Metro Weekly

2019 in Review: The Age of Push-and-Pull

In unsettled times, progress for the LGBTQ community is often measured by a string of triumphs and pitfalls. Such was the story of 2019.

For the LGBTQ community, 2019 was the year of rockiness and instability, of starts and stops, of success and losses in almost every aspect of our lives. Caught between the push-and-pull of progress and backlash towards our community, we often find ourselves treading water amid the riptide, careening from drama and disaster on one hand to elation and celebration on the other, like we’re trapped in our own version of The Perils of Pauline.

In many ways, 2019 was simply setting the stage for what shapes up to be a volatile election year in a fiercely divided country. It can often be unclear where our non-LGBTQ neighbors’ sympathies lie: Is the country angry over transgender restrooms, or have they decided to “live and let live”? Are we supported by more allies than ever before, or are we simply ignoring the millions who will always see us as a collection of “perverts” and sinners? Is it safe for a trans woman of color to come out of the closet, or does she risk ending up in a body bag just for walking down the street?

Each victory, each defeat, each triumph and each setback sparks more questions and more uncertainty about where we stand, and what is in store for us in the future. And, just when there’s some hint of progress, an action, a tweet, a statement, or a new attack drags us backward again.

As we bid goodbye to 2019, and 2020 lays out before us, it is clear that vigilance is required. While we do not know what lies ahead, we cannot afford to be caught unaware or unprepared. Despite the differences between the component parts of the LGBTQ community, we are, fifty years after the “birth” of our movement at Stonewall, strong, determined, and resilient, proving time and again that we can comfort one another, lift our fellow rainbow family members up, and organize ourselves to fight back against outside attacks.

While the pace of progress may be frustratingly slow, members of the LGBTQ community can wake up each day and promise themselves to keep fighting, keep reaching, keep persisting to achieve their goals. Eventually, we will get there. And when times get rough, we would do well to remember the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

JANUARY

In Washington, a historic number of LGBTQ people — 10 in total — were sworn in as members of Congress following the Democrats’ wins in the 2018 midterm elections. And newly sworn in U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton offered a bold message of support to the trans community, under attack nationwide and from the Trump administration, by flying a transgender flag outside her office. Speaking of which, the Trump administration started its year as it intended to go on. A report by Lambda Legal analyzing President Donald Trump’s nominees to the federal bench found that 1 in 3 have a recorded bias against or hostility towards LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples, based on their rulings or statements.

Later that month, the Trump administration granted a waiver to Miracle Hill Ministries, a South Carolina-based foster care agency, allowing it to continue receiving federal funds while discriminating against same-sex couples, as well as against straight couples who are not evangelical Christians.

In a rare occurrence, Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, was criticized after it was revealed that the private school she was working at, Immanuel Christian School, requires employees and parents to sign pledges agreeing to “live a personal life of moral purity” and refrain from “homosexual or lesbian activity” and “transgender activity.” In response to the controversy, The Trevor Project, an organization that seeks to prevent suicide and provide mental and emotional support for LGBTQ youth, donated copies of children’s book A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, featuring a gay version of the Vice President’s pet rabbit, to Immanuel Christian.

Jussie Smollett — Photo: Schure Media Group

Meanwhile, in Chicago, the nation was transfixed by reports of an attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who claimed that two men had confronted him, beat him up, poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him, and tied a rope around his neck while yelling homophobic and racial slurs at him. In March, Chicago Police alleged he had hired two men to stage the attack and indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for falsifying a police report. Later that month, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped all the charges against Smollett, who continues to profess his innocence.

In California, progressive activists called for an investigation into prominent Democratic fundraiser Ed Buck after a gay black man was found dead from an overdose in Buck’s West Hollywood home for the second time in an 18-month time frame. They also called for any person or group that received money from Buck to donate an identical amount to organizations serving LGBTQ youth of color. In October, Buck was indicted by a grand jury for distributing methamphetamine, and faces 30 years in prison.

On the pop culture front, the executive producers of Family Guy announced that they would be “phasing out” gay jokes, noting that the show’s approach to LGBTQ topics has evolved over its more than two decade-long run.

