What Are We Thankful For?

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 27 2013 6:15 AM ET

Across the country, around the world, and on our screens, LGBT people have made great strides. Looking back at the news that dominated 2013, our staff can see that we have a lot to be thankful for. Here are the things that left impressions on us. Please add yours in the Comments.
 
Marriage Equality in Illinois and the State-by-State Fight
My heart swelled as Gov. Pat Quinn signed marriage equality into law last week in my native state of Illinois. It swelled even more this week, when I learned that an old Chicago pal, Vernita Gray, and her partner, Patricia Ewert, would be allowed to marry immediately, even though the law doesn’t go into effect until June. The reason is a sad one — Vernita has terminal cancer, which led to an emergency court ruling letting her and Patricia get their marriage license — but I am grateful that they will be able to marry. And the Illinois law caps a banner year for marriage equality: 2013 has seen the freedom to marry extend to same-sex couples in Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Hawaii, the last state being the one that put the issue into the public consciousness with a court battle in the 1990s. With these states’ actions, plus the return of marriage equality to my adopted state of California thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, 37.7 percent of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction with marriage equality enshrined in law (16 states and the District of Columbia), up from 15.8 percent at the end of last year, more than a twofold increase, according to Freedom to Marry. That’s something for which I’m very thankful, and I’ll be even more so when we get to 100 percent! —Trudy Ring
Landmark Marriage Equality Victories
June 26 of this year was an exciting day to be inside The Advocate's Los Angeles offices. We'd been holding our collective breath, waiting for the Supreme Court to issue rulings on two landmark cases relating to the freedom to marry — and the results were better than we dared to hope for. Not only did SCOTUS strike down California's Proposition 8 on a legal technicality — hey, whatever it takes so our colleagues can start marrying their partners — but Justice Anthony Kennedy's sweeping, unapologetic language in the majority opinion in Windsor v. U.S.A. struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. By finding a central tenet of that federal law unconstitutional, the Supreme Court paved the way for an avalanche of pro-marriage equality litigation, taking aim at state-level DOMAs around the country. And from Ohio, all the way down to Missouri and Oklahoma, the Windsor ruling has added the weight of legal precedent set at the nation's highest court behind arguments that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is patently unconstitutional. In New Jersey the Windsor case directly contributed to that state enacting marriage equality in October. At this point, it's really just a question of which — not whether any — state will be the next to join the growing ranks embracing the freedom to marry. —Sunnivie Brydum
The Summer of Lesbian TV
Nearly 10 years after The L Word permanently altered the landscape for lesbians on television, the Great Big Lesbian Summer of Love of 2013 (as I’ve dubbed it) offered the most diverse array of lesbian and bisexual women on the small screen to date. Well-rounded, thoughtful, witty, and sexy queer female characters popped up on networks across the spectrum, including CBS, AMC, ABC Family, HBO, Syfy, BBC America, and the groundbreaking Netflix (which is technically not a network, but I don’t know what to call it). From executive producer Jennifer Lopez’s The Fosters, about lesbian moms raising biological, adopted, and foster kids on a series with so much heart to Orange Is the New Black, Netflix’s summer darling of a prison show with sapphic tendencies, gay ladies have never been better represented on television. I am thankful to TV for helping to illustrate myriad of queer women out there, because every person randomly flipping channels this summer was bound to run into and become invested in some lesbian character’s storyline — and that’s progress. —Tracy Gilchrist
That We Don't Live In Uganda or Russia
Not that the United States is this perfect melting pot of acceptance and equality, but I’m thankful that we don’t live in Uganda. The LGBT people of Uganda have been living in fear of being publicly outed, persecuted, and put to death by vigilantes and government authorities for years. Even with international pressure on the Ugandan government, people like Sam Ganafa, the head of the LGBT advocate organization Spectrum Uganda, was arrested and charged with sodomy for seemingly no reason. Then on top of it, so much has happened to oppress LGBT people in Russia, through intimidation, criminal punishment, raids, and denying permits to public events. And sadly, we know that Russia and Uganda aren't the only places where LGBT people (and women, and minorities) are persecuted. More than 70 countries criminalize homosexuality in some form. So while the United States isn’t utopia, I'm glad it isn’t Russia or Uganda. —Michelle Garcia
Idaho Pleasantly Surprises Me 
I left Idaho, my home, in 1986, fleeing with all the other queer and trans kids to cities where being different was OK. But like many of them, I’ve always looked back, a longing for the state I love and the people I left behind, always hoping they’d get on board with LGBT rights, or at least acceptance. So I was über-thankful this year when numerous things shook up the LGBT world in Idaho. Four lesbian couples sued the state for the right to marry with the help of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, several cities (not all areas you'd expect) passed antidiscrimination ordinances, and the Add the Words campaign — a polite yet fierce eight-year battle to get the state legislature to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to our state’s Human Rights Act — got a huge boost when one of our most beloved political leaders threw his support our way. When former Republican governor Phil Batt, one of the state’s most popular politicians in the last century, became the first recipient of the Idaho Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award (given by the Human Rights Commission in Caldwell, Idaho), he told the crowd, “A homosexual who can’t rent a room or get a job because of his orientation doesn’t make any sense to anybody. Why some of the politicians are not more sensitive than that — more sensible, I should say than that — beats me.” He added that the legislature’s refusal to amend the Human Rights Act, which Batt originally authored, “accomplished absolutely nothing … except to be made to look like fools.” You go, Phil, and all my Gem State friends for fighting the good fight. —Diane Anderson-Minshall
Looking on HBO
I'm thankful for Looking, a new series on the modern gay male experience that premieres in January. We don't yet know if it's actually good, but there are positive signs: It stars respected Broadway and television actor Jonathan Groff, airs on high-quality HBO, and is coproduced by Weekend writer and director Andrew Haigh, who also directed Looking's pilot (if you aren’t familiar with Weekend, see it now). Maybe gay guys won't be condescended to or mocked for once? Neal Broverman
Gay Dads on TV
Everyone references Will & Grace as perhaps the best example of television's power to move the culture toward acceptance. Sean Hayes will always deserve credit for his part in that. Now he's starring as a single gay dad on NBC's Sean Saves the World. The show follows up on the tale of a gay couple trying surrogacy in The New Normal, which was unfortunately canceled after its first season ended earlier this year. All the while we've had Modern Family's Cameron and Mitchell to make us laugh about parenthood. I'd like to say that being a gay dad is no different, but for some reason I sure am grateful to watch all of these characters. Maybe by the time our daughters get to grade school, we'll look back on television's baby boom with the kind of renewed appreciation we have now for Jack and Karen and the gang.  Lucas Grindley
Jack Andraka,  Gay Teen Science Prodigy
I’m thankful for young LGBT people like Jack Andraka who are not only changing the world with their brilliance, but are also brave enough to be open about who they are. Though some may feel Andraka’s sexuality isn’t important enough to be mentioned when discussing his scientific discovery, his visibility as an out 16-year-old who developed a revolutionary new test for detecting pancreatic cancer provides young people struggling with their sexuality a wonderful opportunity to see their potential reflected in a society that is in desperate need of diverse LGBT role models. Jase Peeples
That the Scouts Are a Little More Welcoming
As an Eagle Scout, I am thankful that the Boy Scouts of America voted in May to overturn its ban on gay youth. Beginning in 2014, any young man, regardless of sexual orientation, will be able to take part in an organization that has fostered character, a love of nature, and a sense of community for more than a century. Hopefully, the BSA will soon drop its prohibition on gay leaders, so that LGBT parents may be able to share in these important life moments with their children. Daniel Reynolds