2022 has been a year of ups and tragic downs for the LGBTQ community. As we reflect on this year’s biggest LGBTQ stories, we recognize the threat that continues to be made against LGBTQ people’s livelihoods, the work that needs to be done, and the resilience of our community, which refuses to back down.
Atlanta City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland Comes Out as Gay
January 3, 2022
Atlanta City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland came out as gay just before being sworn in for his second term in office.
Westmoreland, who holds the Post 2 at-large seat on the Council, made the announcement in a Twitter thread.
“Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll swear an oath for the third time to serve the City of Atlanta and all her residents,” he said. “And I’ll do it as a proud member of our LGBTQ+ community.”
While the thread did not clarify, Westmoreland told SaportaReport that he is gay. With his coming out, there are now four openly LGBTQ members of the Atlanta City Council: him, Liliana Bakhtiari, Alex Wan, and Keisha Waites.
Georgia Senate Passes Transphobic School Sports Bill
February 25, 2022
The Georgia Senate passed SB 435, legislation preventing transgender students from participating on gendered sports teams that align with their gender identity.
According to the AJC, the Senate backed the measure along party lines with a Republican-led vote of 32–22. This is the first time a bill similar to it has had a vote by the full Senate chamber.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Marty Harbin as a way to create “fairness” for girls who play school sports. Advocacy organizations like the New Georgia Project, however, say that the bill is an “assault on transgender youth.”
DeSantis Signs Florida “Don’t Say Gay Bill”
March 28, 2022
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which is sure to prompt lawsuits as opponents question the legality of legislation they see as harmful and discriminatory. At a press conference, DeSantis said teaching kindergarten-aged kids that “they can be whatever they want to be” was “inappropriate.”
“It’s not something that’s appropriate for any place, but especially not in Florida,” he said.
House Bill 1557, titled “Parental Rights in Education,” will ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K–3, while “age-appropriate” teaching would be allowed in older grades — though it is not clear what is considered “age-appropriate.” The bill would also allow parents to sue schools or teachers who violate the legislation.
“LGBTQ youth in Florida deserve better. They deserve to see their history, their families, and themselves reflected in the classroom,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project. “While I am saddened to see this harmful bill signed into law, I am inspired by the outpouring of support for LGBTQ students we have seen from parents, teachers, celebrities, and their peers. Social support is vital for suicide prevention, and I want to remind LGBTQ youth in Florida and across the country that you are not alone.”
Gov. Kemp Signs Anti-LGBTQ Legislation into Law
May 2, 2022
Gov. Brian Kemp signed three anti-LGBTQ bills into law.
On April 29, Gov. Kemp signed HB 1084, the “Protect Students First Act”; HB 1178, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights”; and SB 226.
HB 1084 creates an athletics committee with the authority to ban transgender youth from playing on sports teams aligning with their gender identity. The bill also bans the teaching of “divisive concepts” about race in schools. During the bill signing, Gov. Kemp said the bill would “put students and parents first by putting woke politics out of the classroom and off the ball field.”
“Brian Kemp has the opportunity to emulate his fellow Republican governors in Utah and Indiana, who saw through efforts in their states to limit the access of transgender young people to sporting activities and vetoed similar discriminatory bills,” Dewayne Johnson, the Human Rights Campaign’s Georgia State Director, said in a statement. “They knew, as Gov. Kemp surely knows, that there is no basis for this legislation. The bill’s attacks on gender and race are fundamentally arbitrary and not a legitimate legal basis for discrimination.”
“Transgender kids are not creating problems by participating in school sports,” Johnson continued. “Singling them out for discriminatory treatment — preventing them from playing with their friends and enjoying the benefits of athletic activity — serves no one except those who want to fearmonger and further divide Georgians.”
HB 1178 allows parents to challenge any material taught in school, including LGBTQ content, and SB 226 would give school principals the power to ban “obscene” books from their libraries. According to NBC News, more than two dozen states — Georgia included — have banned books in the past nine months, with banned books including “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Under My Hijab,” and “Beloved.”
