Photo: Tim Tebow Courtesy, palmbeachpost.com
2010 may become known as the year of the comeback. Just when you thought all hope was lost, President Barack Obama finally pushes through one of his campaign promises, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed in the final weeks of the year.
After seeing Florida take a step back in 2009 with a constitutional amendment making marriage between one man and one woman, the absurd law that said gays and lesbians could not adopt children in the state, went by the wayside, thanks to several rulings from Florida’s courts. Of course not all was good. We lost friend of the gays, our “Golden Girl” Rue McClanahan and gay shock jock Neil Rogers. We saw Ricky Martin come out, Tom Ford direct his first movie and Steven Slater quit his Jet Blue job in only the most fabulous way possible. Let’s reflect back on the year that was and hope the momentum on the gay agenda continues to swing upwards.
Now, enjoy some of the top stories and headlines from 2010, and here’s to an even better 2011.
*AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) filed a “sanitary nuisance” complaint with the State of Florida, against three pornography productions and distribution companies in Miami who filmed pornographic scenes without the use of condoms. AHF claims that workers in other industries who have an increased risk of catching infectious disease are protected with gloves and mask, and porn stars, they say, should have similar protection.
*An openly gay former Broward Sheriffs Officer, accused of sexually assaulting illegal immigrants, was freed on $250,000 bond while awaiting trial. Jonathon Bleiweiss, who patrolled the Oakland Park area, was released and will go live with his father in Oregon. Bleiweiss, a seven-year veteran of the BSO and one-time “Deputy of the Year,” faces 73 charges ranging from sexual battery, stalking and false imprisonment on at least nine different victims. He was jailed in August 2009.
• The ACLU calls for the dropping of the ban against gays and lesbians adopting children in state of Florida.
• Ihosvany Marquez of Miami is accused of using fake HIV clinics to defraud Medicare of more than $55 million dollars.
• The City of South Miami approved an ordinance providing for benefits for the domestic partners of city employees.
*Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow , formerly from the University of Florida, starred in an anti-abortion commercial to be aired during the broadcast of the Super Bowl game for anti-gay group Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family is an evangelical Christian group based in Colorado that runs a ministry called Love Wins Out that attempts to convert homosexual teenagers into heterosexuals, often against their will. The group is also adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage rights.
*A program geared toward helping people maintain private insurance coverage if they are HIV-positive, has to put people on a waitlist due to increased demand. The AIDS Insurance Continuation Program (AICP) makes direct payments of up to $750 to employers or insurance companies for people diagnosed with AIDS or are HIV-positive with symptoms and who, because of the illness, are unable to maintain their private health insurance. The program had been helping 2,600 people with another 168 people waiting for help.
• Miami Beach gay bar The Palace fights to save their drag queen shows after a noise complaint was filed with the city by The Tides hotel.
• The Pride Center at Equality Park holds a ribbon cutting ceremony opening their new center on a twoacre, five-building property
*After a nearly 16-year fight, Congress passed historic health care reform legislation in the nation’s capitol. The 10-year, $938 billion bill, known as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Some of the provisions of the bill went into effect in October and the bill will be fully implemented by 2014. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would cut the federal budget deficits by an estimated $143 billion over a decade.
*National leaders made a week-long call for every church, mosque, synagogue, temple and home to join in prayer, education, advocacy and service for the healing of AIDS in the U.S. and the world. The purpose of the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS was to put the national spotlight on the AIDS epidemic in America while at the same time focusing on the role that our nation’s faith communities can and are playing in AIDS prevention, education, service and advocacy.
• Former Hollywood, Florida police officer Michael Verdugo files a lawsuit against the city for discrimination after being terminated.
• Lt. Dan Choi is arrested after chaining himself to the White House fence in protest of the military’s
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy
• The Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce holds their first “Commit 2 Love” commitment ceremony and reception with 13 couples participating.
*President Obama called for the end of discrimination practices toward gay and lesbian couples’ visitation rights in hospitals when visitation is limited to immediate family members. The president also called and apologized to Janice Langbehn, who unsuccessfully sued Jackson Memorial Hospital after the 2007 sudden death of her partner Lisa Pond. Langbehn and Pond, along with their three children, were preparing to board a cruise ship when Pond suddenly suffered a fatal brain aneurysm. Langbehn contends that a hospital social worker would not let her visit Pond because Florida is “an anti-gay state.” Pond died the next day. A court determined that a hospital has the right to set its own visitation rules.
