February 29, 2020
10 Most Important Moments in the Decade for Queer History
Satin hearts. Fresh roses. Candlelit dinners. The commercialization of Valentine’s Day over the last several decades has focused exclusively on straight couples and their romantic relationships, constantly overlooking the millions of gay and lesbian couples around the world. However, the essence of Valentine’s Day should be love, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual. In the first February of the decade, I would like to recount the ten most important moments in the 2010s that have enabled and encouraged more queer people to speak for their identities as well as their love.
September 2011: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is over
President Obama officially revoked the anti-homosexual, discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prevented openly gay Americans from serving in the United States armed forces. The law was a stigma left from the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness before the 1970s.
June 2013: SCOTUS strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which became a law in 1996, declared that marriages between homosexual couples were not recognized by the federal government, meaning those couples could not receive legal benefits—such as social security and health insurance—that heterosexual married couples could. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional and thus abolished it.
April 2015: Obama calls for end to conversion therapy
After the tragic suicide of a transgender teenager who was subjected to Christian conversion therapy, President Obama publicly called for an end to the dangerous practice meant to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identities.
June 2015: Sexual orientation is added to the military’s anti-discrimination policy.
Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2011, sexual orientation was still not a protected class (unlike race, religion, sex, age, and national origin) under the Military Equal Opportunity Policy — until June of 2015, when the U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, announced that it would officially be added to the anti-discrimination policy.
June 26, 2015: Love wins.
The Supreme Court finally and officially declared same-sex marriage a Constitutional right nationwide, meaning all states must allow Americans to get married, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
July 2015: The military will allow transgender Americans to serve openly in the military.
In July of 2015, the U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, announced that the military would lift a ban that prevents transgender Americans from serving in the country’s armed forces. This rule went into effect, but now-President Donald Trump rescinded this right, again banning transgender people from the military as of April, 2019.
July 23, 2015: The Equality Act is introduced.
Senators Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, and Cory Booker, as well as Representative David Cicilline formerly introduced The Equality Act, which would make LGBTQ individuals a protected class and grant them basic legal protections in areas of life including education, housing, employment, credit, and more.
May 2016: The Obama administration publicly supports transgender students
In the midst of anti-transgender movements throughout the country, President Obama and his administration issued a directive to all public schools that transgender students should be allowed to use the restrooms that reflect their gender identity. Again, President Trump has reversed these gains, enacting and proposing numerous anti-trans policies.
November 2018: LGBTQ candidates sweep the midterms
More than 150 LGBTQ candidates were elected into office in the 2018 midterm elections, putting a historic number of queer or transgender politicians in positions of power. These wins happened “from the U.S. Congress to governors’ mansions to state legislatures and city councils," Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Institute and Victory Fund, told NBC News.
May 2019: New York City will honor LGBTQ activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera with monuments
Just ahead of Pride 2019, New York City announced it will erect a monument in Greenwich village dedicated to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, activists who played critical roles in both the Stonewall riots and the NYC queer scene in general. The two started Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in 1970, an organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness. The monument will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, according to the New York Times.
We must not forget that Valentine’s Day is a festival that celebrates love—a universal sentiment that bonds us together as human beings while reminding us to embrace our diversity in sexuality and gender identity.