FEBRUARY

February saw the continuation of the Trump administration’s attempts to ban transgender people from open military service. In response, many Democratic members of Congress invited out trans military members who were currently serving to be their guests at the president’s State of the Union speech. But while Trump was pushing to limit trans troops from serving, his administration was launching plans for a new initiative, headed by openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, to call on the nearly 70 countries that criminalize homosexuality and same-sex relations to change their laws. However, it didn’t have the smoothest launch — a few days after it was announced, President Trump was asked about the campaign and appeared to be unaware of it. Additionally, it drew fire from conservative activists like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who called the decriminalization effort a form of “cultural imperialism” being imposed by the West on African, Asian, and Caribbean nations.

Outside of the trans military ban, most other court decisions in February were positive developments for the LGBTQ community. A federal judge ordered a halt to the discharges of HIV-positive service members. Another judge granted citizenship to the twin sons of a binational gay couple, Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks, whose marriage — and subsequently, American citizen Andrew’s parental relationship with their son Ethan, who is not biologically related to him — had not been acknowledged by the State Department. And in a historic first, a third judge ordered the State Department to issue a passport reflecting the nonbinary gender of U.S. Navy veteran Dana Zzyym.

Waiter at Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse – Photo by Todd Franson

Delegates at the United Methodist Church‘s General Conference in St. Louis rejected a plan that would have modernized the church’s stances on LGBTQ issues, including allowing LGBTQ people to become ordained ministers and giving leeway to individual churches to choose whether to marry same-sex couples.

Locally, LGBTQ advocates were dealt a victory in Northern Virginia, with the Loudoun County School Board voting to approve an “equal opportunity policy” designed to protect LGBTQ students and teachers from discrimination and harassment. But they were dealt a defeat in Richmond when Republicans in the General Assembly killed a number of pro-LGBTQ bills.

Some good news came when local LGBTQ landmark Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse was named one of five winners of the prestigious James Beard “America’s Classics” award, being honored for its quality “comfort food” menu options and its historic and longstanding ties to the Dupont Circle area, including the LGBTQ community.

MARCH

Dating app Grindr hit headlines after the U.S. government declared it a national security risk. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) told Grindr’s Chinese owners, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd, to sell the app by June 2020. No explanation was given, though the presence of U.S. military and intelligence personnel — and the storage of their personal information and location data — is speculated to be to blame.

Federal courts lifted the remaining injunctions blocking the Trump administration’s restrictions on transgender service, setting the policy up to begin taking effect in April. In response, congressional lawmakers pushed for a vote to denounce the policy, which passed a few weeks later.

The Democratic-led Congress made headway on several pro-LGBTQ initiatives, blocking harmful anti-transgender amendments that Republicans had attempted to introduce to the Violence Against Women Act, and making preparations for a vote later in the year on the Equality Act, a comprehensive bill prohibiting discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. The latter bill gained a prominent endorsement from the NAACP, but was slammed by Gregory T. Angelo, the former head of the national Log Cabin Republicans, who argued it did not contain enough protections for religious conservatives who object to same-sex marriage or homosexuality.

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon — Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

Internationally, the majority-Muslim nation of Brunei came under fire after it introduced a new penal code mandating death by stoning for people convicted of same-sex relations. In response, celebrities like George Clooney and Elton John began calling for a boycott of nine luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Following months of protest from LGBTQ activists, Google deleted a controversial app by Living Hope Ministries from its app store. The app, which had previously been removed by Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, attempted to connect users to therapists or groups that engage in conversion therapy — a widely debunked and harmful practice.

Patrons of D.C. gay nightclub Cobalt were shocked after the establishment suddenly closed its doors without fanfare or notice. Owner Eric Little said that the club was forced to close due to the high price tag of needed infrastructure repairs, combined with a decline in sales.

And local gay singer-songwriter Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon went viral after his American Idol audition, performing “Almost Heaven,” an original song, inspired by his baptist upbringing, about whether gay people get into heaven. Idol documented his emotional coming out story, which, combined with his soaring vocals in subsequent performances, helped propel Harmon to the live shows, where he eventually finished sixth.

APRIL

On the national level, April could best be described as “Pete Buttigieg Month,” with the South Bend Mayor officially announcing his candidacy for the White House, making him the first openly LGBTQ person to seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Former Republican Congressman Aaron Schock was allegedly spotted making out with a man — and putting his hand in said man’s pants — at music festival Coachella. It ignited a firestorm of controversy on social media, as Schock had racked up an anti-gay voting record in office — something he has refused to publicly apologize for. Two months later, Schock was filmed putting cash in a go-go boy’s underwear in a Mexico City gay bar.

aaron schock, gay, republican, metro weekly

Aaron Schock at Boy Bar in Mexico City

Pope Francis made headlines after telling gay comedian Stephen K Amos during a BBC special that people who “select or discard” gay people because of their sexuality “don’t have a human heart.” Meanwhile, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that it would no longer refuse to baptize children of same-sex couples — although the child is exepcted to abide strictly to the teachings of the LDS Church regarding marriage and sexuality.

