It was another memorable year in LGBTQ news. Here are the staff’s picks for biggest national stories of 2019.
No. 10 Methodist Church faces split over LGBTQ inclusion
In a disappointing move for LGBTQ parishioners, the Methodist Church this year voted the reaffirm its ban on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage, raising questions about whether the denomination will split.
Although the U.S. delegates at the United Methodist General Conference overwhelmingly voted “no,” the proposal succeeded as a result of an alliance of conservatives from both the United States and abroad. An estimated 43 percent of the delegates are from overseas and overwhelmingly supported the anti-gay policy.
After a vote of 438-384, the measure headed for ratification to the Judicial Council, which voided the measure on the basis of “irregularities” in voting. Months later, five bishops representing the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church issued a statement in support of LGBTQ clergy.
No. 9 Trump announces plan to beat HIV by 2030
In a surprise move, President Trump during his State of the Union address this year announced a plan to beat the HIV epidemic by 2030, calling on Congress for help in defeating the disease “in America and beyond.”
With the goal to reduce new HIV diagnoses by 75 percent within five years, and by 90 percent within 10 years, Trump’s plan is set to target specific places with high rates of new infections with prevention and treatment services, including free access to PrEP.
Trump’s budget proposal sought an additional $300 million in domestic HIV funding to implement the plan, although the request also seeks to cut Medicare and Medicaid and slashes global programs like PEPFAR and the Global Fund. Congress ended up not only agreeing to the domestic funds, but rejecting the proposed cuts.
No. 8 Supreme Court green lights trans military ban
The U.S. Supreme Court green lighted President Trump’s transgender military ban this year as litigation against the policy continues, allowing the armed forces to refuse enlistment to applicants based on their gender identity.
In a policy known as the “Mattis Plan,” the Defense Department allows transgender people currently serving in the armed forces to remain in service, but prohibits in most cases transgender people from enlisting (unless they’re willing to serve in their birth sex), requires the expulsion of any service member who’s diagnosed with gender dysphoria at a later time and fosters a hostile climate for transgender troops still in service.
No. 7 Anti-trans violence energizes LGBTQ movement
Amid ongoing violence against transgender people, the LGBTQ movement was energized to new levels this year with anger over the perceived inaction on the issue.
According to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, at least 22 transgender and gender non-conforming people were killed by November of 2019, many of whom were people of color.
Outrage came to the fore during the Human Rights Campaign forum for Democratic presidential candidates on LGBTQ issues when activists interrupted the event to demand attention to the issue. Among them was Blossom C. Brown who grabbed the mic and blamed the media and the Democratic candidates for failing to address anti-trans violence.
No. 6 Rep. Katie Hill resigns amid scandal tinged with biphobia
Former Rep. Katie Hill, a bisexual lawmaker elected in the 2018 Democratic “blue wave,” resigned her seat representing California’s 52nd congressional district in Congress this year amid an investigation of an improper relationship with a legislative staffer in a scandal tinged with biphobia.
The conservative outlet RedState reported she and her husband were involved in a “throuple” relationship with a campaign staffer during the 2018 election. As part of the reporting, RedState published a redacted nude photo of Hill combing the hair of the female staffer.
Hill, who was in the process of divorcing her husband, said she was in an “abusive” relationship with him, but admitted to having an “inappropriate” relationship with the staffer.
RedState later reported Hill was having an affair with her legislative staffer, which is against House rules. Hill denied the affair was taking place, but the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating the issue.
But it didn’t end. The U.K.-based Daily Mail published a nude photo of Hill holding a bong. Hill resigned her seat, threatening legal action against the media outlets for posting images of her as “revenge porn.”
No. 5 NYC celebrates WorldPride, Stonewall 50th
In recognition of the Stonewall riots that began on June 28, 1969 and ignited the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, celebrations were held throughout the country this year in recognition of its milestone 50th anniversary.
In New York City, where the Stonewall riots took place on Christopher Street, a major celebration took place at the same time the city hosted WorldPride. An estimated 5 million people came from around the globe to attend.
Key to the celebration was recognition of the participation in the riots of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, transgender women of color. The two were honored as pioneers with a new monument in New York City.
No. 4 Trump impeached as anti-LGBT policies continue
With anti-LGBTQ policies continuing to emanate from his administration, President Trump was impeached this year by the U.S. House, making him one of only three U.S. presidents in history with that dubious distinction.
House Democrats impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress based on allegations he made U.S. aid to Ukraine appropriated by Congress conditional on the country announcing an investigation of his potential political opponent Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, anti-LGBTQ policies coming from the Trump administration include new regulations enabling taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBTQ homes over religious objections and medical practitioners to discriminate against transgender patients.
No. 3 U.S. House approves Equality Act
In a historic first, the U.S. House this year passed comprehensive legislation to enact a long sought prohibition against anti-LGBT discrimination in federal law known as the Equality Act, marking the first time either chamber of Congress approved the measure.
First introduced in 2015, the House finally was able to pass the Equality Act thanks to a new Democratic majority put in place after the “blue wave” in the 2018 congressional mid-term elections.
The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination as a form of sex discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, federal programs, jury service, education and credit. The bill would also expand the definition of public accommodations under federal civil rights law and clarify the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can’t be used to justify discrimination.
No. 2 Supreme Court to decide if employers can fire LGBTQ workers
The U.S. Supreme Court heard major litigation this year that will either determine LGBTQ people have federal non-discrimination protections wherever they exist under federal law on the basis of sex — or no protections whatsoever.
In April, justices agreed to hear two cases, Bostock v. Clayton County and Zarda v. Altitude Express, which seek clarification on whether anti-gay discrimination is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and one case on anti-trans discrimination, Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. During oral arguments in October, the Trump administration argued against LGBTQ inclusion under the law.
U.S. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch emerged as a surprising possible LGBTQ ally, suggesting he agrees with the textual argument anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, but has concerns about “massive social upheaval” that would follow such a ruling.
No. 1 Buttigieg rises to top in 2020 campaign
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg rose to the top of the Democratic primary this year, drawing on his skills as a speaker and prodigious fundraiser to make history as an openly gay presidential candidate.
With polls showing him in the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg — who’s also an Afghanistan war veteran and a Millennial candidate — is in the same league with Democratic contenders Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Among his plans: Medicare for All Who Want It, a “Douglass Plan” to address racial inequities, and abolition of the Electoral College. Buttigieg has emerged as a moderate alternative to more progressive candidates.
On his way to the top, Buttigieg continues to face criticism for not being representative of more disadvantaged sectors of the LGBTQ community. Although Buttigieg at one point falsely blamed LGBTQ media for those complaints, he later retracted those comments.
Honorable mentions: Alphonso David named HRC president; Chicago elects lesbian mayor; first National Transgender Visibility March on Washington deemed success.