Brian Kemp Signs Bill Modernizing HIV Criminalization Laws
May 9, 2022
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 164 into law, modernizing the state’s HIV laws.
The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and received nearly unanimous support in both the Senate (50-2) and House (124-40), requires prosecutors to prove that a person living with HIV had “intent to transmit” and posed a “significant risk based on scientifically supported levels of risk transmission.” The bill also eliminates legal penalties for people living with HIV who share needles, engage in sex work, donate blood, or use bodily fluids on police and correction officers. Georgia follows in the trend toward modernizing HIV criminalization laws behind at least nine other states, including California, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. According to the CDC, the South experiences the greatest rates of HIV and lags behind other regions in providing quality HIV prevention services and care.
U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade
June 24, 2022
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 ruling.
Justice Clarence Thomas said in the decision that the Supreme Court should also reconsider the decisions in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex.
LGBTQ rights groups were quick to condemn the ruling.
“Today the Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling in Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs — a huge setback to our long-standing fundamental right to bodily autonomy,” said National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson. “This decision by the conservative majority on the bench also marks the beginning of the vital work to re-establish our constitutional foundation for reproductive justice and freedom. We must redouble our work to protect access to abortion and reproductive justice at the state and national levels. We will never give up.”
In his remarks on the Supreme Court ruling, President Joe Biden, speaking live from the Great Cross Hall in the White House, said “It just stuns me,” adding that poor women would be hit the hardest by the decision. “This is a sad day for the country in my view, but it does not mean the fight is over.”
He called on Congress to restore abortion protections into law and pointed to the November midterm elections, saying, “This fall, Roe is on the ballot.”
“This decision must not be the final word,” Biden said.
House Passes Bill to Protect Same-Sex Marriage in Bipartisan Vote
July 20, 2022
The U.S. House approved with significant bipartisan support the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify marriage rights for same-sex couples amid fears those rights are at risk in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
Lawmakers approved the measure, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), in a 267-157 vote, with 47 Republicans joining the unanimous Democratic caucus in supporting the legislation.
A key motivation for advancing the Respect for Marriage Act was the concurring opinion to the Dobbs decision written by U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. In it, he spelled out his inclination to revisit landmark decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, including the Obergefell decision for same-sex marriage as well as the 2003 ruling striking down state sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and the 1965 decision striking down state bans on contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut.
The Respect for Marriage Act wouldn’t keep same-sex marriage the law of the land if the Supreme Court were to strike down Obergefell per se, but rather it would repeal from the books the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2013, and require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. There would be constitutional issues if Congress required states to accommodate same-sex couples in their marriage laws, which have been under the jurisdiction of states.
U.S. Surpasses Spain in Monkeypox Cases
August 1, 2022
The U.S. now has the highest levels of monkeypox in the world, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of July 29, the last time the CDC case count was updated at the time of writing, there were 4,906 reported cases of monkeypox in the U.S., causing the U.S. to surpass Spain with 4,298 cases.
In Georgia, 351 cases have been reported, the second highest in the South after Florida with 373.
On July 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the strongest call to action the agency can make. The most recent such announcement was for COVID-19 in 2020. Infectious disease experts have warned that the number of monkeypox cases is likely higher than the numbers reported, and more testing and contact tracing would reveal a far larger number of cases. Worldwide, there have been 22,485 reported cases in 79 countries, surging from only around 200 at the end of May.
ROXX Closure Permanent After Owner Dean Chronopoulos Sells Property
September 8, 2022
Back in December 2021, ROXX Tavern temporarily shut its doors as owner Dean Chronopoulos announced that he would be taking a sabbatical. Nine months later, Chronopoulos told Georgia Voice that he has sold the property and the closure will be permanent.