In health news, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh introduced a new immunotherapy method that they claim is able to detect latent HIV, reactivate it, and then “kill” the virus in infected cells. If successful in clinical trials, the research could eventually lead to a cure for HIV.

Voters in Chicago elected the city’s first out lesbian mayor (as well as its first female mayor) after former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot won a run-off election in a landslide.

But April marked a negative month for the transgender community, beginning with a decision by Iowa lawmakers to introduce an amendment prohibiting Medicaid from covering the costs of gender confirmation surgery for low-income transgender residents. The amendment, signed into law after Gov. Kim Reynolds refused to veto it, was in direct defiance of an Iowa Supreme Court ruling a month earlier.

A vigil for murdered trans women Ashanti Carmon and Zoe Spears – Photo: DC Anti-Violence Project.

In Texas, Muhlaysia Booker, a transgender woman, was attacked by a mob of people in Dallas who kicked her and yelled anti-trans and anti-gay slurs at her, eventually knocking her unconscious. Video of the attack went viral on social media, horrifying many in the LGBTQ community, who called on Dallas Police to dole out swift justice. Booker spoke out against the incident as an example of the violence that transgender women often face because of their identity. A month later, she would be shot to death. Locally, members of D.C.’s transgender community were grieving after Ashanti Carmon, a transgender woman, was killed in the nearby suburb of Fairmount Heights. Police were unable to identify any suspects.

Avengers: Endgame shattered box office records as Marvel’s decade-spanning franchise brought multiple heroes’ stories to a close — and, in the process, gave us the first openly gay character in an MCU film. But background character “Grieving Man” was widely mocked, not least for being played by one of the film’s straight directors.

MAY

To coincide with the National Day of Prayer, President Trump announced a finalized rule to grant religious exemptions to health care providers, preventing hospitals from disciplining any health care provider who refuses to assist in any procedure that conflicts with their personal religious beliefs. That exemption was then challenged by two lawsuits, one brought by a coalition of LGBTQ and secular groups and another by Califronia Attorney General Xavier Becerra, arguing that it is discriminatory, will only harm vulnerable populations, and will embolden workers to refuse other procedures out of animus towards certain groups. At the same time, the Trump administration announced a proposal that would allow shelters that receive federal funds to discriminate against transgender homeless individuals by requiring them to be housed in shelters that match their biological sex at birth.

Nancy Pelosi — Photo: Todd Franson

Against this backdrop, congressional Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, lobbied on behalf of and ultimately passed the Equality Act, a bill prohibiting various forms of anti-LGBTQ dscrimination. The bill was a lightning rod for social conservatives, with televangelist Pat Robertson declaring that the bill’s passage would be as devastating to the United States as “atomic war.”

Fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A continued to defy calls to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations, arguing its donations were part of a “higher calling.” That same month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, which prohibits localities from barring Chick-fil-A or other businesses with socially conservative values from relocating to an area.

In contrast to Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay stance, the ridesharing app Lyft announced it was allowing riders to select their own pronouns, including the gender-neutral “they/theirs,” so that drivers will know how to address people who are nonbinary, transgender, or gender-nonconforming.

JUNE

LGBTQ Pride Month — which President Trump finally recognized in his third year in office — started with yet another Trump-fueled controversy after the State Department ordered U.S. embassies not to fly LGBTQ Pride flags on their flagpoles, although the flags could be displayed elsewhere on embassy grounds.

While LGBTQ people stateside celebrated Pride Month, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, two conflicting polls came out regarding attitudes towards our community. One showed that Americans claim to be more supportive of transgender rights, despite the Trump administration’s attacks against the community. The other poll showed that support has risen for business owners to be able to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on their religious beliefs.

In the presidential race, Pete Buttigieg earned the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a development speaking to the organization’s belief that he is a viable contender, as he seeks the Oval Office.

In Congress, U.S. Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation that would allow same-sex couples who were prevented under federal law from filing jointly to recoup some of the money they had overpaid to the federal government in taxes. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Del. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-P.R.) introduced the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” which would prohibit child placement agencies from rejecting qualified “forever families,” including same-sex couples, if they wish to receive federal funds.

