryland priest Father Marcel Guarnizo denied lesbian Barbara Johnson communion at her own mother's funeral. Guarnizo is no longer at the church where the incident occurred, although it's unclear if his departure is related to the situation.

—A new leader: The Human Rights Campaign selected Chad Griffin as its newest president. Griffin is the founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that enlisted the legal services of some of the nation's best lawyers to launch a lawsuit against California's ban on same-sex marriage, Prop 8.

—Grant and rave: President Obama appointed Grant Colfax, M.D., as director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Colfax was director of the HIV Prevention Section in the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

—Death of a bill: Tennessee's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill died after key GOP sponsor state Rep. Joey Hensley said he decided "simply not to bring it up." The legislation—which had earlier been approved by a state House committee—stated, "[N]o public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality."

—In the nudes: In Florida, teacher Shawn Loftis—who was fired for his past work as a gay-porn star—was allowed to return to the classroom. Loftis, who directed and acted under the name Colin O'Neal, can teach and apply for a permanent position as an educator.

—Long arm of the law: Two Kentucky men were the first individuals indicted for committing a hate crime in violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal jurisdiction to include certain assaults motivated by someone's sexual orientation. They were eventually found not guilty of the hate crime, but found guilty of kidnapping openly gay resident Kevin Pennington.

—A continuing problem: Bullied students continued to take their lives. Among them was 14-year-old Iowa student Kenneth James Weishuhn Jr., who was reportedly targeted after revealing his sexuality.

—Romney a bully?: Then-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was accused of bullying a classmate (who was perceived to be gay) and cutting the student's hair with scissors at the prestigious Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., when he attended school there. Romney claimed to have no recollection of the physical altercation, or of bullying the student.

—Ravi's sentence: Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail for using a Webcam to spy on roommate Tyler Clementi, who had a tryst with another man. Days after finding out he was taped, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

—Marriage support: Among the officials who expressed their support for marriage equality were President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.

—Here comes the judge: Tracy Thorne-Begland became Virginia's first openly gay judge—a month after the state's General Assembly rejected his nomination. The judges of the Richmond Circuit Court voted to appoint him to fill a vacancy on the city's general district court, although the post only lasts until the next legislative session, which convenes in 2013.

—DOMA decision: A unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the core part of the Defense of Marriage Act, barring federal recognition of marriages of same-sex couples, is unconstitutional.

—Partnership: GLAAD announced an official partnership with Athlete Ally, a leader in the movement for full equality for LGBT people in the world of athletics. Together, the groups planned to offer proactive Athlete Ally trainings for men's professional sports teams plus the Women's National Basketball Association.

—I'm coming out: In Missouri, Christian Republican state Rep. Zach Wyatt recently came out against his state's "Don't Say Gay" bill—and then came out himself. Wyatt called the measure "horrible" while adding that he was tired of anti-gay "bigotry being shown from both sides of the aisle on gay issues."

—Texas tragedy: In Portland, Texas, someone shot teen lesbian couple Mary Kristene Chapa and Mollie Judith Olgin. Olgin was found dead at the scene while Chapa eventually recovered. The killer remains at large, although police released a composite sketch (at www.portlandtx.com/DocumentCenter/View/258).

—Sorority standoff: A group of gay men interested in Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA)—also known as MIAKAs—threatened to file a lawsuit against the sorority, alleging homophobia and gender discrimination. AKA is the oldest and most renowned sorority founded for African-American women; it was founded in 1908 at Howard University.

—Sandusky found guilty: The trial of former Penn State University football coordinator Jerry Sandusky, 68, ended after nine days with him being convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse. Sandusky had faced 48 counts of abuse against 10 male victims; 26 of said counts were felonies. He was later sentenced to 30 years in jail—effectively becoming a death sentence.

—AIDS gathering: The 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., drew approximately 25,000 attendees in July. Among the more well-known attendees/speakers were Sir Elton John, President Bill Clinton and philanthropist Bill Gates.

—Kit approved: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test—the first over-the-counter, self-administered HIV test kit to detect the presence of antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and type 2 (HIV-2).

—The urge to merge: The boards of directors of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe announced the intent to combine the two groups into a single organization, becoming OutServe-SLDN. The new organization later named Allyson Robinson, a transgender veteran, as its executive director.

