21 Top News Stories of the Year

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com November 14 2011 5:00 AM ET

 1. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Is Dead
Now it’s OK to be an openly gay or lesbian soldier. But the fact that there’s still no marriage equality in the military could possibly be the catalyst that leads to federal recognition of same-sex marriages, experts predict. Already the Pentagon ruled that chaplains can officiate at same-sex weddings as long as state laws also permit such unions.

(RELATED: DADT is Dead)

DADT PRESS CONFERENCE 20110920 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

 2. New York Says “I Do”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo lobbied lawmakers (including four Republicans) into making their state the largest so far to allow same-sex marriages. Now antigay groups including the National Organization for Marriage promise electoral revenge on pols who supported the measure.

(RELATED: New York Says "I Do")

NEW YORK MARRIAGE Lailah (L) and Rachel Pepe are photographed waiting on line X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

 3. The Case of Proposition 8
Super-lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson continue to beat down delays that keep the case from reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. Proponents had argued (unsuccessfully) that Judge Vaughn Walker was unqualified to overrule Prop. 8 because he’s gay. Then they begged the court not to release potentially embarrassing videotapes of witnesses’ feeble testimony (and lost). Stay tuned for appeals.

(RELATED: California Gay Marriage Supporters: Lift Prop. 8 Stay)

OLSON AND BOIES TAKE ON PROP 8 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

4. More Bullying, More Teen Suicides
Despite a year of It Gets Better videos, including his own, gay 14-year-old upstate New York student Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself after unceasing taunting at school. His death highlighted frustration with a bullying and suicide problem that isn’t going away. Outrage led Lady Gaga to raise the issue with President Obama, Anderson Cooper hosted televised specials on bullying, and everyone agreed that more needs to be done. Next year could be the time. 

 (RELATED: Anderson Cooper, Rodemeyer Parents Confront Bullies)

ANDERSON COOPER RODEMEYER FAMILY X390 (GRABS) | ADVOCATE.COM

 5. Gabrielle Giffords’s Heroic Intern
Daniel Hernandez stayed by the Arizona congresswoman’s side after she was shot in the head by a gunman, helping to save her life. As Giffords’s comeback continues, she and Hernandez are a reminder that Americans—including gay Americans—are brave in the face of adversity.

(RELATED: Hernandez: I Am Not a Hero)
 

DANIEL HERNANDEZ X390

 6. Gay Rights in the Classroom
While Tennessee considered the “don’t say gay” bill, which would have barred schoolteachers from talking about LGBT history, California took the opposite tack. The passage of SB 48 ensures that the LGBT civil rights movement is part of the curriculum. Opponents promise to overturn the law but missed an October deadline to get enough signatures to put the repeal on the ballot in 2012.

(RELATED: Tenn. Senator: “Don’t Say Gay”)
 

Stacey Campfield X390 (SOURCED) | ADVOCATE.COM

7. Majority Rules on Marriage
Conservative lawmakers in both Minnesota and North Carolina circumvented more liberal governors this year and approved ballot initiatives that will let voters decide in 2012 whether to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. In North Carolina they’ll also be deciding whether to outlaw civil unions and domestic partnerships. 

(RELATED: Minnesota Marriage Battle Begins)
 

MINNESOTA FOR MARRIAGE X390 (THERI SITE) | ADVOCATE.COM

 8. The F Word Isn’t Cool Anymore
A sea change in the culture of professional sports started early in the year when Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined for using an antigay slur against a referee. Then came Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Braves coach Roger McDowell, and a tough call in hockey as the NHL examined footage to see if a player used a gay slur against straight ally Sean Avery.

(RELATED: Say "Sorry" for Your Salary)
 

KOBE BRYANT SIDELINES X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

 9. YouTube Airman
Viral video sensations often involve kittens or clumsiness. But a coming-out story made headlines when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed and Senior Airman Randy Phillips called his father from a base in Germany to tell him, “I’m gay.” A video of the touching moment has been viewed nearly 5 million times and is still going strong.

(RELATED: YouTube: Gay Airman Comes Out to His Dad)
 

Randy Phillips youtube soldier x390 (grab) | ADVOCATE.COM

10. Tracy Morgan’s Meltdown
Comedians have been telling bad gay jokes long enough. That’s the message sent by outrage over Tracy Morgan claiming onstage that he’d stab his son if he were gay—a punch line the 30 Rock star apologized for repeatedly. 

(RELATED: Tracy Morgan's Meltdown)

TRACY MORGAN pensive X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

11. No PDA If You’re Gay?
First a kiss-in pic was removed from Facebook (a mistake, officials say). Then musician Ari Gold was told to move to the back of the bus for cuddling with his boyfriend, and L Word star Leisha Hailey and Uh Huh Her band mate girlfriend Camila Grey got booted from Southwest Airlines. They said it was same-sex PDA that got ’em the boot; Southwest’s people said they totally dig the gays but accused the lovebirds of crossing the line of what’s appropriate. 

