Heroes and Zeroes 2013

An OBLOGDEE and Melanie Nathan account of the year 2013.

By Melanie Nathan, December 30, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 11.39.24 AMAs usual at the risk of being controversial, including, excluding, forgetting, remembering, here is my list of the year’s best and worst for 2013. Please feel free to weigh in! This was a year of reckoning for the religious right, a year of celebration for proponents of freedom and equality and an odious year for global LGBTI rights.

This was an historic year; momentously progressive and like none other for the LGBTI community of the United States of America, as marriage equality now tallies 18 States, with a great thanks to the momentum created through the fall of DOMA. It was a sad year for human rights on a global level.  While South Africa finally saw justice in a horrendous case of so called “corrective” (“curative”) rape, and India saw the reinstatement of draconian anti-gay laws, with Russia exploiting persecution of gays and Uganda’s Parliament passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

My MOST Memorable Moments 2013:

1. NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013:
Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 10.23.21 PMThe Passing of our Tata, Madiba, former South African President Nelson Mandela. Now living in the U.S.A., I was a child, student and lawyer in South Africa during the Apartheid years.  As it happened I was visiting South Africa when Madiba passed away. The experience of being there at that time, able to report to my friends around the world, while attending local memorial events, from a National Jewish Congregation Prayer service with President Thabo Mbeki, in the company of old dear friends, to the FNB Stadium event where President Obama gave a momentous speech, to the memorial visits at the Houghton home, and Mandela Square, where we left a South African Gay Flag, in honor of Madiba’s stance on full equality. events included a service at the alma mater, WITS, which I shared with Madiba as well as being in Pretoria where hsi body lay in State for 3 days  http://www.mambaonline.com/2013/12/11/gay-flag-of-sa-honours-madiba/

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 9.57.01 AM2. THE RALLY AND RESULT OF THE DEATH OF DOMA and Prop 8
We rallied and marched at The Supreme Court of the United States in March on the days arguments for DOMA and the prop 8 cases were being heard. The LGBT community in the United States held its breath pending the Supreme Court rulings on the Prop 8 and Edie Windsor DOMA cases. We won. We won BIG on DOMA and we won California on Prop 8. Thereafter the States began to fall like dominoes as more State rulings crushed the notion that same-sex couples are anything but equal when it comes to inherent and constitutional rights to marry. The two big days that I will never forget were the day of argument when we clashed with anti-marriage supporters, knowing they were on doomed turf, and the day we stood in unison in San Francisco City Hall, surrounded by big screen TV’s and together with a myriad of leaders and activists, heard the great news. http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/06/26/doma-dies-on-decision-day/

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 10.04.02 AM3. THE TRADITIONAL AFRICAN SAME-SEX  MARRIAGE
Breaking ground in South Africa with a traditional Zulu gay wedding . South Africa is a leader in the world of equality, enjoying an all inclusive constitution, where same-sex marriage is legal and discrimination against LGBTI people outlawed. However that has not stopped homophobia and fear to embrace LGBTI South Africans as fully equal.This video  and the report of the marriage that followed, shows an extraordinary example of new-found acceptance, as a small community embraces a young gay Zulu couple, about to embark upon, not only a legal marriage, but also a traditional marriage. As reported from South Africa: Two young men tied the knot in a rare South African gay wedding in KwaDukuza (Stanger) on Saturday.In what was described as the town’s first gay marriage, Tshepo Modisane and Thoba Sithole, both 27, walked down the aisle in front of 200 guests at the Stanger Siva Sungam community hall.

