[This week's feature spotlight focuses on LGBT issues.]
2009 has so far been a tumultuous year for the gay rights movement. The LGBT community celebrated victories that were decades in the making, but these triumphs were often accompanied by stunning setbacks, and a growing fear of betrayal. This year may prove to be as historic as 1969, the year of the Stonewall riots in New York City. This week, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots will be commemorated around the country. San Francisco’s Gay Pride parade will likely be one of the most spectacular events.
For the rest of this week we will be taking a look at some of the issues and personalities that define both the gay rights movement and the evolving LGBT culture. Today we begin with the most hot button issue of all: gay marriage.
Recently, proponents for legalizing same-sex marriage made a number of important gains. So far, same-sex marriage has been legalized by the Supreme Courts of Iowa and Connecticut and the legislatures of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Massachusetts’s high court issued the first such ruling in 2003. States such as New York, New Jersey, Washington and Oregon also expanded their laws to recognize gay marriage, stopping short of making it legal in the state.
The big exception, of course, is California.
The California State Supreme Court ruled 6-1 this May to uphold Prop 8. The proposition amends the state constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. However, the 18,000 same-sex couples married before November 4th will remain legal.
Chief Justice Ronald George, defended the ruling as constitutional. The newly affirmed proposition creates a "sole, albeit significant, exception," to existing law, George said, so that "the designation of 'marriage' is ... now reserved for opposite-sex couples."
At the time of the ruling we reported on young people's reaction to the legal banning of more gay marriages on California:
"I just want to be able to have what other people can have. It’s almost like a stupid two-year-old feeling", says Sarah Freeman, a 21-year-old California native who identifies as lesbian. "My parents have been married a long time, so I think I view marriage as more of an important tradition than some people."
Meanwhile, President Obama has angered much of the gay community with his speech last Wednesday extending only some health care benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Obama's speech comes on the heels of Justice Department actions. The DOJ filed a brief calling for the dismissal of the first federal court case that challenges the constitutionality of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), while also maintaining the stance that the President wants to see a repeal of the law.
Obama has also disappointed many by failing to deliver on his promise to repeal the military's Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. This Wednesday, we will bring you an exclusive interview from a young gay veteran who was discharged because of the policy. On Friday, we will finish off the week with another exclusive interview with Anthony Woods, a 28-year-old gay veteran running for Congress. Woods, a native of the Bay Area, says that if elected, one of his main goals would be to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Woods’s candidacy shows how young gay activists are moving beyond just the goal of same-sex marriage, a theme that appeared in our earlier coverage of Prop 8.
"There are a lot of other issues, like non-discrimination laws against transgender people and universal health care," Freeman said. "We should be focusing on getting universal health care or visitation rights for anyone you want. These benefits shouldn't only be tied to marriage."
This mindset reflects a trend on the most radical wings of the gay rights movement, known as Beyond Marriage. Beyond Marriage activists believe that all types of relationships should have the opportunity to receive benefits from the government. According to their mission statement, this could include “senior citizens living together” and people in “non-conjugal relationships”.
Monday- State of the Unions
Tuesday- Profiles in Polyamory [Part I] : a new generation of gay youth emerges, and challenges the notion of "normal".
Wednesday- The High Cost of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": a harrowing story of abuse in the military.
Thursday- Gay Music Icons and Profiles in Polyamory [Part II]
Friday- An Interview with Anthony Woods, Congressional Candidate and Gay Vet