LAST YEAR was an unusually tumultuous one for GLBT rights, at times a trying one, but ultimately a triumphant time for the gay community. By year’s end, it seemed we had reached a tipping point in the struggle for equality such that momentum for eventual success had finally gained the upper hand over the forces of resistance that have stymied full equality.
Here are my choices for the top ten events that made 2010 such a memorable year:
10. The GLBT movement was infused with energy through the creation of new advocacy organizations. Among the most important was Get Equal, a direct action group that made headlines by confronting politicians at events to hold them accountable for campaign promises. Other new organizations that had an impact include Queer Rising and Fight Back New York. The year closed with the formation of Equality Matters, a “war room” to fight against anti-gay misinformation, led by former Clinton official Richard Socarides and former Advocate magazine reporter Kerry Eleveld.
9. The “ex-gay” industry was on the rebound earlier this year led by the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), a sham mental health association, and People Can Change, which aims to make gay men more macho through its woodsy Journey into Manhood (JIM) weekends. But the ACP’s efforts came crashing down after its lead researcher, George Rekers (also affiliated with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality or narth) was caught vacationing with an escort he met on RentBoy.com. People Can Change was also discredited after one of its senior trainers for JIM weekends, Alan Downing, was accused of having clients touch themselves in front of a mirror. Additionally, Truth Wins Out and the South Florida Gay News exposed Arthur Abba Goldberg, the co-founder of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (jonah), as a convicted felon.
8. In early 2010, The American Prayer Hour (APH) was established by Truth Wins Out to stop Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The event highlighted the role that those involved with the National Prayer Breakfast have played in fomenting anti-gay hatred in Uganda. The APH formed a broad coalition of supporters, which helped lead Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to speak out against this bill. As a result, the legislation was placed on hold for the remainder of the year. Unfortunately, the bill’s sponsor, David Bahati, has vowed to revive it in 2011, and there is an urgent need to once again mobilize and take action.
7. For the first time, a Gallup Poll found that the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as morally acceptable crossed above the fifty percent mark.
6. Another Gallup Poll showed that 53 percent of Americans oppose marriage equality compared to 44 percent who support it. These improved numbers set a clear trend towards acceptance and highlight the possibility that majority support is an attainable goal in the near future.
5. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s new list of hate groups listed several of the major anti-gay organizations, notably the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, as certified hate groups. This was a significant blow to the credibility of these front groups for the Christian Right.
4. A federal judge in Boston ruled in July, in two separate lawsuits, that a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Taken together, these two cases help lay the foundation for the overturning of DOMA by higher courts.
3. The federal lawsuit Perry vs. Schwarzenegger to overturn California’s Proposition 8 prohibiting same-sex marriage in the Golden State, was a major development. In an unusual twist, conservative legal icon Ted Olsen joined liberal super-lawyer David Bois to argue the case—and send the message that equality should not be a partisan issue. The result was that for the first time some thoughtful conservatives publicly broke ranks with doctrinaire social conservatives over marriage equality.
2. Following an outbreak of suicides by gay teenagers, columnist Dan Savage launched the “It Gets Better” campaign, which let gay teens know that if they hang in there, life will improve, notably after graduation from high school. It was a stunningly brilliant public relations coup that gave hope to countless GLBT youths worldwide and cast a harsh spotlight on the harm caused by bullies. This was one of the rare efforts that could be described as a transformative cultural moment.
1. Repealing Don’t Ask–Don’t Tell was a monumental victory. Not only was this an impressive and meaningful legislative win, but the fight for repeal flooded the media with positive gay and lesbian role models, which significantly undermined the propaganda of anti-gay organizations. The images of brave gay service members will endure in our culture long after the victory celebrations stop. What’s more, just as the desegregation of the U.S. military by President Truman was a tipping point in the civil rights struggle for African-Americans equality, this event could well prove the beginning of the end of anti-gay discrimination and prejudice.
While victory is not assured, and another decade of back-breaking work may well be required, there’s a feeling that victory is now within reach, while the strategies for achieving it are more clearly visible than ever before.
Wayne Besen is the founder and executive director of Truth Wins Out, a GLBT rights organization based on New York City.