TOP 5 ACTIVIST OF THE YEAR

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 11.05.29 AM1. Ellen Sturtz (U.S.A.): Not only for taking on the first lady to such an extent that the issue of ENDA made mainstream news, but also for her relentless activism on many critical issues, especially those impacting the LGBT community. She is noisy when many are silent. She is a mobilizer when most do not bother. She is an efficient organizer.  I have personally witnessed Sturtz take on the senators and reps. Her style is overt, well schooled, and she is able to be in the face or exceedingly diplomatic, as each instance demands.   Most of all she is committed to equality and justice and conducts her life fully, according to her principles.  One of many reports: (CNN) — I’m a big fan of Michelle Obama’s, but if she’s going to be hitting the circuit to raise money for Democrats, she has to be prepared for heckling. Especially heckling from gay rights activists like the one who interrupted her speech Tuesday night. “Lesbian looking for federal equality before I die.” That’s how Ellen Sturtz, the woman identified as the heckler, identified herself.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 11.09.17 AM2. Mary Bunauto (U.S.A): As the top civil rights lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD, based in Boston, Mary Bonauto has spent more than a decade plotting a careful strategy to advance gay marriage rights. The challenge to DOMA began in Boston with Mary Bonauto, lawyer and Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) since 1990. She had won the original gay marriage ruling from the Massachusetts high court back in 2003. She followed that up by bringing the Gill v. OPM case against DOMA in 2009. That case was sent up to the Supreme Court in May 2012 after the U.S. court of appeals in Boston, in a 3-0 ruling, agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional. But since Justice Elena Kagan had been involved in the Gill case as Obama’s solicitor general she would have to recuse herself so the court took up the Windsor case instead. “No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto,” said Roberta Kaplan, who went before the justices on Wednesday to argue one of the cases.  Read More http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/us/maine-lawyer-credited-in-fight-for-gay-marriage.html?_r=0.  And of course we must acknowledge that without the persistence and the fight to be heard, by Edie Windsor, who won third place as Time Person of the year for 2013,  there may not have been the winning case.  Edie Windsor was the defendant in the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, which struck down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 11.22.39 AM3. Funeka Soldaat (AFRICA): The story of LGBTI activist Funeke Soldaat, raised as a girl in the rural Eastern Cape before heading to Cape Town in the 1990s to seek her own liberation. Today she is one of Khayelitsha’s strongest voices, heading up the Free Gender movement. She is open, barely funded, yet leads a group of survivors of so called “corrective rape” , chases down the rapists, despite great danger, leads marches on police stations to ensure arrests, provides shelter and mentorship. She defies and faces the notion that gay is un-African. Her life is lived at great risk and yet she unyielding in her activism. http://freegender.wordpress.com/about/  Most memorable was seeing the enormous amount of advocacy that went into securing the arrest and conviction of the rapist Andile Ngocza:- March planned to hunt rapist Andile Ngocza wanted for ‘corrective’ rape of lesbian  and South Africa ‘Corrective’ Rapist Given 22-year Sentence.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 8.06.10 AM4. Masha Gessen (RUSSIA): is openly gay and an activist for the rights of sexual minorities. She served as a member of the board of directors for the Moscow LGBT rights organization “Triangle” from 1993 to 1998. She has written on LGBT rights and Russian affairs. She writes in both Russian and English, and has contributed to The New Republic, New Statesman, Granta, Slate and Vanity Fair, and US News & World Report. Her 2012 book The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin is a political biography of Vladimir Putin, whom she describes as a dictator.Under threat of losing her  children, Gessen moved to New York this year, where she came out vehemently against the Putin regime’s attacks on gays.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 8.05.21 AM5. Cathy Kristofferson (U.S.A.): is a queer rights activist living in central Massachusetts. She is a co-State Lead of GetEQUAL MA, a board member of LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, and member of the Stop The Hate and Homophobia Coalition Springfield. Cathy is also a member of the Homeless Youth Task Force of the MA Coalition for the Homeless, and is working with the LGBT Working Group of the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Commission of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She writes for OBLOGDEE and is a relentless advocate against the ongoing hate of Scott Lively. http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/author/ckristofferson/

TOP ORGANIZATIONS OF THE YEAR worthy of your dollar USA:

