Who should be LGBTQ Nation’s ‘Newsmaker of the Year’?

Who should be LGBTQ Nation’s ‘Newsmaker of the Year’?
No matter how you slice it, 2015 was a banner year for equality. Dare we call it a historical year? Oh, of course we do.

From tremendous victories (the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling to legalize same-sex marriage this summer, for starters) to crushing defeats (we’re looking at you, HERO rights ordinance), the last twelve months have been jam-packed with drama, and a particularly colorful cast of characters has dominated the national headlines, making our job rather easy. But here’s the burning question: Who among these heavy-hitters will get your vote as the Biggest Newsmaker of the Year?

The following list contains people you might expect (Barack Obama, Anthony Kennedy, Tim Cook); political mavericks you should definitely know about if you don’t already (Bisi Alimi, Jackie Biskupski) and even a certain Rowan County clerk that’s sure to raise your hackles and make you storm away from your Internet connection in disgust. So vote very carefully — or else Kim Davis just might succeed where she has otherwise failed. (Or give her your top prize. After all, her protest backfired, and gave a bad name to law-abiding conservatives everywhere.)

So who’s it gonna be? Be sure to cast your vote on the last page of this feature, and we’ll return with the results sometime next week.

Continue reading: Tim Cook

tim-cook-apple-146Apple, if you haven’t heard, is the world’s most valuable brand, according to Forbes. Right there at the top of the pyramid is Tim Cook, who says he decided to come out because “kids are getting bullied in school, kids were getting discriminated against, kids were even being disclaimed by their own parents. I needed to do something.”

He’s even put his own company where is mouth is: Apple played a key role killing antigay bills in Arizona and Indiana.

With big business controlling the purse strings of the Republican Party, the road to consensus on equality may lie in part in corporate America, as distasteful as that may sound.

The Apple CEO may not of been out of the professional closet for very long but he’s definitely made his mark in the civil rights arena. Under Cook’s leadership, the technology giant joined the fight for rights in Indiana and Arkansas as the company decried so-called religious freedom laws and advocated for marriage equality in front of the Supreme Court.

Cook’s sexual orientation was an “open secret” until recently but the CEO managed to turn his coming out into another way for America’s favorite computer company to bring people together.

Continue reading: Caitlyn Jenner

APTOPIX-2015-ESPY-Awa_NatiLike any reality television star worth her mettle, Caitlyn Jenner has set America on one hell of an emotional rollercoaster this year, commanding respect, disdain, and consternation in equal measure — and sometimes all on the same news peg.

But let’s be clear: Caitlyn’s superstar status hasn’t protected her from criticism from both the left and right — not even remotely. Bette Midler didn’t hesitate to take a swing at her, and it landed hard. Trans activists have (understandably) been upset with her conservative viewpoints and her occasionally tone-deaf or insensitive soundbites. But it’s clear that Jenner’s still learning the ropes. She’s also, it’s worth keeping in mind, in completely unchartered territory and her story is far from over.

The right, of course, has been even more unforgiving as they demean her decision and obsess over where she’s going to use the bathroom. (The bathroom, in fact, could be considered an honorary Newsmakers of the Year in its own right.) But if the unstoppered flow of criticisms have succeeded in wounding her, she certainly didn’t let it show while accepting the Arthur Ashe award for courage.

“If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it,” she said. “But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the reality of who they are… they shouldn’t have to take it.”

Continue reading: Anthony Kennedy

Anthony-Kennedy-1Five judges constitute a majority on the Supreme Court, but one stands out: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who won our hearts and minds for not just striking down the horrid Defense of Marriage Act last year, but for denying all of appeals of marriage equality rulings this year.

Seen as the deciding vote on the Supreme Court when it announced they would rule on a same-sex marriage case, Kennedy — who wrote the court’s Lawrence v Texas decision legalizing sex between people of the same gender in 200 — voted with the court’s more liberal justices and marriage equality became the law of the land in June.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Kennedy wrote in the ruling. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.”

The Reagan-appointed justice has become a foreceful advocate on the bench, taking the lead on opinions striking down sodomy laws, anti-gay ballot measures and, most notably, bans on marriage equality.

He’s done so by using language that goes well beyond legal reasoning to recognize the validity and even integrity of same-sex relationships — and their children as well. He’s become a kind of poet laureate of same-love, with such eloquent musings in his rulings such as this: “There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.”

