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The Year in Queer

The Year in Queer

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A month-by-month breakdown of the important LGBT news events of 2008.

JANUARY

5: Threats to attack Paris's Eiffel Tower and the city's gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, are posted on a website catering to Islamic fundamentalists. The mayor -- who was stabbed in a 2002 antigay attack -- later announces his interest in running for president of France.

14: E. Denise Simmons becomes the nation's first openly lesbian black mayor when the city council in Cambridge, Mass., appoints her to lead.

16: Keith Hill, who admitted to raping five young men in 2006, is found guilty of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old at gunpoint and sentenced to 99 years in prison. The 20-year-old says he targeted men instead of women during an eight-month spree in Baytown, Texas, because "it would be less hard on them."

22: Brokeback Mountain actor Heath Ledger is found dead in his New York City apartment after an apparent accidental drug overdose. Ledger had just finished filming The Dark Knight, in which he played the demented, mysterious Joker.

FEBRUARY

1: A New York appellate court rules that state agencies must recognize the marriage of a lesbian couple married in Canada in 2004. In 2005, Patricia Martinez had sued her employer, Monroe Community College, after the school denied health care benefits for her wife.

10: The Israeli government allows same-sex couples to adopt children -- previously permissible only when one parent was biologically related to the child.

12: Out eighth-grader Lawrence King is shot in the head by classmate Brandon McInerney at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, Calif. He dies two days later. McInerney, 14, awaiting trial, has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder with a hate-crime enhancement.

19: Jason Bartlett breaks a double barrier when he comes out to his constituents in Connecticut's second district -- becoming the first openly gay African-American state legislator in the nation. Bart-lett later wins reelection in November with 54% of the vote.

22: Gay teenager Simmie Williams Jr. is found slain in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. His mother, Denise King, tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "I gave him two dollars for the bus and he never came back." She adds that she wasn't aware that he often dressed as a woman. His killer is still being sought.

MARCH

7: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $100 million to innovative research projects dedicated to fighting tuberculosis, HIV, infectious diseases, and drug resistance worldwide.

7: Oklahoma state legislator Sally Kern is heard on an audio recording telling fellow Republicans that gays pose "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism and Islam," and that gays will "destroy this nation." Kern added that gays have higher suicide rates, feel more discouraged, are more frequently ill, and have shorter lifespans. Despite widespread outrage, Kern wins reelection in November with 58% of the vote.

12: New York governor Eliot Spitzer, once dubbed the "Sheriff of Wall Street" for his aggressive ethics reform, announces his resignation after a federal investigation uncovers attempts to conceal thousands of dollars in financial dealings traced to a high-end prostitution ring. Lt. Gov. David Paterson takes over and quickly becomes a gay rights ally.

31: A gay couple from New York, whose wedding image was used by Polish president Lech Kaczynski in a March 19 television address to deride gay marriage, trek to Warsaw to meet with him. Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton's trip sparks a media frenzy.

APRIL

9: PlanetOut Inc., parent company of The Advocate and Out, announces the sale of its publishing properties to Regent Entertainment, owner of here! TV.

18: CNN reporter Richard Quest is arrested in Central Park with a rope tied around his neck and genitals and a sex toy in his boot. He's charged with possessing methamphetamine and loitering.

24: Conservative group Protect Marriage submits more than 1.1 million signatures to place a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage -- later known as Proposition 8 -- on California's November ballot. Out-of-state religious organizations contributed to the signature effort.

28: The highest court in the Presbyterian Church rules that the Reverend Jane Adams Spahr did not violate denominational law by officiating same-sex commitments because the unions were not legally recognized. The Louisville, Ky., court emphasizes that same-sex ceremonies cannot be marriages under church law.

MAY

9: Khadijah Farmer, who was ejected from the women's bathroom at New York City's Caliente Cab Company restaurant for looking too masculine, receives $35,000 in a settlement from the eatery.

13: Maryland becomes the 11th U.S. state to establish anti-bullying laws. The bill requires schools to develop violence prevention programs addressing students, staff, volunteers, and parents.

14: New York governor David Paterson orders state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

15: California's supreme court rules in a 4-3 decision that banning same-sex marriage in the state is unconstitutional, making the Golden State the second, after Massachusetts, to establish marriage equality. Weddings commence when the ruling takes effect in mid June.

29: Attorneys general from 10 states--Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah--ask the California supreme court to delay same-sex marriages until after the election, ostensibly to give their states time to determine whether they will recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

JUNE

4: U.S. representatives Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank unveil the LGBT Equality Caucus, a new bipartisan group aimed at educating lawmakers on LGBT-related issues and repealing discriminatory laws. Fifty fellow legislators join.

10: Darren Manzella, a decorated Army medic who revealed his sexual orientation to his commander in August 2006--and on 60 Minutes in December 2007--is finally discharged, after a second tour of duty in Iraq, for "homosexual admission."

12: Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick's 18-year-old daughter Katherine reveals that she is a lesbian to the local gay newspaper Bay Windows.

12: Glenn Murphy Jr., former chair of the Clark County, Ind., Republican Party, pleads guilty to criminal deviate conduct for having performed nonconsensual oral sex on a sleeping man in 2007.

16: Phyllis Lyon marries Del Martin, her partner of 55 years, in a ceremony performed by Gavin Newsom at San Francisco City Hall. Fellow lesbian activists Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, together 15 years, tie the knot in Beverly Hills. More than 18,000 same-sex couples wed between June and November.