*Local activists Anthony Niedwiecki and Waymon Hudson move to Chicago. Neidwiecki, who also sat on the Oakland Park City Commission, was offered and accepted a high-level administrative and faculty law professor position at John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Hudson is a national LGBT rights advocate and writer. Niedwiecki and Hudson were co-founders of the LGBT lobby group Fight OUT Loud and led an activist campaign against former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle after he made a number of anti-gay statements. The couple also lobbied the Florida State Senate to overturn the state’s ban on gay adoption, after taking in a foster child who had been abandoned as “unadoptable” by the state because of the child’s HIV status. The couple wed in California in June 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed and remain legally married as one of 18,000 couples still wed after the anti-gay marriage proposition passed.
• Wilton Manors Main Street displays their “Main Street Initiative” for taking back control of Wilton Drive from the state, adding more parking and landscaping.
• The City Commission of Miami Beach and Wilton Drive approve a resolution for Washington to lift the ban on gay men donating blood.
• Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced he’s leaving the Republican Party and running for U.S. Senator as an Independent.
*George Alan Rekers, a man whoprided himself on empathetically stating homosexuality was a sin and helping convert people of that “deviant lifestyle,” was caught traveling to Europe on a 10-day vacation with a prostitute from the website Rentboy.com, according to the Miami New Times. A week later, a second escort came forward and claimed that he remembered Rekers being a client of his more than a decade earlier. Rekers was founder of the Family Research Council and an officer with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality
*Florida’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) ensures that that underserved and uninsured individuals living with HIV/AIDS have access to life-saving medication, but now some of the hardest hit individuals will be put on a wait list because the program simply doesn’t have the funding to continue supporting everyone. Florida has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the United States. Approximately 18,000 people qualified for ADAP in Florida because they met the requirements.
• Solicitor General Elena Kagan was chosen by President Obama to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
• Walgreens opens a new pharmacy geared toward the LGBT community in Wilton Manors.
• According to a poll commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign, more than two-thirds of Florida voters favor
gay men and lesbian women serving openly in the military.
*Americans’ support for the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations crossed the symbolic 50 percent threshold according to a Gallup poll. At the same time, the percentage calling these relations “morally wrong” dropped to 43 percent, the lowest in Gallup’s decade-long trend. Gallup’s annual “Values and Beliefs” survey documents a gradual increase in public acceptance in gay relations since 2006. The change is seen almost exclusively among men and particularly men younger than 50 and a greater movement toward acceptance among Independents, moderates and Democrats than among Republicans. Liberals were already widely accepting of gay relations in 2006 and have remained that way while conservatives’ acceptance continues to run low.
*Though they had the largest turnout for this year’s Stonewall Street Festival and Parade, Pride of Greater Fort Lauderdale reported a $30,000 loss for their 11th annual event. PGFL cited that lack of a complete sales infrastructure at the start of the festival, which was partially caused by an electrical storm early in the morning halting the erection of bar and ticket sales booths. By 11 a.m., the organization knew it was in deep trouble when it was reported that people started walking away from the event with cases of liquor. After the event, PGFL cancelled its plans for the annual Wicked Manors Halloween Street Party.
• Both the U.S. House of Representative and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
• President Obama urged the swift passage of the Domestic Partner and Obligations Act, giving LGBT federal employees the same rights and privileges of their heterosexual counterparts.
• Florida Gov. and U.S. Senatorial candidate Charlie Crist changes his stance in favor of gays and lesbians adopting children in the state.
*U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that the federal ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it interferes with a state’s right to define marriage. The ruling came in response to two separate challenges of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. Congress initially enacted DOMA after Hawaii became the first state to legalize same-sex unions in that year. If the law is overturned, same-sex couples could argue they quality for federal tax benefits. It would also have wide-ranging implications in such areas as immigration.
*The White House Middle Class Task Force and Council on Women and Girls unveiled recommendations from the Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force aimed at ending pay inequality and discrimination. The recommendations are related to the 2009 passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act , which helps women who face wage discrimination. The recommendations include ways to better inform employees about their rights and improve coordination amongst enforcement agencies. Advocates and officials also urged the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will help ensure people who do equal work receive equal pay.
• The FDA approves a first-of-itskind HIV test that can detect HIV days earlier than current tests.
• An American Lung Association study indicated that the LGBT community is twice as likely to develop lung cancer, and that tobacco usage is highest among gay men.