Continue reading: Krzysztof Charamsa

1297756051030_ORIGINALPolish priest and Vatican official Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa made waves across the world when he came out shortly before a giant gathering of top church leaders to talk about the modern family.

Charamsa told an Italian newspaper he has a partner and criticized the church for its hardline opposition to homosexuality, later telling The Associated Press that he hopes more priests come out “to destroy the code of silence in the church.”

Not surprisingly, Charamsa was promptly fired from his job with the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was defrocked a month later. Most likely, his timing — right before the synod opening — was quite strategic. “The decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the synod assembly to undue media pressure,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, at the time.

Since then, he has continued his mission to move the church to be more LGBT-friendly, going so far as to publish a 10-point “liberation manifesto” about homophobia in Catholic teachings.

LGBTQ Catholics, he says, have a right to a happy family life “even if the Church doesn’t want to bless it.”

Continue reading: Kim Davis

KIM DAVIS, Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Mat Staver and his fiendish Liberty Counsel were determined to turn renegade Rowan County clerk Kim Davis into a national hero for religious freedom — but what they delivered, in actuality, was more akin to a soap opera villainess (albeit without the slinky mink coats).

Hard to say if our readership loves to hate Davis or simply, actually hates her. There’s practically an audible collective hiss every time we post a story about the husband-collecting divorcee, and readers consistently threaten to abandon LGBTQ Nation at the very mention of her name.

And yet, regardless of how you feel about the woman who managed to raised the ire of even rock band Survivor, you’d have a hard time arguing that she wasn’t one of the most visible names in LGBTQ news in 2015. (You do not, however, need to be happy about the fact.)

Over the summer, Davis became the face of right-wing Christian opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage for all, refusing to issue marriage licenses to any same-sex couples seeking to wed. As the situation escalated into a full-throttle media circus complete with paparazzi and weeping civilians, Davis showed a real flair for overwrought political theater and succeeded in sparking a national outrage.

After telling applicants that God overruled the law, she was sued in federal court by straight and gay couples alike — all of whom just wanted the headstrong woman to fill out the appropriate paperwork. When she defied a federal judge’s ruling and spent a week in jail, her employees issued licenses without her approval; a fact that was almost upstaged by her grandstanding speeches alongside blowhard presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Meanwhile, the religious right did everything short of giving her the sainthood in their attempts to turn her into a martyr, but most of America saw her for what she really is — a woman who wants to shove her religious beliefs down everybody’s throat. Even if you happen to be Pope Francis.

Fortunately, for the vast majority of you who never want to hear her name again, Kim Davis’ public profile is finally on the wane and she’s been gently nudged out of the news cycle, despite valiantly making a few strategic appearances at various right-wing rallies. In fact, you’ve probably heard the last of her.


Continue reading: Jim Obergenfel

longform-original-1332-1426894620-9The Supreme Court refused to get involved in most marriage equality cases sent to them for review, but a conflicting ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sent multiple cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio to the high court for the ultimate ruling.

No one was as surprised to find the various rulings combined into one case, Obergefell v. Hodges, as Jim Obergefell himself.

Obergefell and his terminally ill husband, John Arthur, were married in Maryland in an emotional ceremony on an airport tarmac.

Ohio law prevented Obergefell from being listed as Arthur’s spouse on his death certificate so the two filed suit to win the recognition.

Arthur died during the long court proceedings, but his legacy lives on as gay, bisexual and lesbian couples nationwide celebrated the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality made possible by Jim Obergefell’s love for his husband.

Speaking before the ruling was announced, he spoke about his dream of honoring Arthur’s legacy.

“I’m hoping,” he said. “At night, as I lie in bed and talk to John and tell him about my day, I hope that I’m able to say, ‘John, we won. We helped bring marriage equality to the United States. Hard to believe we did it. And I wish you were here to celebrate with me.’”

Continue reading: Barack Obama

ObamaThere’s no denying that he was late to the party, particularly with that patently fake “evolution” on gay marriage as a cover.

But since then, Barack Obama has made up for his heel-dragging with a vengeance.

He’s aggressively supported marriage equality, ensuring that marriage rights seep into every corner of the federal bureaucracy, from the IRS for immigration.

Obama said the ruling was the “consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts and stayed strong and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.”