(RELATED: Gay Couple Told to Move to Back of Bus)

ARI GOLD AND TIM ON WAY TO CATSKILLS X390 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM

 12. Fred Karger and LGBT Republicans
The Log Cabin Republicans helped get DADT repealed, GOProud got Ann Coulter to back the group, and Republican Fred Karger, the first openly gay man to run for president of the United States, put party politics front and center. But he can’t seem to get into any of his party’s debates — one of which included an infamous moment when a gay soldier was booed by the audience.

(RELATED: Fox News Sidelines Karger in Debate)

FRED KARGER SCREEN GRAB X390 | ADVOCATE.COM

13. Lady Gaga Makes an LGBT Anthem
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” became an anthem for gay rights and was a staple at Pride events — but we also heard it sung by kids rebelling against bullying. And MTV named it Best Video With a Message, from a new category filled with pro-LGBT songs. 

(RELATED: Listen: Lady Gaga's "Born This Way")

BORN THIS WAY LADY GAGA X390 (GRAB) | ADVOCATE.COM

 14. Chaz Bono Comes Into Our Homes
The religious right got riled up as Cher’s transgender son appeared on prime-time TV, hoofing it as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. Haters like psychiatrist Keith Ablow warned that children would be confused about their own gender after watching Chaz tango, but so far there aren’t any reports of that happening.

(RELATED: Watching Chaz Bono on TV Won't Confuse Children)

CHAZ BONO LACEY SCHWIMMER X390 (Craig Sjodin/ABC) | ADVOCATE.COM

15. DOMA Defense Continues
President Obama declared the Defense of Marriage Act to be indefensible because it violates the U.S. Constitution. But that hasn’t stopped House speaker John Boehner from funding lawyers (to the tune of $1.5 million) who argue the law must be upheld because gay people aren’t really discriminated against, they’re bad parents, and being gay is a choice. 

(RELATED: Senate Committee Begins Debate on DOMA Repeal)

DOMA HEARING 1 390x (GETTY) ADVOCATE.COM

 16. Census Proves We Are Everywhere
The Williams Institute partnered with the U.S. Census to estimate the size of the gay population — nearly 4% of Americans are openly LGBT, and they live in almost every municipality in the nation.

(RELATED: Census: New Mexico, Rhode Island Heavily Gay)
 

CENSUS DATA MAP X390 (THINKSTOCK) | ADVOCATE.COM

17. The “Gay Panic” Defense Is Alive and Well
Brandon McInerney admitted to shooting gay teen Lawrence King in a classroom, but his prosecution for murder ended in a mistrial after the defense argued it was King’s “flamboyance” and cross-dressing that was to blame. A sympathetic jury didn’t want to send the teenage McInerney to jail for life, and even LGBT groups urged prosecutors to offer McInerney a plea bargain. A retrial is possible in 2012.

(RELATED: What Went Wrong In McInerney Trial?)
 

Brandon McInerney x390 (grab) | ADVOCATE.COM

 18. The Bachmann Family Business
Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, own Christian counseling clinics that became the subject of a hidden-camera sting by Truth Wins Out, which showed so-called reparative therapy being offered to patients. The Minnesota congresswoman spent much of her presidential campaign afterward dodging questions about her antigay beliefs (and falling poll numbers).

(RELATED: Hidden Camera Finds Reparative Therapy at Bachmann's Clinics)
 

MICHELE MARCUS BACHMANN 390x (GETTY) ADVOCATE.COM

 19. Lesbians Become International Heroes
When a deranged man in Norway hunted down schoolchildren on an island retreat, killing 69 (and eight more people in an earlier bombing), Hege Dalen and her partner, Toril Hansen, used their boat to make multiple trips through gunfire to ferry 40 people to safety.

(RELATED: Lesbian Couple Save 40 From Norwegian Shooter)
 

HEGE DALEN TORIL HANSEN X390 (HS.FI) A| ADVOCATE.COM

20. The Immigration Issue
President Obama has overseen the deportation of more than 1.06 million undocumented immigrants since he took office, many LGBT folks among them, but the fight over same-sex binational couples and undocumented LGBT immigrants came to a head this year after gay Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas came out — as undocumented. LGBT immigrants were cautiously optimistic after Obama announced this summer that some of the undocumented would be considered low-priority for deportation, including those who are in long-term same-sex partnerships, but many couples and individuals remain mired in an uncertain immigration process. 

(RELATED: Jose Antonio Vargas Comes Out Again)
 

IMMIGRATION GENERIC X390 (FAIR USE) | ADVOCATE.COM

 21. Lesbians and Gays Take Over the Awards — With Accolades!
Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tonys and Jane Lynch hosted the Emmys, each winning rave reviews. That’s no easy feat, considering what critics said about the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

(RELATED: NPH Returns to Host Tony Awards)