Second Star To The Right…

The thing about social change is that, once it starts it’s like dominoes…you can’t stop it even if you wanted to. And when those dominoes are a path toward equal rights, there’s a not insubstantial amount of people who want to see it stopped. On 1 January 2006, the first domino that would define the next 8 years in gay rights was pushed.

In January 2006, a report recommending same-sex civil unions was accepted by the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland. On  26 January, the Czech Republic approved registered partnership legislation….and the state of Illinois banned discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In March, the Chamber of Deputies overrode a veto by Czech president Václav Kalus, making registered partnerships legal…the first nation in the former Communist bloc to do so. Also in March, the city council of Washington, DC banned discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. On 11 April, the governor of Kentucky rescinded an executive order which had banned discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In May, the gay rights movement in Russia is dealt its first blow…one which would define Russian acceptability for the rest of the decade. A Moscow pride parade ended in violence and mass arrests after activists defied the ban on pride parades set by Moscow’s mayor.

On election day 2006, America continued its trend of opposing legislative agendas in regards to marriage equality: eight states voted on state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, seven of which passed.

On 17 March 2007, Soulforce Equality Ride, an American LGBT advocacy group, visited 32 schools which banned enrolment of openly-gay students. On 30 April, the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations became law in the UK. Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols declared his opposition stating contradiction to the moral values of the Catholic Church. Nichols’ public opposition was not the first, and such opposition to gay rights legislation by Church leaders would continue. In September, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling in Deane & Polyak v Conway which decided that the Maryland constitution required the states to recognise same-sex marriage.   In November, the Supervisor of the town of Salina, New York proposed human rights legislation which would have included a domestic partnership registry. The proposal was defeated.

In early 2008, the UK passed the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 2008, which allowed lesbians and their partner equal access to IVF or assisted insemination. On 15 May 2008, the California Supreme Court declared Proposition 22, a state statute which banned same-sex marriage, unconstitutional in In re Marriage Cases. Opponents to same-sex marriage proposed Proposition 8, which contained the exact same wording as Proposition 22, as an amendment to the state constitution in order to circumvent the Supreme Court decision in In re Marriage Cases. Although the proposed state constitutional amendment did not effect domestic partnerships in California, it would constitutionally declare marriage as between one man and one woman.

On 21 May 2008, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, in Witt v Department of the Air Force, that the Defence Department policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue was unconstitutional. On 9 July, the US First Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the constitutionality of don’t ask, don’t tell in Thomas Cook v. Robert Gates. 

In June, the UK Parliament passed the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act which included new punishments for hate crimes, including offences of incitement to homophobic hatred.

On 4 November 2008, the United States presidential election elected Barack Obama over John McCain, establishing a democratic White House. In California, Proposition 8 was passed, which goes into effect on 5 Nov, banning same-sex marriages. In Arkansas, Act 1 is passed, which bans adoption by same-sex couples. In Arizona and Florida, state constitutional amendments are passed which ban same-sex marriages. On 5 November, Strauss v. Horton is filed, challenging to the constitutionality of Proposition 8. On 20 November, the Supreme Court of California agreed to hear arguments in Strauss v. Horton. On 24 November, a court in Florida declared a state ban on adoption by same-sex couples unconstitutional. On 26 November, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled, in Geldenhuys v. National Director of Public Prosecution, that different age of consents for heterosexual and homosexual sex unconstitutional. Although South Africa’s parliament equalised the age of consent in 2007, the court’s ruling was applied retroactively to the adoption of the Interim Constitution in 1994.

On 15 December, the Constitutional Court of Hungary declared the registered partnership law passed the previous year as unconstitutional because it duplicated the institution of marriage for heterosexual couples. The court further ruled that a law which specifically stated registered partnerships were solely for for same-sex couples would be constitutional. On 23 December, the Hungarian government announced a new registered partnership law would be introduced to parliament the follow year. On 30 December, the AClU filed suit against the constitutionality of the state of Arkansas’ same-sex adoption ban.

On 18 February 2009, a series of bills in Utah, which would have extended LGBT rights including civil unions, referred to as the Common Ground Initiative is killed in the Utah state legislature. In March, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Philippines ended bans on openly serving homosexuals in the military. On 5 March, the California Supreme Court heard arguments on Proposition 8. On 10 March, the Court of Appeals for England and Wales, in HJ and HT v Home Secretary, denied an asylum claim of two men, one from Iran and one from Cameroon, arguing that the men would not be persecuted if they concealed their orientation.

On 3 May, the Obama administration allowed the deadline to appeal Witt v. Department of the Air Force which essentially created a binding precedent per the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and effectively ending the US military policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue. On 26 May, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 in its ruling of Strauss v. Horton. Although the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was upheld, the ruling also declared that the marriages performed between June and November 2008 would remain valid.

On 3 June, the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary held hearings on the Uniting American Families Act, which  would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 to allow same-sex partners legalised immigration rights. The bill was introduced by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. In July, the council of the District of Columbia agreed to recognise same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

On 11 September, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official public apology for the castration of Alan Turin in 1952. On 13 October, a bill is passed in Uganda which broadened the criminalisation of homosexual relations, and established the death penalty for HIV persons engaging in same-sex intercourse with minors. On 28 October, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded federal hate crime legislation to include gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. On 3 November, voters in the state of Maine repealed the marriage equality law, banning same-sex marriage. On 19 November, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that officials have the right to recognise same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, but did not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. On 1 December, the Treaty of Lisbon issues the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Article 21 protected sexual orientation.

The first decade of the 3rd millennium C.E. saw huge advancements in LGBT rights, but also region of those rights by voters in many areas of the United States. While Europe moved forward in its quest for equal rights, many areas of the United States remained stagnant and burdened by the religious traditions and state governmental actions. This trend would lay the foundation for the first half of the second decade of the 3rd millennium.

Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation Discrimination Legislation: 

2006: Washington, New Jersey, Northern Ireland

2007: Oregon, Ohio, Vermont, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan

2009: North Dakota, Delaware (orientation, not identity)

Equal Marriage/Civil Unions/Domestic Partnerships:

2006: New Jersey (Civil Unions..after NJ Supreme Court ruling which stated that state constitution guarantees same sex couples legal benefits of marriage, but not marriage), South Africa (same-sex marriage), Czech Republic (registered partnerships), Slovenia (registered partnerships), Mexico City (civil unions)

2007: Switzerland (registered partnerships),  Coahuila (civl unions), Washington (domestic partnership), New Hampshire (civil unions), South Australia (registered partnerships), Uruguay (civil union), Hungary (registered partnership-effective 1 Jan 2009)

2008: Victoria Australia (registered partnerships), Australian Capital Territory (civil partnerships), California (overturned by Proposition 8 in November), Norway (marriage), Coquille Indian Tribe (although same-sex marriage is not legal in Oregon, Native American tribes are sovereign nations under the SCOTUS decision in the Marshall Trilogy 1823-1832, and thus not bound by state constitutions), Ecuador (civil unions), Connecticut (marriage)

2009: Arizona (domestic partnership), Hawaii (civil unions), Japan (recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other nations), Sweden (marriage), Iowa (marriage), Vermont (marriage), Colombia (civil unions), Nevada (domestic partnerships), Colorado (domestic partnership), Hungary (re-written per Constitutional Court ruling), Wisconsin (limited domestic partnership), DC (marriage)


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