Capital Pride Festival — Photo: Randy Shulman

Locally, the Capital Pride Parade came to a standstill on June 9, after reports of a man with a gun sparked fears of a mass shooting, leading to chaos as parade-goers around Dupont Circle attempted to flee the area and permanently halting the second half of the Pride Parade. The man, Aftabjit Singh and his wife, Melissa Duffy, were arrested and charged in the incident, with Singh ultimately agreeing to a plea deal while a charge against Duffy was dropped. Thankfully, all other Pride-themed events scheduled that weekend, including Sunday’s Festival and Concert, continued as normal.

Local LGBTQ activists found themselves mourning yet another murdered trans woman after Zoe Spears was found shot to death close to the same area where Ashanti Carmon had been murdered earlier in the year.

Unfortunately, as the month drew to a close, news out of Indianapolis highlighted the vulnerability of LGBTQ employees, as the Archdiocese of Indianapolis demanded that two local Catholic schools fire gay teachers employed there. One school, Cathedral High School, complied with Archbishop Charles Thompson‘s request. The other, Brebeuf Preparatory School, refused, so the Archdiocese stripped it of its designation as an official Catholic school.

JULY

As July began, LGBTQ advocates decried the creation of a secretive “Commission on Unalienable Rights” within the State Department that purports to examine the role of human rights in America’s foreign policy. Specifically, advocates worry that the commission, put together by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and being led by Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, a longtime vocal opponent of LGBTQ equality, will use its power to undermine LGBTQ rights and lessen the United States’ commitment to defending violations of LGBTQ people’s rights abroad. In fact, anti-LGBTQ activist Brian Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage, says he hopes the commission will do exactly that, pointing to language used in its creation that refers to “natural law” — a buzzword that usually indicates opposition to any form of recognition of, or protections for, LGBTQ rights.

Congressional Democrats successfully added an amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, to overturn President Trump’s ban on transgender service members to the National Defense Authorization Act.

But congressional Republicans were more concerned with accusing Amazon of “censorship” after the online shipping giant removed books by Catholic psychologist Joseph Nicolosi that advocate conversion therapy and claim that sexual orientation can be changed. In a memo sent around by the Republican Study Committee, lawmakers were urged to contact Amazon and complain that the company is “censoring speech.”

Locally, Prince George’s County Police announced the arrest of a suspect in the June murder of transgender woman Zoe Spears. In response not only to Spears’ murder but an uptick in anti-LGBTQ incidents, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton held a meeting to seek input from the LGBTQ community about what actions she could take to apply pressure to D.C. politicians, the Metropolitan Police Department, or the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reform how those agencies deal with hate crimes.

Lil Nas X — Photo: Old Town Road / YouTube

After dominating the Billboard Hot 100 for three months with his crossover hip-hop/country hit “Old Town Road,” singer and rapper Lil Nas X came out as gay in a series of tweets. He had originally considered taking the secret of his sexuality “to the grave,” but ultimately chose to come out in order to help others.

And Broadway icon and LGBTQ ally Patti LuPone was criticized by some online after she tweeted that Sen. Lindsey Graham should “come out,” following Graham’s defense of Trump’s racist comments telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go home.” “Lindsey Graham you are a disgrace,” she wrote. “On a personal note, why don’t you just bite the bullet and come out. You might just come to your senses.”

AUGUST

For once, it was not Donald Trump or a member of his cabinet who was angering or offending the LGBTQ community. Rather it was Mario Lopez, host of Extra, who made headlines after an interview with right-wing commentator Candace Owens. Owens took issue with Hollywood celebrities who allow their children to choose their gender identity, to which Lopez responded that children are too young to know anything about sexuality and that it could be “dangerous” if parents let children explore or express a gender identity different from their biological sex at a young age. Lopez later apologized for his comments.

That same month, ice cream company Magnum was forced to apologize after outrage over an advertisement that ran in the United Kingdom comparing the “guilty pleasure” of eating ice cream with a man saying he couldn’t hug his boyfriend in public out of fear that he’d be imprisoned for 10 or more years.

