Laugh At Gilded Butterflies

The start of the new millennium brought political, social, and violent change to the world. By the end of the first decade of the 2nd millennium, the landscape of gay rights was almost unrecognisable.

In 2000, three landmark things happened: in January, the UK lifted the ban on openly gay serving members of the military; in March, the US state of California passed Proposition 22 which stated that California would not recognise same-sex marriages, even those marriages which were legally recognised in another state; and in July, the US state of Vermont passed a civil unions bill, which granted registered same-sex couples most marriage rights afforded to heterosexual couples.

On 14 February 2000, Congressman Jerrold Nadler introduced a bill on the House floor which would have allowed Visas for registered same-sex partners in the same manner that the State Department issued Visas for spouses of heterosexual couples. The bill, Permanent Partners Immigration Act, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it died. From 28-30 April, the Millennium March on Washington was held. The march, part of the Millennium Pride Festival, was a political statement on LGBT rights (or in this case, lack of them).

In June, Scotland became the first part of the UK to rescind Section 28, which prohibited local authorities from promoting homosexuality. In July, at the same time Vermont passed a civil union bill, Mississippi became the third US state to ban same-sex adoption. In November, the governor of Montana issues an executive order banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation in the private sector, and on 15 December the governor of Delaware did the same. In terms of LGBT rights in the United States, 2000 was a political launching point.

The United States, starting in 2000, would go through a conservative resurgence. The 2000 Presidential Election pitted then-Vice President Al Gore against Texas governor George W. Bush. The campaign was dirty, politically violent and full of mudslinging. Bush was backed by several conservative PACs, and had the support of the Christian right. On election night, the results were to close for the pundits to call. Over the next several days, as various issues and recounts arose, the decision of who was the next President hung in the air. On 12 December, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in Bush v. Gore which gave the state of Florida and it’s 27 electoral votes, to George W. Bush, giving him the electoral college win, although Gore had won the popular vote. The contentious and controversial decision of SCOTUS, resulted in a very polarised political environment for the incoming President. The decision, and subsequent administration, created a conservative resurgence in American politics.

In April 2001, the Netherlands legalised same-sex marriage, making it the first country to allow for equal marriage, not just civil unions. On 16 April, film director Steven Spielberg stepped down from his role on the advisory board of the Boy Scouts of America, citing discriminatory practices toward gay troop leads based on the organisation’s religious beliefs. The controversy over the Boy Scouts of America was just beginning. On 17 April, the Alaska Supreme Court dismissed the case of Brause v. Alaska, in which a same-sex couple sought equal marriage rights, even though the Alaska constitution banned same-sex marriage. The Court argued their case was invalid because of the constitutional ban.

In June 2001, the first Pride march in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia) was stormed by clerics, neo-nazis, and ultranationalist youths. The attack injured several, and the march was scrubbed. Police were ill equipped to deal with the sudden riots, and were unable to suppress the violence. Some have argued that the police were unwilling to intercede. In July, eight same-sex couple petitioned the Supreme Court of British Columbia to declare the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman as unconstitutional. In September, the Greater London Authority allowed same-sex couple registration. In November, British Columbia resident Aaron Webster was beaten to death in what many argue was a hate crime. The court, however, refused to prosecute the perpetrators with a hate crime arguing it’s impossible to prove hateful intent. Four teenagers were later prosecuted for manslaughter.

In April 2002, the People’s Republic of China officially decriminalised sodomy (although in actuality it was never illegal) when the amendments to the Marriage Law ignore homosexuality as a specific sexual intercourse class. In May, Canadian teen Marc Hall petitioned the Canadian courts to allow his boyfriend to attend prom. The Durham Catholic School Board had argued that Hall’s choice of prom date was incompatible with Roman Catholic teachings, and prohibited him from attending. In Hall v. Durham Catholic School Board, the Court granted an injunction which allowed Hall’s boyfriend to attend. On 17 May, the German legislature passed an amendment to the Nazi-era Act of Abolition of National Socialism which annulled all Nazi era convictions against homosexuals. In July, the Constitutional Court of South Africa declared, in Satchwell v President of the Republic of South Africa, that the same-sex partner of a High Court judge was entitled to the same benefits as the spouse of a heterosexual judge. In September, voters in Zurich to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples, but only in the canton of Zurich.

