by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The LGBTQ community endured one of its toughest years in recent memory in 2016. While there were few moments of triumph, nobody can deny the sadness we experienced due to violent attacks against our community, and the onslaught of anti-Transgender legislation we had to fight made for a trying 365 days.
But the truth remains that we are a resilient community, and a global one at that. The beauty of LGBTQ people is that we don't scare easy; we aren't shying away from the obstacles or stymied by the violence and loss we've had to face this year (and previous years). Make no mistake about it: The LGBTQ community is taking 2017 head-on in our worldwide fight for equality, our goal of personal safety, and the work of documenting our history.
Seattle Gay News has compiled a list of some of the stories that made headlines around the world and impacted the LGBTQ community.
PULSE NIGHTCLUB MASSACRE
On June 12, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American Muslim, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside Pulse, a Gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He was shot and killed by the Orlando police officers after a three-hour standoff that gripped the nation. Pulse was hosting Latin Night, and most all of the victims were Latino. It was both the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history. It was also the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11, 2001, attacks.
In a 9-1-1 call shortly after the shooting began, Mateen swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and said the shooting was 'triggered' by the US. killing of Abu Waheeb in Iraq the previous month. He later told a negotiator he was 'out here right now' because of the American-led interventions in Iraq and in Syria, and that the negotiator should tell the United States to stop bombing ISIL.
Initial reports said Mateen may have been a patron of the nightclub and used Gay dating websites and apps, but FBI officials said they have not found any credible evidence to substantiate these claims. The CIA also conducted an investigation and said it found no links between ISIL and Mateen.
The reaction and condemnation of the event was swift and heartfelt. Across the country people gathered by the thousands in candlelight vigils to grieve and give hope for the future. In Seattle, a vigil was held at Cal Anderson Park, with more than a thousand people attending.
Seattle Gay News made a commitment to focus on the victims, not the crime, as a way to honor the memory of the lives that were taken that night. Here, for the last time this year, are the names of the community members killed at Pulse on that bloody Sunday morning in June:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Amanda Alvear, 25
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Antonio D. Brown, 30
Darryl R. Burt II, 29
Jonathan A. Camuy Vega,
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Juan Chavez-Martinez, 25
Luis D. Conde, 39
Cory J. Connell, 21
Tevin E. Crosby, 25
Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Deonka D. Drayton, 32
Mercedez M. Flores, 26
Juan R. Guerrero, 22
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Paul T. Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Miguel A. Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jason B. Josaphat, 19
Eddie J. Justice, 30
Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Kimberly Morris, 37
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald A. Wright, 31
DONALD TRUMP IS ELECTED THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Republican candidate Donald J. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in a very close race for President of the United States in November. For weeks leading up to the election, nearly all public-opinion polls showed Clinton with a small lead. But Trump scored surprising come-from-behind victories in several key swing states, including Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, which helped push him past the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana was elected as his vice president.
The reaction to Trump winning the race was initially one of shock. But as the reality of a Trump/Pence presidency set in, thousands of people took to the streets to protest in major cities around the country under the hashtag #NOTMYPRESIDENT. Additionally, calls for a revote amid allegations of Russian hacking, the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and the overall disdain for Donald Trump because of his offensive comments and actions led to a partial recount that did not change the outcome of the race.
The LGBTQ community in particular has cause to worry. Aside from Vice President-Elect Pence being staunchly anti-LGBTQ, President-Elect Trump has begun to fill his cabinet with folks who either view the LGBTQ community unfavorably or have demonstrated such in the past, having taken action against the community by supporting anti-LGBTQ laws, so-called 'reparative (ex-gay) therapy' and more.
Currently there has been no action yet taken by the future Trump administration to take away rights that the community has gained in recent years, such as marriage equality. In fact, Trump has stated that the issue is over and he has no intention of revisiting it. This, of course, offers little consolation, as our community knows all too well how quickly that can change.
Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017.
STONEWALL INN NAMED US HISTORIC LANDMARK
The Obama administration this year, through the Department of Interior, took unprecedented steps to recognize moments in LGBT history.
Amid Pride celebrations in June, President Obama designated as a national monument the area around the Stonewall Inn where riots in 1969 kicked off the modern Gay rights movement.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also issued the first-ever National Park Service 'theme study' to identify places and events associated with the history of LGBT Americans.
JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA DIES
Antonin Scalia, the US Supreme Court justice most hostile to equal rights for LGBT people, died suddenly and unexpectedly, in Texas. Scalia, 79, was found dead at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort near of Marfa. He died in his sleep of natural causes. While his death was not 'celebrated' by the LGBTQ community, it did provide some relief by opening a slot for perhaps a more liberal-minded justice.