—Giving the bird: Chick-fil-A became the focal point of local and national controversy. Nationally, it was revealed that the chain donated more than $3 million to anti-gay organizations like the Family Research Council and Exodus International between 2003 and 2009. There was also a national day to support Chick-fil-A, which resulted in some franchises running out of chicken.

—Barney gets hitched: Retiring U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., married Jim Ready in Newton, Mass. Frank, 72, met Ready, 42, at a political fundraiser in 2005. Guests at the wedding included U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, as well as U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Reps. Dennis J. Kucinich and Steny H. Hoyer; Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick officiated.

—Religous first: For the first time ever, a presiding Lutheran bishop spoke before a pro-LGBT faith group, which also serves a denominational advocacy organization. It happened July 7, when Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Church In America, delivered the keynote address at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, D.C.

—Truvada OK'd: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Truvada as the first HIV-prevention pill. Gilead Sciences' Truvada has been taken by HIV-positive people over 12 in conjunction with other antiretroviral drugs since the FDA first approved it eight years ago.

—Anderson comes out: Reporter/talk-show host Anderson Cooper officially came out in an email which openly gay journalist Andrew Sullivan unveiled on a posting of his blog on The Daily Beast. In part, the email reads, "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."

—I'm sorry: Fla. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll apologized for statements she made in refuting allegations from a former staffer that Carroll's lesbian. Carroll had originally said, "Black women that look like me don't engage in relationships like that."

—"Legitimate" gaffe: Rep. Todd Akin, a GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, said in an interview that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy. The resulting furor even had Mitt Romney asking Akin to step down from his race. However, Akin refused, losing in November.

—Gotta pay: Andrew Shirvell—the Michigan attorney general who was fired after harassing gay Univ. of Michigan student-body president Chris Armstrong—has been ordered to pay $4.5 million in damages. Shirvell lost his job in 2010 after repeatedly harassing Armstrong with his blog postings.

—Swim stopped: Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad stopped her attempt to make the 103-mile swim from Cuba to the United States. Nyad, a 63-year-old lesbian, dealt with everything from rough seas to stinging jellyfish. Mark Sollinger, a leader of the crew and support team, said that Nyad's lips and face were very swollen, and she was suffering from exhaustion.

—Shooter indicted: Floyd Lee Corkins II was formally charged with the shooting of the security guard at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the conservative group the Family Research Council. A grand jury indicted Corkins on a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition and two D.C. offenses: assault with intent to kill while armed and possession of a handgun during a crime of violence. Corkins, who later received an additional charge of terrorism, had volunteered at a community center for LGBT individuals.

—Inn treatment: A Vermont resort that was sued last year for refusing to host a lesbian couple's wedding reception and violating Vermont's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act finalized an agreement to resolve the lawsuit today. As part of the settlement, the Wildflower Inn will pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission as a civil penalty and will place $20,000 in a charitable trust to be disbursed by the couple.

—Cruz control: GLAAD announced that actor/activist Wilson Cruz has joined the organization as its strategic giving officer. Cruz—known for his work on such TV shows as My So-Called Life and Noah's Arc as well as films like He's Just Not That Into You—is part of GLAAD's development team, helping to fund the organization's work amplifying stories from the LGBT community that build support for equality.

—More than words: A University of Michigan study has shown that the phrase "That's so gay" could have major consequences for LGBT students. Analyzing 114 LGBT students between 18 and 25, the data showed that those who heard the phrase frequently were more likely to feel isolated and experience headaches, poor appetite or eating problems than those who didn't. Another result: Only 14 participants (13 percent) didn't hear the phrase through the year-long duration of the survey.

—Hello, bi: Google Inc. unblocked the term "bisexual" from its search algorithm. Since late 2009, Google has had "bisexual" on a list of banned words.

—Decision about surgery: U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordered the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide sex-change surgery to transgender inmate Michelle Kosilek (born Robert Kosilek), who's serving life in prison for murder. In so ruling, Wolf—who is reportedly the first federal judge to make such a decision—said that to not provide the surgical option violated Kosilek's Eighth Amendment right to adequate treatment. Kosilek, who identifies as female, has received hormone treatments and lives in an all-male prison.

—"Cockmonster": Maryland state House Delegate Emmett Burns has criticized Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for the player's stance in favor of marriage equality. In response to Burns' action, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote to Burns, "I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster."

—Punted: North Dakota State College of Science student Jamie Kuntz was kicked off his school's football team after kissing his boyfriend in the press box at a game. Unable to play during a game in Colorado, Kuntz kissed his 65-year-old boyfriend in the media area. Kuntz subsequently left the school.