In January 2003, Belgium passed legislation which allowed same-sex couples to marry….in America, however, the story was vastly different. In March, the governor of the US state of New Mexico signed the New Mexico Hate Crimes Act which allows for the prosecution of anti-gay hate crimes.

The case against equal marriage in the United States had entered the public consciousness during the 2000 presidential election, but entered main stream American politics in 2003. In May, US Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) which would have limited marriage in the US to one natural born man and one natural born woman. The legislation had 108 cosponsors of the total 435 members of the US Congress. The Amendment didn’t pass, but the conservatives in Congress had made their point: marriage equality was not something they supported. Seven days after Musgrave floated the FMA, the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, signed the Texas DOMA. The Texas DOMA allowed the state of Texas to deny recognition of same-sex marriages from out states, as well as prevented same-sex marriages in Texas.

In June 2003, the US Department of Justice reversed an earlier decision which banned an annual employee pride event. In June, the first same-sex marriage was performed in Ontario, Canada. On 26 June, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Lawrence v. Texas declared that the enforcement of anti-sodomy laws violated the privacy clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, overturning the court’s 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick. On 30 July, US President George W. Bush propagated the anti-equal marriage opinions of the conservatives and neo-conservatives when he declared that he supported “codifying marriage in the United States as being between one man and one woman.” In September, England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive Royal Assent to repeal Section 28. 

In October 2003, the FBI released statistics showing that 16.7 percent of the hate crimes committed in the US in 2002 were due to the victim’s sexual orientation…this was the highest rate so far recorded in the 12 years the FBI had been keeping records. On 18 November, in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared that the ban on same-sex marriages in Massachusetts was unconstitutional. On 26 November, the Queen’s Speech, which outlined the government programme of legislation for the following year, included a bill which would allow for same-sex Civil Partnerships… on the same day, five conservative US senators introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment on the floor of the US Senate. On 1 December the UK introduced the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which made employment discrimination against LGBT persons unlawful…although the new regulations did not apply to pensions or religious organisations.

By the end of 2003, most of the world had hit its stride in the continuing equality of gay rights. In the United States, however, the political situation was much different…

Part XXVII: The US, Politics, and the Fight for Marriage Equality


[Note: Although, technically, the new millennium didn’t ACTUALLY begin until 2001 (see West Wing argument in In Excelsis Deo S1E10) I’m using 2000 as the start of the new millennium ’cause it makes for better prose.]

[Political Note: So, Lawrence v. Texas didn’t declare sodomy laws THEMSELVES unconstitutional… it declared that sodomy law enforcement is unconstitutional because it violates the privacy clause of the 14th Amendment. As such, there are still 16 US states that have sodomy laws….those laws are unenforceable, but it shows the nature of the politics of gay rights in the US.]

[Political Note 2: As of 14 February 2013, the Permanent Partners Immigration Act has been introduced on 14 February every year since 2000. It’s also been renamed the Uniting American Families Act. It still has not managed to pass either the House or Senate Judiciary Committees, and so had never come before either house for a full vote. ALSO: in case you missed it, Proposition 22 was the precursor to Proposition 8.]

[Irony: On 20 November 2003, US Congress passed a resolution condemning all violations of internationally-recognised human rights norms based on real or perceived sexual orientation. In the US: there are TODAY 26 states in which you can be fired for being homosexual, 16 states where sodomy is still illegal, 33 states with ban equal marriage, 15 states that allow employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (although, technically, the US government has passed anti-discrimination laws which are applicable to the states…although rarely enforced) and a federal government which does nothing about any of the above. AND Department of Justice which refuses to prosecute gay violence as a hate crime.]

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