  • Queer Nation http://queernationny.org/  –  Queer Nation is an LGBT activist organization founded in New York City in March 1990 by AIDS activists from ACT UP New York. The in-your-face- group of protestors has revived itself to take the Russian anti-gay regime to task
  • Spectrum Human Rightshttp://spectrumhr.org/ – Spectrum Human Rights Alliance is a leading international organization devoted to human rights advancement on behalf of people who experience discrimination. This year the group has worked relentlessly to advocate for Russian asylum seekers and expose the persecution of the Russian anti-gay Putin Regime, through the legislation of homophobia.
  • American Foundation for Equal Rights – AFER http://www.afer.org/ – Led the successful fight against Prop 8, which ended at SCOTUS this year. Now tackling Virginia for marriage equality.
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights – NCLRhttp://www.nclrights.org/ – NCLR is a non-profit, public interest law firm that litigates precedent-setting cases at the trial and appellate court levels; advocates for equitable public policies affecting the LGBT community; provides free legal assistance to LGBT people and their legal advocates; and conducts community education on LGBT issues. They serve more than 5,000 LGBT people and their families throughout the United States each year, including LGBT parents, seniors, immigrants, athletes, and youth. NCLR’s legal, policy, and legislative victories set important precedents that improve the lives of all LGBT people and their families across the country.
  • Private Courts International (PCI-JUSTICE)http://www.pcijustice.com (Caveat – I am co-founder of this new Rescue Fund for LGBT Asylum Seekers) – Newly forming group to continue the work of individuals includes providing safe-houses for victims of violence and persecution, Legal remedies, resources and safe passage for victims seeking asylum in affirming countries;, Legal and social resources to the asylum seeker once in the new country; Education on global LGBTI issues to encourage acceptance and shift anti-LGBTI  sentiment; and Advocacy for reform of laws, public policy and protocols, to include a special PERSECUTION VISA category for LGBTI asylum seekers from countries that criminalize homosexuality.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.45.35 AM Gay Flag of South Africa (GFSA)  – This South African group does an extraordinary amount of work advocating for LGBT rights and individuals in South Africa. They operate with a minimum amount of funding. http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/12/17/billie-jean-king-and-caitlin-sochi-tokens/ .  Happy Third Birthday GFSA – its hard to believe how much this group has done in such a short time, including helming the Coalition of LGBT groups that tackled and downed the Traditional Chiefs who were trying to take sexual orientaiton out of the SA Constitution.

TOP LGBT STATE LEGISLATORS:

  • Seattle Mayor Elect Ed Murray – WA
  • Sen. Scott Dibble – MN
  • Sen. Mark Leno – CA

BEST GAY MOMENTS 2013.

ZEROES PEOPLE:

  • Vladimir Putin – for being a raging homophobe who is encouraging homophobic laws ;
  • David Bahati, Rebecca Kadaga and the Ugandan Parliament for demonstrating ignorance and craziness with the passage of the persecutory ant-homosexuality bill;
  • Donald Trump for holding Miss Universe in Gay Hating Russia, and Thomas Roberts and Mel B for hosting.
  • Jo Jordon, The lesbian who said no to marriage equality in Hawaii http://www.towleroad.com/2013/11/gay-hawaii-lawmaker-jo-jordan-who-voted-no-to-marriage-equality-in-final-vote-explains-herself.html
  • The Duck Guy Phil Robertson and A&E and their cowardly money grabbing indictment on America in the Duck Dynasty debacle.

ZEROES ORGANIZATIONS:

PRO LGBT:

  • Immigration Equality for bad, out of touch, self serving and costly strategy and basically doing nothing;
  • ALLOUT – The petitioners for inaccuracies and profiting on the backs of victims – a lot of steam – but where is the tea?
  • Human Rights Campaign – HRC for their Transgender mess up at  SCOTUS Rally and taking $3million to advocate for marriage equality supposedly in countries that have yet to decriminalize homosexuality – let us hear more of the truth! The money would be better spent on helping the problem not exacerbating it. They have no business in the International arena where they have little understanding and expertise. Okay they do some good work, but truly are not leaders as touted. If they were, they would have set the imperative benchmark for FULL EQUALITY. This they have yet to do.   I am asking any supporters of HRC to please feel free to list their specific accomplishments on the comment section – I will be happy to publish. I am sure there were some.

ANTI-LGBT

  • National organization for Marriage – NOM – For continuing to be the bigots they are – including a standing ovation for their financial indiscretions leading to their impending doom. For wedging the minorities by rallying marginalized immigrant marchers to protest against Marriage Equality, outside SCOTUS March 2013. – Bussed in and given a free meal and signs saying One Man One Woman.  They did not even know why they were there.

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