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From marriage to the ballot box, LGBT issues likely to be big news in the new year

Tammy Baldwin

Significant events are crowding the national calendar for 2012, and each promises considerable drama and suspense for the LGBT community. Here are the 10 most important to watch:

1. The fight for the White House

The difference for LGBT people between having President Barack Obama in the White House and President George W. Bush has been stark. So the consequences of November’s presidential election will also be profound.

Either Obama stays, and things continue to improve, in law and in society’s attitudes, or a new president is elected from a field of Republicans who seem, at times, to be vying for the mantle of most gay hostile candidate.

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President Obama responds to Frank’s retirement

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank

Openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced today that he would not seek reelection in 2012 after more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Frank, perhaps the country's most prominent gay politician, was instrumental in advocating pro-LGBT legislation in Congress during his tenure and led financial reforms efforts after the economic collapse of 2008 as the chairman of the Financial Services Committee.

Multiple reports suggest that Frank's decision to retire from Congress was based partly on the new layout of his current congressional district.

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Out congresswoman enters Wisconsin senate race

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly lesbian woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, joined the race to become a Wisconsin senator in 2012, her campaign announced today.

If Baldwin were to win the election next year, she would be the first openly out member of the United States Senate. Baldwin, along with Colorado Congressman Jared Polis and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, both democrats, are the currently the only out members of the U.S. House.

Baldwin was first elected to Congress in 1998 and began serving her term in 1999.

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Guest Editorial: Threats can and do lead to violence

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tuscon and continues her recovery

Only someone who’s never had to fight for their civil rights could wonder if there’s a connection between words and deeds.

As I watched the news of the violent attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), I was shocked. Not only at the horrific events, but at the commentators who questioned whether, as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “toxic rhetoric can lead unstable people to believe [violence] is an acceptable response.”

Ask the kid who looks a little different than his peers, and he’ll tell you how it works: first the jokes, then the taunting and then the physical bullying. “Boys will be boys” he’s told, as those who should be paying attention dismiss the ramp-up to violence.

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Frank: ENDA will get House committee vote this month

Barney Frank (D) and Tammy Baldwin (D)

Legislation can be like a train: It runs on a track, makes certain stops along the way, and is often attached to other trains. But in Congress, the train doesn’t run on time.

Last September, gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would likely get a House committee vote in September and a floor vote that fall. Didn’t happen.