• The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force honors Tony award-winning actor Alan Cummings with its National Leadership Award at its annual Miami Recognition Dinner.
• The U.S. Labor Department announced that it would order businesses to extend unpaid leave for gay workers to care for newborns or loved ones.
*LGBT organizers were shocked and upset with the Target Corporation for making contributions to Minnesota Forward, a political organization supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer was known for opposing gay rights, especially gay marriage. National days of protest were organized in neighborhood Target stores throughout the country. Target’s donation was $100,000 in cash and another $50,000 in goods and services. Best Buy, the giant electronics retailer, made a $100,000 donation to Minnesota Forward. The retailer was previously rated a 100 percent from the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index.
*U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California’s Proposition 8 and reopened California to same-sex marriage. Walker, a conservative, was first appointed to the federal bench in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. Walker’s ruling, though favorable toward same-sex couples, does not allow the marriages to resume immediately. The judge decided that he should suspend his ruling while proponents of the ban pursue their appeal. He ordered both sides to submit written arguments on the issue immediately.
• Sunserve opens a second location in the Pride Center at Equality Park
• Women’s softball players form their own softball league.
• Former Hollywood Police Officer Michael Verdugo holds a press conference explaining that he was fired from the Hollywood Police Department due to anti-gay discrimination.
• Former Manhunt employee A.J. Spellman accuses employer of transgender discrimination.
• Steven Slater, an openly gay JetBlue flight attendant, was arrested for flipping out as his flight landed in Philadelphia, cursing out the passengers, grabbing a beer and resigns his position while escaping the airline by the emergency chute. He pleads guilty to criminal mischief charges as part of a deal to avoid jail time.
*Florida’s 3rd Court of Appeals ruled that banning gays and lesbians from adopting children is unconstitutional. Though the ruling was expected to be challenged and sent to the state’s Supreme Court for their final decision, Florida’s Department of Children and Families and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said they would not appeal the decision. The original suit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Martin Gill who, with his partner, wanted to adopt their two foster children. Late last year, Miami- Dade County Judge Cindy Lederman decided that Gill could adopt the children, which ultimately ended the 33-year ban on gay adoption in Florida.
*Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman came out of the closet as being gay. In an interview in The Atlantic, Mehlman stated that he is, in fact, gay and that he plans to be an advocate for legalizing same-sex marriage. According to the New York Times, Mehlman’s “announcement makes him apparently the most prominent Republican official to come out.” This disclosure followed years of him avoiding and denying inquiries about his sexual orientation. During his RNC chairmanship, Mehlman supported social positions of the Republican Party, including opposition to same-sex marriage. Mehlman claimed that he could not have gone against party consensus, but acknowledged that, had he come out of the closet earlier, he could have impacted Republican efforts to pass state initiatives banning same-sex marriage.
• U.S. District Court in California declares DADT unconstitutional. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled vote to repeal DADT as part of National Defense Authorization Act, but it fails to get the 60 votes required to break a filibuster.
• St. Petersburg Police get domestic partner benefits.
• Students Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the “Longest Continuous Kiss.” The record-breaking kiss took place on The College of New Jersey campus located in Ewing, New Jersey.
*Gay teen suicides, all due to being bullied in school, became the major topic of national discussion and headlines and evoked protests, memorials and candlelight vigils throughout the country. Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Ind., saw no end to the constant stream of teasing and harassment for his openly bisexual orientation and hanged himself from the rafters of his family’s barn. A day before the suicide, Lucas had a chair pulled out from underneath him in the school cafeteria and his classmates had taunted him by saying he should just go hang himself. Seth Walsh, 13, of Fresno, Calif., hung himself from a tree in his family’s backyard after getting bullied by a group of local teenagers in a park. Walsh had been openly gay but not sexually active, according to his family. Tyler Clementi, 18, a freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey, jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River after his roommate secretly videotaped him engaging in sexual activity with another man. Asher Brown, 13, of Houston shot himself in the head in his stepfather’s closet. The middle-school student was constantly picked on by four students at his school and endured being called gay and had mock gay acts performed on him during physical education class. Raymond Chase, 19, a sophomore at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island committed suicide by hanging himself in his dorm room. Friends and family said that Chase seemed happy and they did not know he was suicidal.
