Amid a year where we saw countless amount of LGBTQ people dead or beaten because of the extremism of homophobia; a year where two states saw marriage equality defeated; and a president who twice struck down the opportunity to have honest dialogue around Dont Ask, Don't Tell. Joe Solmonese, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, reflects on what 2009 meant for LGBT equality.
TO: Human Rights Campaign Board Members
FROM: Joe Solmonese
RE: Progress on LGBT Equality in 2009
DATE: December 16, 2009
Progress for full lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in 2009 made significant strides even while the national stage was dominated by the economy, health care and war. Even marriage equality, while losing on Maine's November ballot and receiving a recent setback in New York, was adopted in Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia. The Connecticut legislature even chose to put its imprimatur on the state Supreme Court decision to grant full marriage equality. And on January 10, 2010, loving same-sex couples can legally marry in New Hampshire.
While this report will by no means capture everything in the LGBT universe in 2009, it does attempt to set out benchmarks for the year and, therefore, assist in identifying the opportunities and challenges ahead in 2010.
Without question, possibilities loomed large with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, someone who championed LGBT causes throughout his campaign. Additionally, more fair-minded members of Congress came into office -- including Colorado's openly gay Congressman Jared Polis -bringing the LGBT count to three in the House. Collectively, there was, for the first time in a decade or more, the potential for real change at the federal level.
Concurrently, at the state level, there was a wellspring of LGBT and elected leadership which produced not only movement early in 2009 toward full marriage equality, but also significant progress toward fully inclusive non-discrimination measures, expanded relationship recognition laws and anti-bullying measures.
Also overlooked, but equally important to many LGBT individuals and families, 2009 saw continued growth in the private sector, where companies recognized the value of inclusive and welcoming employee programs. In fact, even in a down economy, a record 305 corporations and businesses received a 100% on our Corporate Equality Index. However, workplace climate for LGBT employees remains challenging, with a majority still closeted in the workplace -- highlighting the need to help corporate America gauge and address their LGBT employees' engagement on the job.
Finally, 2009 will also be remembered as a time when many LGBT people and their allies stood up to demand equality, whether at the local, state or national level. Whether in response to the loss of marriage rights in California at the close of 2008, or perceived inaction on signature measures in Congress, 2009 saw an infusion of energy and personal involvement that must be accelerated to secure greater progress in 2010.
It must also be noted that 2009 solidified the emergence of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) as a major opponent to equality. NOM's budget shot up from $400,000 in 2007 to $8 million in 2009. That's explosive growth in a period when most companies and non-profits weathered losses. NOM was the largest single contributor to the anti-marriage campaigns in both California and Maine, and has promised to be a key player in Iowa, New Jersey and the District of Columbia in their marriage battles. NOM is also moving its offices from New Jersey to the nation's capital.
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