“The bridge caught fire and did damage to a point where they had to not repair it but replace it. They said it would be a year; it’s already past a year now. Food costs were skyrocketing, the labor issue was happening, and I thought it would be a good time to take a sabbatical from the norm of 22 years,” Chronopoulos said. “Nothing seemed to be getting better. What ended up happening was I had kinda gotten used to not working. I enjoyed the break, I enjoyed the relaxation, I enjoyed being able to get up a little later, I enjoyed the fact that I was able to visit my parents who are getting elderly.”
For the last 22 years, ROXX has been a staple on Cheshire Bridge Road and a favorite among the LGBTQ community.
“ROXX was built with the intention of being part of the community,” Chronopoulos said. “That was always the goal. I tried to create a place that was comfortable, safe, and inclusive. It was meant for the community and all of its allies. If someone was accepting of others, they were always welcome. If they were a jerk, I had to throw ‘em out! The community has been a part of me, and I’ve been a part of the community, and this is kind of a goodbye.”
However, this goodbye might be more of a “see you later.” Chronopoulos sold the property, but retains the business, so the restaurant’s future is currently up in the air.
Midterms 2022: Kemp Reelected, Senate Race Goes to Runoff, Republicans Win Big
November 9, 2022
Following yesterday’s election, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has won reelection and the race for U.S. Senate appears to be going to a runoff.
Kemp has officially been declared the winner of the gubernatorial election with 53.4 percent of the vote, approximately 300,000 more votes than Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. Abrams conceded the race late Tuesday night before The Associated Press called the race Wednesday morning.
The race for U.S. Senate, also closely watched, went to a runoff. While Democrat Raphael Warnock led against Republican Herschel Walker, Warnock failed to pass the necessary 50 percent threshold.
Among the races for Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats, five were won by Democrats and nine were won by Republicans, including anti-LGBTQ Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won reelection in Georgia’s 14th District.
According to the New York Times, Republican Brad Raffensperger won reelection for Secretary of State, Republican John King won reelection for Insurance Commissioner, and Republican Richard Woods won reelection for School Superintendent. The races for Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, and Labor Commissioner have not yet been called, but the Republican candidates are leading in all with more than 50 percent of the respective votes.
At Least Five People Killed in Shooting at LGBTQ Nightclub in Colorado
November 20, 2022
A gunman killed at least five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The New York Times reported the Colorado Springs Police Department received a call for an active shooting at Club Q.
At least 18 people were injured. Colorado Springs Police Department Chief Adrian Vasquez told reporters the suspected gunman, Anderson Lee Aldrich, began shooting once he entered the club. Vasquez, according to KOAA, a Colorado Springs television station, said at least two customers subdued the shooter before officers arrived.
Club Q’s Facebook page notes a drag show began less than three hours before the shooting.
The five victims of the shooting were identified as Ashley Paugh (35), Raymond Green Vance (22), Kelly Loving (40), Daniel Davis Aston (28), and Derrick Rump (38).
Senate Passes Respect for Marriage Act
December 1, 2022
The U.S. Senate voted 61-36 to officially pass the Respect for Marriage Act, a historic piece of legislation that is expected to soon become law after members in the U.S. House of Representatives sign off on a bipartisan amendment added by their Senate colleagues.
Despite earning broad bipartisan support from lawmakers in the House, which passed its version of the bill this summer with an overwhelming majority — including votes from 47 Republican members — the Respect for Marriage Act faced an uncertain future in the Senate.
Conservative members in the chamber’s Republican caucus argued the bill would jeopardize religious freedoms, concerns that a bipartisan group of five senators sought to allay with an amendment that, among other provisions, clarifies the right of religious nonprofit organizations to refuse “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”
Writing the amendment were Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who was considered the driving force behind the bill’s passage through the Senate.
Several Republican senators proposed additional amendments that — per a narrow procedural vote before and another shortly after the Thanksgiving break — were not put up for debate, thereby allowing the Respect for Marriage Act to clear the Senate with Tuesday’s vote.
Barely surpassing the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority with one extra “yea,” the Senate’s passage of the bill came despite the best efforts of conservative opponents who had run coordinated campaigns to erode support among GOP members.