In his dissent in the marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges, he asked, 'Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think freedom of intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage.'
He also called the majority opinion in that case 'the furthest extension in fact - and the furthest extension one can even imagine - of the Court's claimed power to create 'liberties' that the Constitution and its amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the people of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.'
In his dissent in Romer v. Evans, the 1996 decision overturning Colorado's Amendment 2 (which would have prevented any governmental unit within the state from enacting or enforcing Gay-inclusive antidiscrimination laws), Scalia wrote, 'The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite. The constitutional amendment before us here is not the manifestation of a 'bare ... desire to harm' homosexuals ... but is rather a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority to revise those mores through use of the laws.'
In Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 ruling overturning sodomy laws, Scalia's dissent asserted that his fellow justices had 'largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.'
And in his 2013 dissent in Windsor v. U.S., which invalidated the main section of the Defense of Marriage Act, he called the majority opinion 'legalistic argle-bargle.'
Scalia's death gave President Obama an opportunity to nominate a more moderate replacement. But even though Obama still had 11 months left in office, the Republican-dominated Senate took the position that the next president - not the current one - should get to choose Scalia's replacement; any attempt to confirm said replacement has been blocked. Sadly, President-Elect Donald J. Trump will pick the next Supreme Court Justice and has already said he or she will hold conservative values.
UNPRECEDENTED NUMBER OF ANTI-LGBT BILLS
Nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills were introduced into state legislatures around the country, 'more ...than in any other time,' according to the ACLU
One that passed into law in North Carolina, HB 2, garnered national attention, largely because of its scope. The law prohibited Transgender people from using a public restroom for the gender they are living as and barred any local government from having an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
However, reaction to North Carolina's boldly discriminatory new law quickly turned against the legislators who ushered it into being, including North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who helped get the law passed and vigorously defended it in the media once it passed.
Following passage of the law, many corporations and major sporting events announced they would move out of the state. The US Attorney General filed suit against HB 2. And by year's end, McCrory found himself losing his re-election bid to a challenger who opposed the law, a message to legislators pushing anti-LGBT legislation in the future that they could not count on the public in general to stand by and let them.
SENATE CONFIRMS GAY MAN AS SECRETARY OF THE ARMY
In May, the US Senate confirmed the nomination of an openly Gay man to serve as Secretary of the US Army, the first openly Gay person to serve as the head of any military branch.
The confirmation of Eric Fanning, by voice vote, came very quickly after Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) lifted a hold he had put on the nomination.
The nomination comes just five years after the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' which had prohibited LGBTQ service members from being open about their sexuality.
Fanning previously served as the Army secretary's principal adviser on management and operation. He was undersecretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015, and for half a year he was the acting secretary of the Air Force.
KATE BROWN ELECTED OREGON GOVERNOR
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's election was a ray of hope on Election Night 2016. Brown's win makes her the first openly LGBT person and first Bisexual person elected governor in the United States.
Brown had already been serving in the role of Oregon governor for more than a year as a result of being Oregon's Secretary of State and next in the line of succession when her predecessor resigned amid a scandal.
But the victory against Republican challenger Bud Pierce affirmed that Brown would be allowed to serve four more years. Brown secured 50.5% of the vote compared to the 43.8% won by Pierce.
PENTAGON LIFTS BAN ON TRANS MILITARY SERVICE
After a yearlong review geared toward changing the policy, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter this year lifted the ban on openly Transgender people serving in the US armed forces.
Carter announced in June that the military would undo the medical regulation prohibiting transgender troops from serving openly.
Although Carter said the Pentagon would lift the ban 'effective immediately,' the initial change only allowed existing Transgender troops to serve openly without fear of expulsion. Medical benefits, including transition-related care like gender reassignment surgery, weren't available until October, and openly Transgender people still won't be able to accede in the military until July.
GAVIN GRIMM CASE MOVES TO SUPREME COURT
The US Supreme Court is on the cusp of another major LGBT rights decision after agreeing this year to review whether a Transgender student can use the school bathroom consistent with his gender identity.
Justices issued a writ of certiorari to take up the case of Gavin Grimm, who was denied use of the boys' room at Gloucester County Schools in Virginia. Although the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Grimm's favor, the Supreme Court placed a stay on the decision and agreed to take it up.
The Supreme Court agreed to review the decision even though the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Grimm, asked the court to turn it down.
If the court rules in Grimm's favor, the decision could be a massive win for Transgender students, assuring them access to the bathroom consistent with their gender identity in schools nationwide.
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