Monday, January 05, 2015

‘Gayzing’ Into My Crystal Ball: What’s in Store for 2015?


One thing about crystal balls, they’re not always crystal clear.  However, I’ve relied on them for some time now to make my annual predictions.  Twelve months ago, when I tried to forecast how 2014 would likely work out for the LGBT world, I was accurate in some cases and blew it in others.  That’s the risk you take when you depend on an inanimate object.

Graphic: Joe Velazquez
Looking back, I wrote correctly that 2014 would be a good year for marriage equality advances throughout the country, which came true in stunning fashion.  I also said that an interesting development would take place regarding at least one local LGBT organization.  Bull’s eye on that one, too, as the GLCCB found a new home.
Happily, I was off the mark regarding non-discrimination protections in Maryland based on gender identity.  I reasoned that with 2014 being an election year, the folks in Annapolis wouldn’t touch the hot-button issue.  Well, they did, and the Fairness for All Marylanders Act is now the law without the anguish from a referendum battle.

With some trepidation from a history of mixed bags in predicting, I will keep the tradition going with some forecasts for 2015. 
I’ll start not with a prediction but a statement.  In Maryland, this will be the first year in a decade where neither the major issues of marriage equality nor transgender protections will be a focus by advocates in Annapolis.  There remains other work to be done, for sure, but unfortunately these initiatives are not headline-grabbers like marriage equality.

Equality Maryland, who has helped fight those eventual winning battles, laid out their agenda for the 2015 General Assembly consisting of three bills they would like to see passed: 1)  a bill that would allow transgender people to change their Maryland birth certificate when it’s right for them; 2) a bill that would ensure  equal insurance coverage for same-sex married couples in the area of in-vitro fertilization; and 3) a bill that would ensure  that when parents separate, the best interests of the children will be the criteria to determine a non-legal (de facto) parent’s rights and responsibilities.

Though not glamorous, these are worthy measures and we should support them. In addition,  I would like to see  Equality Maryland, FreeState Legal Project and other members of the coalition comprising the Youth Equality Alliance (YEA) attempt to advance at least some of the recommendations contained in the YEA report released last August. 
This report focused in stark terms on the way LGBT youth are subject to poor treatment in schools, and in the foster care and juvenile justice systems—the “school to jail pipeline."  I predict, however, not much will happen in that regard.

Nationally, marriage equality will again be front and center.  While they’ve punted in the past allowing various federal Circuit Courts of Appeals’ decisions prohibiting same-sex marriage bans to stand, the U.S. Supreme Court justices will have to hold their collective noses and issue a national ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage once and for all.  There is that much momentum going; 2015 should be the year.
I predict the tragic suicide of young transgender Leelah Alcorn will be the big fight in 2015 as activists will go all-out in an attempt to ban conversion therapy and to fight intolerance.  Sadly, we tend to rely on suicides and murders as catalysts to get people energized.

The decades-long attempts to end workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (ENDA—Employment Nondiscrimination Act) during this Congress will continue to be met with frustration.  Though the Senate a year ago passed a bill by a 64-32 majority, the House leadership refused to take up the measure despite the likelihood it would have passed (since there were more Democrats in the 113th Congress before the election) and President Obama would have signed it into law. 
As we approach the 114th Congress—the one with the largest GOP majority in 83 years—there is no incentive on the part of Republicans to move on the bill and cause further fissures between social conservatives and establishment, more pragmatic lawmakers.  The newly elected and empowered representatives will not support ending this discrimination.  Thus, ENDA will continue to languish at least through 2015. 

As interest in the presidential race for 2016 heats up, there will be anti-marriage equality rhetoric from potential contenders—especially from socially bigoted, er, conservative hopefuls Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum, which could push other candidates to the right.  It would be a certainty should the Supreme Court rule favorably on marriage equality.
In sports, I believe another pro athlete will come out.  It would be great if it originated by a player from our national pastime, but I would be celebrating no matter who it is. Baseball umpire Dale Scott set a promising tone with more support than not.  Also, look for Michael Sam to land a spot on an NFL roster.

An even more confident prediction is that should a gay athlete come out, anti-gay folks will declare they “don’t care” or they “don’t want to hear about it.”  That is the new meme for disliking the fact a male pro athlete announces he’s gay. 
Back home again, Chase Brexton Health Care, after establishing an LGBT Health Resource Center, will likely take on an expanded role in providing other LGBT services that had not been done before by Chase Brexton.

And one thing I will predict with sure-fire certainty: now that Pride has moved—at least temporarily to July where drag queens and leather folks could melt and form puddles in the summer’s heat—people will find a way to complain about the dates and location.  It’s a Baltimore tradition like crabs, Natty Boh, and snow panic.
Have a safe, healthy and happy 2015 and let’s toast that the good predictions come true and the bad ones don’t.

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