JULY

3: The American Family Association calls for a boycott of McDonald's after Richard Ellis, VP of communications for the chain's U.S. operations, joins the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The AFA ends the boycott after Ellis steps down and accepts a post with the corporation's Canadian division.

22: A Greek court rules that a local gay rights group can use the word "lesbian" in its name, rejecting a claim by residents of the island of Lesbos that such use damages their identity.

30: Congress lifts the blanket U.S. ban on HIV-positive travelers as part of its reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR's $48 billion five-year budget triples the amount of global relief allocated in 2003, but maintains that recipients must spend at least 50% of funds on abstinence-only programs.

31: Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick signs a bill repealing a 1913 law that prohibited out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in the state. The law was originally intended to keep interracial couples from coming to Massachusetts to marry.

AUGUST

2: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials announce that the annual HIV infection rate is 40% higher than previously reported. African-Americans and men who have sex with men are said to be most affected.

9: Transgender woman Angie Zapata, 18, is laid to rest in front of 200 mourners in Greeley, Colo. According to officials, Allen Ray Andrade, 32, charged with second-degree murder, told police he met Zapata over the Internet for a date, then beat her to death after learning she was biologically male.

13: America's Next Top Model announces its first transgender contestant, Isis King. King, 22, is the fifth of 14 contestants to be booted, but on November 18, Tyra Banks surprises King on her TV talk show with the news that she is to receive free gender-reassignment surgery.

16: Comedian Ellen DeGeneres and her partner, actress Portia de Rossi, wed in an intimate ceremony at their Beverly Hills home.

19: Decorated veteran Diane Schroer testifies in federal court that the Library of Congress denied her a job as a terrorism research analyst because of her gender identity. In 2004, Schroer, who then identified as David, told his presumed future boss that he planned to undergo sex reassignment; she rescinded his job offer the following day. The LOC lobbies to have the case thrown out, but Schroer wins the suit in September.

SEPTEMBER

8: Answering the prayers of many liberals (and ironically, Pat Buchanan), brainy lesbian commentator Rachel Maddow launches the first episode of MSNBC's news program The Rachel Maddow Show. It is a virtual overnight hit.

10: A Florida circuit court judge rules that the state's law barring gays from adopting children is unconstitutional, allowing a gay Key West resident to adopt the teenage boy he has fostered since 2001. At a hearing earlier in the year, the boy said he wanted the man to be his "forever father...because I love him."

10: Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak mentions to The New York Times that he is gay. The octogenarian says he had never been asked about it and "just didn't think it was anybody's business." Sendak lived with his partner, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, for 50 years before Glynn passed away in May 2007.

12: Twenty-five people die and 135 are injured in a commuter train crash in Los Angeles after engineer Robert M. Sanchez crashes into an oncoming freight train. It is later revealed that Sanchez, among the dead, was gay and had a tragic past: His partner had hanged himself in their garage on Valentine's Day in 2003.

16: Easy, breezy, beautiful Ellen DeGeneres announces during her daytime talk show that CoverGirl has selected her to be its latest spokesmodel. Ads featuring DeGeneres will begin airing in January 2009.

26: Richard Grenell, a Bush-appointed spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, leaves his post after a four-year fight with the State Department to recognize his partner in the U.N.'s Blue Book, which lists diplomatic personnel and their spouses.

OCTOBER

10: The Connecticut supreme court rules that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection. On November 4, voters turn down a proposed constitutional convention, thereby keeping marriage equality safe from a citizen-driven ballot initiative.

13: In response to an HIV exposure scare, St. Louis's Normandy High School notifies parents that it will be the first U.S. high school to offer an HIV-testing center. About 5% of HIV diagnoses in the St. Louis region occur among teenagers.

20: Milton Lindgren, 70, and Eric Hendricks, 73, are found dead in their Indianapolis home after reportedly enduring months of antigay harassment.

22: Carol Anne Burger, a veteran journalist and Huffington Post contributor, stabs ex-spouse Jessica Kalish 222 times, according to police, and attempts to conceal the body. Burger kills herself two days later.

NOVEMBER

2: Actor Sacha Baron Cohen, disguised as flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter "Bruno," crashes a Los Angeles rally for supporters of California's Proposition 8.

4: Democrat Barack Obama wins election to become the 44th president of the United States. Meanwhile, same-sex couples are stripped of their right to marry in California; Florida and Arizona also enact marriage bans; and Arkansas bars unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children.

10: Forty-four California legislators submit a friend-of-the-court brief urging the state supreme court to hear cases challenging Proposition 8.

15: Join the Impact launches simultaneous nationwide city hall demonstrations to protest the antigay ballot initiatives that won on Election Day. Hundreds of thousands of LGBT people and allies take to the streets to demand equality.

18: Out poet Mark Doty receives the National Book Award for his poetry collection Fire to Fire.

19: California's top court announces it will hear arguments in March to consider invalidating Proposition 8.

19: eHarmony agrees to offer dating services to gays and lesbians after a user, who was rejected from the site because of his sexual orientation, filed a discrimination suit.

DECEMBER

1: People around the globe observe the 20th annual World AIDS Day.

10: In honor of Day Without a Gay, people call in "gay" to work and use their personal time to support gay causes

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