Trying to sum up this year in review, two images jump out at me, one tragic, the other victorious.
First, I remember the memorial at the State House a few days before Election Day. Several students this year took their own lives due to homophobic bullying. When a student at local Johnson and Wales who was gay but whose motive was not due to bullying also died that week, a string of racist and homophobic comments left on his FaceBook wall left friends and family stunned. Elizabeth Roberts, running for another term as Lt. Governor, made a speech which certainly helped her win that campaign for a position which her opponent was willing to refuse pay. In my view, that was the sealing moment which won her another term. Now it will be interesting to see how loyal she remains to the gay community in the forthcoming debate about implementing the new healthcare laws and how they address gay issues, including HIV/AIDS care.
The second is much more joyous for me personally as the son of a Naval officer. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the infamous law against openly gay soldiers in the United States military, was repealed not once but twice. First, Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBTQ Republican club, won a lawsuit against the United States government wherein the judge ruled the ban violated discrimination laws. The ruling was soon challenged by the Justice Department, citing the need to have a Congressional vote while also allowing the Pentagon to properly prepare for integration of the services to take place. However, following the success of the GOP in the election, the issue was made a priority for the lame-duck session, who passed it in December before closing.
Locally, things have remained relatively quiet, though there were some important steps forward. Certainly David Cicilline’s election to Congress as an openly gay man is a first for the state. Frank Ferri of Warwick was re-elected to the House of Representatives, a second term for an openly-gay man who is married and acknowledges his husband on his congressional website. The walk towards religious equality in the state remains, though, with the marriages performed in LGBT-affirming churches still held as null and void in the eyes of the state founded on the principle of religious freedom. Hopefully things will change in 2011. The newly elected Governor Chaffee, former mayor and senator, has vowed to help encourage marriage liberties for all. Along with that, a new general election cycle for President will be gearing up soon in anticipation for the 2012 vote. Happy New Year!