A year of milestones

The momentum for LGBT equality has continued to build since Pride 2012.

click to enlarge APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE: The crowd reacts to the Hillsborough County Commission vote on June 5 to repeal the county’s ban on recognition of gay pride. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE: The crowd reacts to the Hillsborough County Commission vote on June 5 to repeal the county’s ban on recognition of gay pride.

It’s been a big year for the LGBT community, with one victory after another. Here are a few of the milestones we’re celebrating this year.

Supreme Court joins in the gay marriage debate

No matter what the outcome, the Supreme Court made history this year when it joined the marriage equality debate for the first time. It considered two watershed gay marriage cases: one regarding Proposition 8 — California’s ban on same-sex marriage — and the other determining the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a key part of which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

National and global momentum builds for same-sex marriage

In November, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize gay marriage by popular vote. So far in 2013, gay marriage laws were also passed in three more states: Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota. And several other countries have gotten on board with marriage equality since last year’s Pride celebration: Denmark, France, New Zealand, Uruguay and Brazil.

LGBT leaders

The last election saw a lot of firsts for LGBT leaders. This past November, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay U.S. Senator. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and California’s Mark Takano became the first openly bisexual person and the first openly gay minority elected to the U.S Congress, respectively.

Out and proud athletes

In April, NBA free agent Jason Collins became the first American professional player active in one of the four major sports — football, basketball, baseball, and hockey — to come out as gay in an article in Sports Illustrated. And Major League Soccer’s Robbie Rogers, also a U.S. national team member, announced on his blog in February that not only would he be retiring from the sport, but also publicly came out. But it wasn’t long before Rogers decided to return to soccer, and in May he played his first game for the MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy, becoming the first openly gay athlete to actually play a game in a prominent North American league sport.

Boy Scouts allow gay scouts

Following much criticism, the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift its longtime ban on gay scouts in May. While this change goes into effect on Jan. 1 of next year, the BSA’s ban on gay adult leaders still stands.

Military firsts

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell might have gone into effect in September 2011, but the U.S. military continues to celebrate LGBT firsts. Last August, Brigadier General Tammy Smith became our nation’s first openly gay, active-duty general. West Point began hosting its first gay weddings at the end of 2012, and this past February, for the first time, the Department of Veterans Affairs approved the burial of the same-sex spouse of a military veteran in a U.S. national cemetery. Last June, the Defense Department hosted its first Gay Pride Month event, honoring LGBT service members at a ceremony held at the Pentagon, and also a first, LGBT members of the military were given permission to wear their uniforms while marching in gay pride parades. And on the one-year anniversary of the repeal, a study showed that it “had no overall negative impact on military readiness, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.”

Strides for the transgender community

While transgender individuals are very much a part of the LGBT community, they often face their own issues and discrimination. During a Sarasota campaign stop last October, Vice President Joe Biden called transgender discrimination “the civil rights issue of our time.” Earlier this month, the Social Security Administration eased its requirements for transgender people seeking to change their gender on their Social Security card. Rather than requiring proof of gender reassignment surgery, the SSA will instead ask individuals for a birth certificate or passport documenting their accurate gender, or a letter from their physician confirming they’re undergoing treatment for gender transition. This past December, the American Psychiatric Association revised the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, replacing the term “gender identity disorder” with “gender dysphoria.” And earlier in June, Delaware became the 17th state to legally protect transgender people from discrimination.

Local victories

There are plenty of LGBT victories to celebrate right here in our own community. The Pinellas County Commissioner approved a countywide domestic partnership registry, which took effect April 15. On June 5, Hillsborough County Commissioners — led by openly gay Commissioner Kevin Beckner — voted 7-0 to repeal a ban on county sponsorship of gay pride events. And St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster — backtracking on a recent refusal to do so — became the city’s first mayor to sign a proclamation recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month. Also, a March poll conducted by Public Policy Polling showed 75 percent of Floridians support the legalization of either same-sex marriage or civil unions. Only 23 percent of those polled opposed legal recognition of same-sex unions of any kind.