His reputation as “America’s first gay president” continued untarnished as 2015 officially became the year of the queer.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell fell under Obama’s watch and part of the Defense of Marriage Act was tossed out last year, but the 2016 Supreme Court ruling — made possible with help by the administration — will, of course, always be a historic moment.

And that wasn’t his only accomplishment this year.

Not only did he issue an executive order banning workplace discrimination by federal contractors, he also navigated the rocky waters of the Pentagon to ensure the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — and ignored military leaders who didn’t like it.

Throw in other less publicized accomplishments this year – like expanding transgender protections and calling for an end to the exclusion of transgender people from serving openly in the military – and it’s obvious he still sees work to do in 2017.

These achievements are impressive on their own, but what matters just as much is the expectation that Obama set for his successors.

His choices are definitely influencing presidential candidates on the campaign trail, too. Hillary has been trying to show even more acceptance than Obama, featuring a same-sex couple in her campaign announcement video and sending a heartwarming letter of support to couples working with LGBT youth.

When the mud settles on the GOP side, the nominee is going to have to answer questions about whether he would repeal the executive order or roll back some of the marriage gains.

Any willingness to regress will harm the GOP with younger voters. The political benefits are just a side feature of Obama’s action.

He’s made it clear that on LGBT issues there’s only one direction: forward.

Continue reading: Bisi Alimi

523242_10150780334861320_1873301350_n-1Nigerian gay rights activist and HIV/AIDS advocate Bisi Alimi made history as the first gay person to come out of the closet on television in the notoriously homophobic country.

“It was the beginning of the end for me,” he said.

In consequence, he was almost murdered by young men who broke into his house and stripped him and whipped him. He lost his job, his character on a TV soap was offed, he was disowned by his family, thrown out of his home–all the while inundated with death threats.

“There is no law in the modern world like this law, not even in the Arab world,” the 40-year-old actor and university lecturer told The Associated Press, pointing to a clause making it a crime not to report a “perceived” homosexual. “How do we find out whether this perceived homosexual is indeed homosexual or just a victim of hatred?” he asked.

Now living in London, Alimi has continued to advocate for LGBT rights among African migrants while working with several notable HIV/AIDS organizations to stop the spread of the disease in his native country.

This year, Alimi addressed a panel at the British Parliament in London, which includes at least five legislators born in Nigeria or of Nigerian parentage, appealing for Nigeria‘s former colonizer to use its influence.

“It’s not about them dictating to Nigeria but letting (Nigerian policy makers) understand why it’s important economically, politically and socially to not have such laws,” he said.

Continue reading: Jackie Biskupski

Utah Election Salt Lake MayorSalt Lake City’s new lesbian mayor, Jackie Biskupski, became the city’s second female mayor when she won the election in November.

The victory of an openly lesbian mayor anywhere in Utah would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

So this year’s achievement can’t be underestimated in a conservative state with a history of hostility toward gays and lesbians.

After all, it was just two years ago that a federal judge overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Jackie Biskupski was baptized in tough political challenges, so it’s not surprising she is one of our fiercest champions today.

A former Utah House of Representatives member, Biskupski entered politics after the Salt Lake City School Board and the state legislature tried to kill East High School’s gay/straight alliance club in 1995.

She was the first openly gay member of the state legislature and with Houston mayor Annise Parker leaving office in January, Biskupski will become the nation’s most prominent lesbian to lead a major American city.

Asked about her win, Biskupski said, “It’s 2015, and we’ve come a long way from, gosh, when I first got elected.”

Continue reading: Bill Kennedy


In December, veteran NBA referee Bill Kennedy told Yahoo sports that’s he’s gay — prompted by Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo, who directed a gay slur at him during a game.

It made him the second active openly gay NBA official after Violet Palmer’s announcement in 2014.

Kennedy told Yahoo that he’s “proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” adding that “you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are.”

Currently in his 18th season as an NBA official, Kennedy has worked more than 1,050 regular-season games and five in the NBA Finals.

“I wholeheartedly support Bill’s decision to live his life proudly and openly,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Throughout his 18-year career with the league, Bill has excelled as a referee because of his passion, dedication and courage. Those qualities will continue to serve him well both as a game official and as a positive influence for others. While our league has made great progress, our work continues to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.”

And now, the moment of truth. Vote below:

Here’s what happens when a handful of straight men realize they’re starring in a gay rapper’s video

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