Happy Birthday, Harvey — which also means happy Harvey Milk Day! The civil rights hero would have been 86 this year, and though he helped fan the flames of the fight for civil rights, he couldn’t possibly have imagined how much progress we would have made by now.
It’s been an incredible year for LGBTQ rights, both in the US and around the world. Of course, there’s still lots of progress remaining to be made — particularly in the area of trans freedoms — but even just halfway through 2016, there’s a ton to feel great about.
1. Marriage Legalized in Colombia
Congrats to our queer friends to the south! This past April, the Colombian high court ruled 6-3 that the constitution requires marriage equality. They’ve had limited civil unions in the country since 2007, but now they can look forward to full federal equality. It’s the fourth South American country to legalize the freedom to marry, and it won’t be the last.
2. Charlotte Passes Nondiscrimination Ordinance
What could go wrong? The Charlotte City Council passed a bill in February that protected LGBT people from discrimination in the context of public accommodations, contracting, and other areas. (In other words, no more refusing to make cakes for gay weddings.) Despite having widespread support on the council, passing 7-4, state Republicans sprang into action to oppose the measure and passed HB2, which rolled back protections and created new ways to harm queer people.
3. National Outrage Over North Carolina
Fortunately, the days when politicians could demonize LGBTs without fear of repercussions are over. After North Carolina passed its draconian HB2, which made life miserable for everyone, but particularly trans people seeking bathroom access, the country flew into an outrage. The governor backpedaled a bit, but in general held firm on the bill — a stance that will likely hurt him in the upcoming election. Jerk presidential candidate Ted Cruz defended the bill as well, and before long he was out of the running.
4. The World’s First Endowed Academic Chair of Transgender Studies
You might not have heard, because it didn’t generate the kind of outrage that draws clicks, but the University of Victoria in British Columbia now has an endowed academic chair of transgender studies. We’re looking forward to the scholarship that this makes possible, thanks in large part to a donation of $2 million. That cash came from Jennifer Pritzker, a trans woman and former Army Colonel.
5. Salt Lake City’s First Openly Gay Mayor
Who’d have thunk it? A queer mayor in the home of the Mormons. Jackie Biskupski is the first openly gay mayor for Salt Lake City, although there have doubtlessly been lots of closeted mayors in the past. She’s also the city’s second female mayor, and a longtime advocate for civil rights.
6. Italy and Estonia Drag Their Feet Toward Marriage Equality
Ugh, come on Italy, hurry up. The country recently became the last in western Europe to offer relationship recognition to same-sex couples with the adoption of civil unions. And those limited protections are better than nothing, but come on — it has to be marriage. Similarly, Estonia recently legalized civil unions and adoption, but that’s still not good enough. Those countries’ slow progress is probably due to the influence of the Catholic Church, which has clung to power and wealth while oppressing people for centuries.
7. Montana Bans Discrimination — Sometimes
Governor Steve Bullock has taken a few incremental steps towards protections with the issuing of an executive order that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity. That’s nice, but it doesn’t go far enough, failing to cover housing and public accommodations and education and finance. (You can be denied a loan in some states because you’re gay.)
8: Greenland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
Now that’s more like it. Take a lesson, Italy and Estonia. By a wide margin, Greenland’s parliament legalized marriage equality back in April. Couples were allowed to marry on the very same day. This had been in the works for a year, but was delayed by elections, so it’s nice to see how quickly the bill moved from concept to execution.
9. Canada’s Ceremonial First Kiss Goes Gay
Master Seaman Francis Legare and his partner, Corey Vautour, made history this year when they made out. Traditionally, the Canadian Navy selects one lucky sailor to be greeted by his or her partner upon return home, and for the first time ever the honor was shared by two men. Congrats to the happy couple! This is one area in which the United States was slightly more progressive: the first queer Navy kiss in America was back in 2011, between Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta and her girlfriend.
10. The First Trans Pride Flag
Hard to believe it took this long, but Santa Clara County became the first in the nation to raise the transgender pride flag. Pink, blue, and white, it flew over City Hall for Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31. Kudos to the Bay Area town that made it possible. Harvey would have been beaming.
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