*Pride of Greater Fort Lauderdale (PGFL) announced it would cease operations Dec. 31. The organization was able to pay off $20,000 of its total $40,000 debt and donated its remaining physical assets and it registered trademark “Wicked Manors” to the Pride Center at Equality Park. Later, the City of Wilton Manors announced they would handle all future events on Wilton Drive and hoped to keep a gay pride and Halloween festivals alive on The Drive. PGFL, which owned the electrical service on the corner of Wilton Drive and NE Sixth Avenue along with a custom-made electrical circuit box and cables for the stages, have donated that equipment to the city.
• The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), honored the Emmy Award-winning ABC comedy “Modern Family” at the Respect Awards. The series focuses on a diverse suburban family, including a gay couple with an adopted daughter.
• President Obama told a studio audience and television viewers of an MTV town hall meeting that he felt that being gay was not a choice but genetic.
• The Union Leader, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, refuses to print marriage announcements for same-sex weddings.
*Florida’s struggling economy found its latest victims: uninsured HIV/AIDS patients. According to the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau for HIV/AIDS, a budget crisis is forcing the state to drop 350 uninsured HIV/AIDS patients from a federal drug subsidy program, and an additional 2,000 more patients may suffer the same fate. The need to drop patients from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) stems from Florida’s $16 million shortfall of its $100 million drug program budget. Another factor affecting the cuts is the economy, which has triggered an increase in the number of Florida patients being enrolled in the program due to loss of employment and health insurance. The Bureau estimates the current enrollment to be approximately 11,000 patients. The lack of funding has forced the agency to put patients on a waiting list.
*The U.S. Congress turns “pinker” with a distinctive taste of tea, and Florida becomes more “red” after the mid-term elections. Two term Rep. Ron Klein (D) from Florida lost to Tea Party-endorsed candidate Alan West, helping the GOP gain a 53-seat majority in the U.S. House. Re-elected were LGBT-supported Representatives Ted Deutch, Debby Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. On a statewide level, Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Rep. Kendrick Meek. The Democrats barely held on to their majority in the Senate. Democrat Alex Sink barely lost her bid to become Florida’s Governor to Republican Rick Scott by less than 2 percent. Pam Bondi (R) was elected Florida Attorney General and has vowed to challenge the court decision permitting gay adoption. Broward County’s first openly gay mayor Ken Keechl (District 4) lost his reelection bid for the county commission.
• Pastor Jim Swilley, head of the Conyers, Georgia Church in the Now, announced to his congregation that he is gay. Swilley founded the church 25 years ago and is the divorced father of four.
• A Federal Appeals Court indefinitely extended its freeze on a judge’s order halting enforcement of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
• U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants the Senate to quickly move ahead with repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the lame duck session.
•Wilton Manors Police investigate a series of attempted rapes and muggings.
• The Oakland Park City Commission votes in favor of a resolution supporting legislation prohibiting discrimination and bullying. • Pope Benedict XVI says that condoms can be justified for male prostitutes seeking to stop the spread of HIV.
*In the lame duck session prior to the new Congress, which begins in January, the U. S Senate voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a 17- year policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The same legislation previously passed in the House of Representatives. With the help of eight Republicans, senators voted down the policy by a vote of 65-31. For Lt. Dan Choi, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, Cadet Mara Boyd, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen and the 13,389 other people who have lost their jobs in the United States Armed Services, it’s too late, but no longer will a man or woman be kicked out of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines for being openly gay or lesbian. President Obama signed the DADT repeal bill into law.
The new military policy will take several months to implement
*For the fourth year in a row, Broward County leads the state of Florida in the number of reported hate crimes, but officials say the numbers aren’t as dire as they seem for the second largest county in South Florida. Attorney General Bill McCollum released the 2009 Florida Hate Crimes Report, which indicates that reported hate crimes in Florida are at their lowest level since 1990. During the 2009 calendar year, 148 hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies, well below the annual average of 262 reported hate crime incidents since reporting began in 1990. Broward County had 22 reported hate crimes, while Miami- Dade County reported 17 hate crimes, Palm Beach County reported nine hate crimes, Orange County also had nine hate crimes, Pinellas County had three hate crimes and Osceola County had one reported hate crime
• Orange County banned sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. • Scientists believe they have found a pill that can help healthy gay men stay HIV-negative.
• Former City of Hollywood Police Officer Michael Verdugo loses his court appeal in the Broward County Circuit Court.
• The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) changed their constitution to remove the requirement that players must be “female at birth” in order to join the tour, paving the way for transgender male-to-female golf players.