—Funders withdraw: Some of the Boy Scouts' biggest funders have withdrawn their support in light of the organization's anti-gay stance. United Parcel Service (UPS) took away its support, and Intel, one of the Scouts' largest corporate donors, announced that they will cease all future funding until the position changes.

—Orlando's pride: Orlando Cruz, a professional boxer from Puerto Rico (18-2-1, 9 KOs) who is a former Olympian, announced that he "is a proud gay man." Cruz, the first openly gay man in boxing history, then won his next bout.

—Idol time: In California, former gay-porn star Ryan Idol has been sentenced to 12 years in state prison for beating his former girlfriend. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Troy L. Nunley imposed the term on the 46-year-old Idol (real name: Marc Anthony Donais). In 2009, Idol's girlfriend ended their relationship when she reportedly caught him with his male lover. He entered her apartment and beat her with a porcelain toilet lid.

—Negative numbers: The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released its report "Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected (LGBTQH) Communities in the United States in 2011." The report—which collected data about IPV from anti-violence programs in 22 states—showed 19 IPV-related homicides, the highest yearly total the coalition ever recorded.

—Hail Sam: Good Morning America meterologist Sam Champion has come out as gay and is engaged to boyfriend Rubem Robierb. Champion and Robierb met through mutual friends a few years ago in Miami, where Robierb lives. Born in Brazil, Robierb is a fine-arts photographer who shows his work in Miami; Atlanta; Santa Monica, Calif.; and New York City.

—Backing Romney: The LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Mitt Romney have what it called "careful consideration and consultation with our members and chapters." The move drew derision from many LGBT groups and individuals.

—Destruction: Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars of destruction on the East Coast, especially New York—and many LGBT organizations were affected. Ali Forney Center Executive Director Carl Siciliano said in a release that "Water went at least four feet up the walls, and everything in there, including phones, computers, refrigerators, supplies, and the building floors has been irreparably damaged. I do not see us being able to return there, especially since our lease is finished at the end of January."

—Election day: Nov. 6 was a historic day on several fronts, politically speaking. President Obama easily won re-election over Mitt Romney, and almost 80 percent of the LGBT candidates who ran for office across the nation won—including Tammy Baldwin, who became the first U.S. senator to represent the LGBT demographic. In addition, marriage-equality advocates prevailed in all four states where initiatives were on the ballot: Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state.

—An important issue: Vice President Joe Biden told a woman at a campaign event that transgender-related discrimination is the "civil-rights issue of our time." The woman turned out to be Linda Carragher Bourne, the mother of Miss Trans New England, and she had asked Biden if he would help.

—First choice: Politico.com published that, according to insiders, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was Mitt Romney's first choice for vice president. Romney was reportedly so close to picking Christie that some top advisers at the campaign's Boston headquarters believed the governor had been offered the job.

—Name-calling: Tricia Macke, an anchor for a Fox affiliate in Cincinnati, Ohio, called lesbian MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow "such an angry young man" on her Facebook page. The exchange was removed from Macke's Facebook page, and Macke and the affiliate later issued formal apologies after GLAAD criticized them.

—Plea deal: Bradley Manning—the Army soldier accused of leaking more than a half million confidential U.S. documents to the website WikiLeaks—offered to plead guilty to some charges during his ongoing pre-trial hearing. Manning's civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, posted on a blog that the soldier was willing to admit guilty to some lesser charges if the military would amend or strike some of the 34 charges against him.

—Crime time: Joshua James Larson—a former Playgirl model who was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with the 2011 beating death of San Diego gay man Jason "Cowboy" Huggins—was sentenced to an indefinite term of 19 years to life. During the June 22, 2011, crime, Larson first attacked Huggins' friend, Nathan Meza, by hitting him in the head with a rock; Larson then picked up another rock and viciously attacked Huggins, which led to his death two weeks later.

—Historic wedding: Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Board member Brenda S. "Sue" Fulton married longtime partner Penelope Dara Gnesin at the Cadet Chapel at West Point, marking the venue's first same-sex ceremony. Fulton is also the Executive Director of executive director of Knights Out, an organization of LGBT West Point graduates and allies.

—Bare essence: San Francisco banned public nudity. Supervisor Scott Wiener's ordinance was approved 6-5, with the moderates on the board generally backing it and the progressives opposing the measure. Exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city's annual gay-pride event and the Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates sexual subcultures.