Jerri Ann Henry

Perhaps the most controversial development of the month was the decision by the board of Log Cabin Republicans to endorse President Trump for re-election in 2020. The announcement, given the Trump administration’s generally negative record on LGBTQ equality, led several high-profile Log Cabin members to resign, including Executive Director Jerri Ann Henry, who criticized the group for acting more like an arm of the Republican Party than an LGBTQ group of conservatives fighting for equality.

In the courts, a federal judge in Virginia found that the Gloucester County School Board had indeed discriminated against former transgender student Gavin Grimm when it barred him from the boys’ restroom based on his gender identity. And a federal appeals court found that the state of Kentucky had to pay more than $200,000 in legal fees to four couples who were denied marriage licenses by former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. The court also ruled that two gay couples refused licenses by Davis can sue her personally for turning them away.

In local news, members of the LGBTQ community bid goodbye to David Mariner, the longtime executive director of The DC Center, after he moved to Rehoboth Beach to take a new position. Elsewhere, longtime D.C. nightlife fixtures Ed Bailey, John Guggenmos and Jim “Chachi” Boyle, the owners and creative forces behind the now-closed Town Danceboutique, announced that they had found a new property — the former St. Phillips Baptist Church at 1001 N. Capitol St. NE — where they hope to launch a nightclub intended to take the place of its popular predecessor.

SEPTEMBER

Transgender issues took center-stage this month, beginning with the National Trans Visibility March, which brought thousands of people to Washington, D.C., to demand more opportunities for transgender people, and to call out discrimination and violence directed at members of the transgender and nonbinary communities. That same month, GLAAD, in conjunction with One Iowa, The Gazette, and The Advocate, held a presidential forum on LGBTQ issues, hosted by Pose actress Angelica Ross, featuring 10 of the Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the Oval Office in 2020.

In contrast, Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, came under fire after calling referring to transgender women as “big, hairy men” while arguing against allowing them to stay in women’s shelters, and lamenting that “society no longer seemed to know the difference between men and women.” The comments prompted some members of Congress to call for his resignation, with others introducing a resolution to condemn the remarks.

Ryan Russell – Photo: Instagram.

In sports, Ryan Russell, an NFL free agent who had previously played for Tampa Bay Buccaneers, came out as bisexual, making him the only LGBTQ male athlete in the major four professional sports leagues. Russell was honored for his coming out with a speaking slot at the Human Rights Campaign’s National Dinner in Washington, D.C., along with award winners Dominique Jackson and Ricky Martin, and newly appointed HRC President Alphonso David, who announced a number of new initiatives, including several that are specifically intended to promote the economic empowerment and safety of transgender people.

OCTOBER

Building on the presidential town hall held the previous month, LGBTQ people once again had a rare opportunity to hear presidential candidates weigh in on LGBTQ-specific issues when CNN hosted and aired a town hall event featuring several of the Democrats seeking the presidency. On the night of the event, it was transgender activist Blossom C. Brown who garnered headlines after she and other trans activists took issue with the event’s format and questions. Other protesters specifically called attention to the problem of transgender women of color being the victims of violent crime, and what sort of steps could be taken to combat that disturbing trend.

As if to underscore the vulnerability of transgender women, a federal judge in Texas overturned a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibited insurers and medical providers who receive federal money from denying treatment or coverage based on sex, gender identity, or a person’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. The judge, Reed O’Connor, declared that the provision violated the conscience rights of medical providers with sincerely held religious beliefs opposing abortion and homosexuality.

Katie Hill – Photo: Facebook.

Congress was shook up by the departure of Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-Calif.), an out bisexual who resigned after becoming enmeshed in a scandal in which she was accused of being romantically involved with her chief of staff, an allegation she continues to deny. Hill, who became the victim of “revenge porn” after intimate photos of her were published without her consent, was also accused of being engaged in a three-person relationship with a former female campaign staffer, and was the subject of an ethics investigation due to the accusations against her.

Locally, Virginia Beach Human Rights Commissioner Kenick El resigned after outcry over a series of anti-LGBTQ posts he made on Facebook. In the posts, El called being transgender a “mental illness,” called homosexuality an “abomination,” and accused LGBTQ people of trying to recruit or promote homosexuality among children.

In the District, an alliance of activists, including LGBTQ people and sex worker advocates, continued lobbying for a bill by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large) that would decriminalize sex work in the District.

