2009 was flush with interesting LGBT news: Minnesotans marrying in Iowa. Bebe Zahara Benet. Gay Republicans. New gay bars. The following are the top ten stories – in no particular order – that TheColu.mn picked as the most interesting and salient of 2009.
Source: Alan Light
1. While same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Minnesota, just across the southern border, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state must marry same-sex couples. Governor Chet Culver and the legislative leadership rebuffed religious right attempts to ban same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment in order to block the court’s ruling and for the time being, Iowa will remain the only Midwestern state where gays and lesbians can find marriage equality. Many Minnesotans have taken advantage of our progressive neighbor to the south, sometimes by the busload.
2. Despite tough economic times, the LGBT nightlife scene added five new spots in the last year and a half. While, it opened in late 2008, the year started with Tickles in the Northeast neighborhood getting its feet under it – so much so that the bar moved to Downtown at the end of 2009. Lush Food Bar opened up next door to Tickles in the summer adding an establishment that fills the void left by Boom! when it closed up shop several years ago. Gladius opened in the late summer giving us a new spot downtown and the new Brass Rail Lounge reopened after being closed for a year. In the fall, Club Metro opened in Somerset, Wisconsin, barely making it a metropolitan LGBT bar.
3. Unfortunately, violence and intimidation continued to be the reality for many LGBT people in 2009. January brought the beating of a woman in the Uptown neighborhood and subsequent rally against hate in bitterly cold temperatures. During Twin Cities Pride, a man was taunted by a group of a dozen Somali youth who hurled stones at him in the Loring Park neighborhood. And in December, a group of friends were assaulted in the Northeast neighborhood by a man yelling homophobic and racial slurs. An Afton man woke up to find anti-gay graffiti on his home and Hamline University students were shocked to find anti-gay graffiti on that campus.
4. America’s largest Lutheran denomination met in Minneapolis in August to decide the fate of gay and lesbian clergy. Despite a tornado (which the religious right saw as a warning from God) the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships. That move sparked an exodus by anti-gay congregations to form a new denomination, Lutheran CORE.
5. Even with massive DFL majorities in both the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate, a flurry of pro-LGBT legislation either never passed or was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Of more than a dozen bills, only one was passed and signed: a bill that protects a surviving same-sex partner from losing their home from medical liens when their partner dies. Other bills that failed included the Marriage and Family Protection Act, a bill to allow for civil unions, a bill to allow the recognition of out of state same-sex marriages, and a bill to study same-sex marriage all lost in the 2009 session. One bill that had overwhelming support among legislators was the Safe Schools for All bill which would beef up anti-bullying policies was vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty.
6. Revelations that two teachers allegedly harassed Anoka-Hennepin School District student Alex Merritt sparked protests across the district and in the LGBT community. The Minnesota human rights office found evidence this summer to suggest the harassment occurred and when the report went public, many in the district took to action. One of the teachers, Diane Cleveland is suing the state for disclosing her name. Both she and fellow teacher Walter Filson deny they harassed Merritt.
7. Republican State Senator Paul Koering, who is gay, came out against marriage equality in an interview with a northern Minnesota radio station. He stated he would not vote for a marriage equality bill that was before the Minnesota Legislature. Legislators can’t “waste their time” with “pointless legislation,” his legislative assistant said in a followup. Even the Minnesota Log Cabin Republicans rebuffed his statement.
8. Minnesota’s Bebe Zahara Benet won RuPaul’s Drag Race debut, far outpacing the competition. Now she’s got an upcoming album, a website and a tour that keeps going. RuPaul even made an appearance at Duluth-Superior Pride in September, albeit without hometown hero Benet. The successful show will return to LOGO in February.
9. Gay Minneapolis City Council candidate Charles Carlson dropped his campaign in March after media unveiled a web of lies. Carlson admitted to lying about breakfast with Hillary Clinton, attending Princeton, being British, and officiating tennis at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Carlson later apologized to supporters and promised to return their money. Council member Cam Gordon easily won reelection without any prominent competition.
10. Minneapolis Police Department Assistant Chief Sharon Lubinski is nominated by President Obama to be the next United States Marshal in October. The United States Senate confirmed Lubinski in December and she became the first lesbian (or LGBT for that matter) to serve as a U.S. Marshall.