—Turnaround: In New Hampshire, Stacie Laughton made her resignation official. Laughton was the first out trans person in the nation to be elected as a state representative, but said she would resign after her criminal record became public. Laughton later said she would reconsider resigning, but then ceremoniously signed her letter of resignation on camera at the Access Nashua cable access TV station.

—Sheriff's situation: In Arizona, GOP candidate Paul Babeu overcame publicity from a messy split from an ex-boyfriend to be re-elected sheriff of Pinal County. Babeu originally ran for Congress; however, a story ran in February in which Babeu's ex, Jose Orozco, accused him of asking Orozco to sign a confidentiality agreement about their relationship—and allegedly threatening him with deportation after he didn't sign.

—Hear, hear: The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review both the Prop 8 case concerning a statewide ban on same-sex marriage and a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case concerning a ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriages. However, no specific date had been pinned down.

—A new day at Notre Dame: In a move affirming of gays on campus, officials at University of Notre Dame said they would recognize an organization for LGBTQ students—a first for the school. News of the decision came in a press release, and comes after a five-month administrative review process and after a decades-long push for a self-governing student club or GSA, a gay-straight alliance.

—Assault in Alabama: In Mobile, Ala., the brother of Mallory Owens' girlfriend brutally attacked Owens on Thanksgiving—reportedly because of her sexual orientation. Although many LGBT groups denounced the act, Owens later released a statement about the assault (saying she was "unconscious when the beating ended"), but stopped short of saying her sexuality motivated the attack.

—Funding in vain: A Human Rights Campaign (HRC) report shows that the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy funneled $2 million into unsuccessful efforts to defeat marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state in the most recent election cycle.

—A numbers game: Number-cruncher Nate Silver made a splash by predicting, with uncanny accuracy, how President Obama would defeat Mitt Romney. Silver, who is openly gay, predicted with 90.9-percent certainty that Obama would win the Nov. 6 election months before it happened—and he also correctly predicted the electoral-college results in 50 out of 50 states.

—Nudes-worthy: San Francisco banned public nudity. Supervisor Scott Wiener's ordinance was approved 6-5, with the moderates on the board generally backing it and the progressives opposing the measure.

—Not model behavior: In New York, former male model Renato Seabra, 22, was found guilty of killing and castrating 65-year-old journalist lover Carlos Castro. Seabra later was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

—Full court: The U.S. Supreme Court announced Dec. 7 that it will review both the Prop 8 case concerning a statewide ban on same-sex marriage and a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case concerning a ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Many observers had predicted the court would hear a case involving DOMA, but many more expected the court to pass on reviewing a lower court decision concerning Prop 8, the California ban on same-sex marriage.

—Sorry: Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., released a statement apologizing for comments he made more than a decade ago about James Hormel, an openly gay man who was then-President Bill Clinton's nominee for ambassador to Luxembourg. In 1998, Hagel— who is under consideration to be nominated as the next secretary of defense—called Hormel "openly, aggressively gay."

—Domestic behavior: The Wisconsin Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the state's law granting domestic-partnership protections to same-sex couples, saying registries do not conflict with the state's ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

—Restoring accuracy: The Iowa District Court for Polk County ordered the state's department of public health to issue an accurate death certificate to Jennifer and Jessica Buntemeyer after their son was stillborn in October 2011. The couple's grief over the baby's death was compounded when the department initially erased Jennifer's name from the death certificate.

—I do: The White House got its first same-sex marriage proposal recently when U.S. Marine Matthew Phelps proposed to his partner, Ben Schock. A transgender man, Scout, proposed to now-wife Liz Margolies at the White House in June; they recently married in New York.

—Figure hate: The number of people signed a petition to the White House asking for it to label the notorious Westboro Baptist Church a hate group neared 300,000 toward the end of 2012. The petition—aimed at the Kansas church known for picketing military funerals and other events with signs declaring "GOD HATES FAGS"—is believed to be the most popular cause ever on the White House's "We the People" petition site.

—Choi to the world: Charges against gay activist Dan Choi regarding a 2011 protest against a pipeline at the White House were dismissed. Another case against Choi—stemming from a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protest at the White House in 2010—is still pending in federal court.

—Newt way of thinking: Former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he accepts marriage equality as inevitable and he's OK with it. Talking with the Huffington Post, he said, "The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to ... accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states—and it will be more after 2014—gay relationships will be legal, period."


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Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.