Danica Roem, Kevin Spacey and Roy Moore

2017 Year In Review: Top 10 national LGBT news stories of the year

As many predicted, 2017 brought an end to the progressive Obama era and the beginning of an assault on LGBT rights from the new Trump administration. Below is a ranking of the 10 biggest LGBT stories of the year.

10. The push for religious exemptions bills

Although anti-LGBT forces sought to pass an anti-trans bathroom bill in Texas, the measure was defeated in the state Legislature following outcry from the business community and LGBT advocates.

But the Legislature passed and Abbott signed into law an anti-LGBT religious exemption measure allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies in Texas to refuse placements to LGBT homes. South Dakota and Alabama enacted similar laws this year.

9. Sexual misconduct scandals ensnare Spacey, Takei

“Star Trek” actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him in 1986, when Rapp was 14. The “House of Cards” star issued a statement saying he didn’t recall the incident and was coming out as gay.

That didn’t stop outcry against him and 15 more accusers from coming forward, which essentially ended Spacey’s career. Netflix fired Spacey, his Gore Vidal biopic was cancelled and he was cut from scenes in the Ridley Scott film “All the Money in the World.”

Also accused of sexual misconduct was George Takei. A former model said the “Star Trek” actor groped him in 1981. Takei denied the allegation and was able to weather it after no subsequent allegations emerged.

8. Edith Windsor dies

Four years after her historic victory at the U.S. Supreme Court against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, Edith Windsor died this year at age 88.

Dubbed the “mother of marriage equality,” Windsor sued the U.S. government because under DOMA she was required to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after the death of her spouse, Thea Speyer. In 2013, Windsor’s lawsuit led the Supreme Court to strike down the law in a decision that was a precursor to the 2015 ruling guaranteeing marriage equality nationwide.

7. Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico

Much of Puerto Rico this year was devastated in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, including its LGBT residents and an HIV/AIDS organization.

An estimated 70 percent of the island was without power six weeks after the storm, which claimed the lives of nearly 500 people there. More than 50,000 Puerto Rico residents were displaced from their homes, many of whom resorted to consuming water from a contaminated site.

Also without power was the San Juan-based organization Bill’s Kitchen, which delivers meals to people with HIV/AIDS.

6. Roy Moore loses Senate bid

Democrat Doug Jones defeated notorious homophobe Roy Moore this year in a special election for a U.S. Senate seat.
Moore was defeated after nine women accused him sexual misconduct. Six said he inappropriately dated them decades ago when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Three others accused him of sexual assault.

Jones was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and supports LGBT rights.

5. Vegas replaces Orlando as deadliest shooting

A deadly attack at a country music show in Las Vegas this year surpassed the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The shooter, Stephen Paddock, killed 59 people by converting an assault rifle into an automatic weapon and firing upon concert-goers from a room in Mandalay Bay hotel. An additional 546 individuals were wounded.

Among the victims was a Utah gay couple: Cameron Robinson and Robert Eardley.

4. National Equality March draws thousands

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets this year for the National Equality March on Washington, including many demonstrators who waved Pride flags and carried signs in opposition to President Trump.

An estimated 50,000-80,000 people demonstrated in the streets of D.C. and marched in front of the White House before emptying onto the National Mall.

The idea came about after New York gay activist David Bruinooge started a Facebook page scheduling the march for D.C. on June 11.

3. Supreme Court hears Masterpiece Cakeshop case

In its first major consideration of a gay rights case since the ruling for marriage equality, the U.S. Supreme Court this year heard arguments on whether the First Amendment allows a Colorado baker to deny making wedding cakes to same-sex couples despite a state non-discrimination law.

Oral arguments yielded no clear indication of how the court will rule. A decision is expected in June.

2. Trans candidates score historic wins

Transgender candidates won a slew of historic victories in local races this year on Election Day.

The most prominent win belonged to Danica Roem, a transgender journalist in Virginia who unseated notoriously anti-LGBT Del. Bob Marshall. Other transgender candidates — Andrew Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham — claimed notable victories in the election for the Minneapolis City Council.

Meanwhile, Tyler Titus won election to the Erie School Board in Pennsylvania, Lisa Middleton won election to the Palm Springs City Council and Stephe Koontz won a spot on the Doraville City Council in Georgia.

1. Trump takes office, breaks promise to support LGBT Americans

Although President Trump campaigned in 2016 on being a friend to LGBT people, his first year in office was marked by an erosion of LGBT rights after significant gains in recent years.

A ban on transgender people in the military, withdrawal of Title IX guidance assuring transgender students access to the bathroom consistent with their gender identity, arguments in litigation LGBT people aren’t protected under existing civil rights law and intervention on behalf of an anti-gay baker before the U.S. Supreme Court are a few high-profile ways the administration undermined LGBT rights in Trump’s first year at the White House.