2009 was a roller coaster ride for the lgbt community—both nationally and locally. We began the year optimistically with a new president being inaugurated who had declared himself to be a fierce advocate for LGBT rights.
Later, hope turned into anger by many because of the slow pace of ending discrimination in the military, in the workplace and partnership recognition. Tens of thousands took to the streets of DC to express their impatience and frustration.
We did witness some important victories, however, in New England, Iowa and Washington D.C. that offered us hope here in Maryland with respect to marriage equality. The election of a lesbian mayor in Houston confirmed that competence will win out regardless of sexual orientation. The signing into law of a Federal hate crimes bill—the first significant piece of federal legislation that protects the lgbt community—was monumental.
But there were also those bitter disappointments in Maine and New York. The outcome in Maine clearly proved we are not ready to win marriage equality at the ballot box.
And the news of high-profile murders and suicides linked to anti-gay hate and bullying tempered any victories. It demonstrates that there still are some who hate us; we clearly have a way to go.
Maryland didn’t shine either. While some welcome inheritance tax relief for same-sex couples was achieved during the 2009 General Assembly, more significant legislation to protect transgendered individuals and a bill to legalize same-sex marriage never saw the light of day.
We witnessed the demise of esteemed long-time LGBT institutions like the Washington Blade and Lambda Rising bookstore towards the end of the year. And, sadly, it is possible that others may follow.
As up and down as 2009 was, the energy and passion, particularly from lgbt youth and allies, could help make 2010 historic. We are confident that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has a good chance of passage in 2010 and that concrete steps towards repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" are a real possibility.
Although we do not expect to see marriage equality legislated during Maryland’s 2010 General Assembly, we are calling for our readers and the community as a whole to press lawmakers to ensure that a bill that adds gender identity and expression to the state’s nondiscrimination law and the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act escape the shadows of a committee and make it to the floor so that a full, vigorous debate can take place.
That process can begin during Lobby Day on February 8 when there will be an opportunity to tell your personal stories directly to lawmakers. And it can continue by inundating the responsible committee members’ offices with, letters, phone calls and e-mails.
We also call on Equality Maryland, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, to hold substantive meetings with the Governor and legislative leaders prior to the session to help pave the way for these initiatives.
The fact that 2010 is an election year should not stymie these efforts. When IS the right time?
We should also keep the pressure on Congress and the President to make good on promises yet at the same time recognize that our LGBT-related priorities must compete with the economy and national security.
So, it will be up to all of us to help make 2010 a rebound year that could steady the wild ride of 2009. Have a happy, healthy and safe 2010.