LGBT milestones of 2011
- Here’s another article from one of our new writers, Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin. Happy New Year!
2011 has been celebrated as a great year for the LGBT community. Of course, as long as severe inequality persists, it’s difficult to wholeheartedly agree that it was a great year. We’ve seen setbacks for marriage equality in Ireland, homosexuality still criminal in 76 countries around the world, lesbians tortured in anti-gay clinics in Ecuador, the LGBT community drastically suppressed in Russia, and gay teenagers everywhere still being tormented by homophobic bullying.
All the same, 2011 has certainly upheld that crucial message; that it gets better. So, grab a cup o’ kindness and we’ll run through some of the achievements of the LGBT movement in 2011.
Ireland rang in the New Year with the Civil Partnership Act, which came into effect on 1st January 2011, granting considerably enhanced rights to co-habiting partners, including gay couples. On 4th April, Hugh Walsh and Barry Dignam entered into the first publicly celebrated partnership under the Act.
On 5th March, the Taoiseach outlined the government’s intentions for a constitutional convention, including a provision for discussing marriage for same-sex couples. While the parameters of the convention remain unclear, the mention of marriage equality in the Programme for Government shows that gay rights have become something of a legislative priority. As Iarnród Éireann would put it, “We’re not there yet… but we’re getting there”.
2. LGBT Representatives in the Oireachtas
The number of openly gay Oireachtas members has quadrupled in 2011. In February, Dominic Hannigan and John Lyons of the Labour Party became the first openly gay TDs in the history of the State. David Norris, despite the upsets in his presidential campaign, held the Trinity seat he’s been fighting from for the last 24 years.
Finally, in a real triumph for the LGBT community, for women, for men, for children, for Human Rights, for Ireland, for the world, the solar system and the universe… the visionary Dr Katherine Zappone was appointed to the Senate at the request of the Táiniste.
Gaga is a leader in a powerful popular campaign for equality that’s taking place on people’s TVs and iPods, and in their tweets, hearts and minds.
4. Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
On 20th September, the United States finally repealed the insidious, twenty-year old ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which prevented LGBT people from serving openly in the military. At last, the army that professes to fight for freedom around the world afforded this most basic freedom to its own soldiers.
In the months since the repeal of DADT, the Obama administration has dramatically altered its foreign policy relating to gay rights. This shift culminated in Hillary Clinton’s ground breaking speech in Geneva on December 6th, urging the world’s leaders to afford LGBT people “the full measure of liberty, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of humanity.”
6. President Higgins
On 29th October, the election of Michael D. Higgins as the 9th President of Ireland was another victory for progressive, tolerant Ireland.
This feminist, human rights activist and LGBT ally is a true successor to the Marys Robinson and McAleese in the struggle to dismantle “the noxious apparatus of homophobia”.
7. International leaders support marriage equality
Around the world, the cause of Marriage Equality has been gaining momentum. In the UK, David Cameron has pledged that his government is now committed to discussing “how, not if” to implement full civil marriage for LGBT couples, and to have the legislation in place within the lifetime of the current parliament. The ruling Australian Labour Party also adjusted its platform to support full marriage equality.
In the USA, President Obama at last took a stronger stance on gay marriage, and voicing his support for the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’, which will invalidate DOMA. While many of the prospective Republican candidates for 2012 are virulently anti-gay, with Obama onside we’re promised a fair fight. Well, as fair as a fight can be when one side is clearly right.
8. Marriage equality in New York
On June 24th, just in time for a particularly joyful Pride, New York passed its Marriage Equality Act, becoming most populous state yet to legalise full gay marriage.
The first wedding in Manhattan was a real tearjerker, taking place between Phyllis Siegel, 77, and Connie Kopelov, 85.
Horrifying stories of gay bullying and suicide continued to emerge this year, most memorably that of 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer, an out 14-year old activist and blogger. However, it seems that although change comes dropping slow, change does come.
In December, Ireland’s own Belong To were held up as role models at a UN conference in Rio, dedicated specifically tackling homophobic bullying as human rights abuse.
This year the UN Human Rights Council passed a specific resolution supporting LGBT rights for the first time in its history. The resolution expresses “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
While the resolution has no binding effect, it is a milestone in that it reflects an international shift in values. Its opponents are concerned that the Resolution will force countries to legalise homosexuality and recognise marriage equality. Here’s hoping that they’re right.
Have we missed anything important? Add your 2011 milestones in the comments!
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