NOVEMBER

The biggest headline out of November was pro-LGBTQ election successes in several states. In Virginia, Democrats flipped control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades, earning majorities in the House of Delegates and the Senate, and ensuring Republicans could no longer sideline pro-LGBTQ legislation. Del. Danica Roem made history by becoming the first out transgender legislator in the United States to be re-elected. Other LGBTQ lawmakers, including Delegates Dawn Adams, Mark Sickles, and Mark Levine, and State Sen. Adam Ebbin, were also re-elected amid the Democratic wave.

Danica Roem – Photo by Julian Vankim

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards, who previously signed an executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees from discrimination, was re-elected in another tight race, despite President Trump campaigning on his opponent’s behalf. In Kentucky, Andy Beshear, a Democrat who is an LGBTQ ally, unseated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, a vocal opponent of the LGBTQ community who campaigned on opposition to same-sex marriage when he was elected in 2015 and who benefitted this year from ads, run by outside groups on his behalf, decrying the presence of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

In Utah, state regulators issued a rule that effectively bans conversion therapy by making therapists who engage in it subject to disciplinary action. Because the wording of the rule is acceptable to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it’s now being touted as a compromise measure agreed upon by Mormon religious leaders, Gov. Gary Herbert, and LGBTQ advocates. The rule is slated to go into effect on Jan. 22, 2020, at which point Utah LGBTQ youth will be protected from conversion therapy.

On the national level, three separate courts struck down a rule from the Trump administration seeking to allow medical providers to refuse to provide care or treatment to LGBTQ people and others based on the provider’s religious beliefs. Unfortunately, the Trump administration published a rule that could undermine LGBTQ rights by allowing adoption and foster care agencies to use religious beliefs to justify discriminating against same-sex parents.

DECEMBER

Despite the success of LGBTQ allies in November’s elections, conservative lawmakers in various states quickly introduced bills targeting LGBTQ people, especially transgender individuals.

In South Carolina, State Rep. Stewart Jones introduced legislation to block transgender minors from receiving gender confirmation surgery, hormones, or puberty blockers, and to punish doctors who assist those minors in transitioning. Similar bills have been introduced in Texas, Alaska, Illinois, and Kentucky. A nearly identical bill has been floated in Georgia by State Rep. Ginny Ehrhardt, who has proposed making it a felony for either a doctor or a parent to help transgender children transition before the age of 18.

In Kentucky, GOP lawmakers are considering a “bathroom bill” that would prohibit transgender students from using restrooms matching their gender identity. And bills to restrict transgender athletes from competing in any individual sports that do not match their assigned sex at birth have been introduced in Tennessee, Georgia, and Washington State.

Congressional Republicans, led by U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) introduced the Fairness for All Act, which seeks a “compromise” between protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination while also carving out a host of special exemptions to allow people with religious beliefs opposing homosexuality to avoid violating their consciences. Thus far, no congressional Democrats have signed on to the bill.

When it comes to stories of social conservatives becoming unhinged, December was full of them. Early in the month, Hungary pulled out of the Eurovision Song Contest due to the right-wing government’s opposition to homosexuality and the belief that Eurovision was too LGBTQ-friendly. In Brazil, more than 2 million people demanded that Netflix remove a film by comedy troupe Porta dos Fundos called The First Temptation of Christ, featuring a gay Jesus bringing home a “friend” to meet his family. Netflix refused to remove the film, prompting a shadowy right-wing group to firebomb the offices of Porta dos Fundos.

In Zambia, President Edgar Lungu successfully pushed for the United States to recall U.S. Ambassador Daniel Foote for comments he made expressing horror at a prison sentence handed down against a gay couple convicted of violating the country’s anti-sodomy laws, as well as past comments denouncing government corruption.

hallmark, gay, christmas, metro weekly

An image from “Christmas at Dollywood” — Photo: Hallmark Channel

Stateside, the chief “culture war” controversy in December involved the Hallmark Channel, which came under fire from social conservatives after it aired a commercial from the wedding planning site Zola.com featuring a lesbian wedding where the two brides kiss. Conservatives, led by One Million Moms, an arm of the American Family Association, demanded that the Hallmark Channel pull the ads or risk turning away its base viewers, who generally skew conservative on social issues.

The Hallmark Channel removed the ads featuring same-sex couples, but experienced backlash from the LGBTQ community and Zola.com, which pulled all of its ads from the channel in protest. The Hallmark Channel then reversed course, and said it would restore the Zola ads and would work with GLAAD to “better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

Leave a Comment:

Like What You're Reading?

Get Metro Weekly's Daily Email