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2011: The Year in Queer for New England

Posted by Jim Lopata  December 24, 2011 09:48 AM

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Rhode Island’s civil unions, Barney Frank, Barbara Lenk, David Cicilline, and Massachusetts’ Transgender Equal Rights Bill were among the top headlines of the past year for local LGBTs

JANUARY

— On New Year’s Day, Massachusetts’ highest ranking Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw presided over the high-profile marriage ceremony of two of the local Episcopal Church’s most prominent clergy. President of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge Rev. Katherine Ragsdale married Rev. Mally Lloyd, a ranking official in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The nuptials were conducted at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Boston.

— In January, David Cicilline was sworn in as the first out Congressperson from the great state of Rhode Island.

— Dads Shawn and Anthony Raftopol won a protracted court battle in Connecticut to ensure that both of them were listed as the parents of their twin boys on the children’s birth certificates. After being partnered for sixteen years, Shawn and Anthony were married legally in Massachusetts in 2008 and achieved fatherhood through surrogacy. When the children were born in April 2008, the Connecticut Department of Public Health refused to list the two men as the children’s parents. On January 5, 2011, however, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the department had erred. “As a couple, we chose to create a family,” said Anthony through a press release from GLAD, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “We assumed the responsibility for bringing them into the world, with the understanding that we would love, support and nurture them in every way. In other words, to be what parents are supposed to be.”

MARCH

— Sixteen years after the U.S. Supreme Court determined that Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers could legally bar gay groups from marching with them, gay rights groups marched again through South Boston on St. Patrick’s Day — legally. But there was a hitch. Billed as the St. Patrick’s Day Peace Parade, the gay groups and their supporters marched as a separate unit one mile behind the traditional parade.

MARCH, APRIL, AND AUGUST

— Domestic violence hit the gay community hard this year, with three disclosed murders. Brian Bergeron, of Malden, was found dead in his home on March 9. His partner Michael Losee turned himself in to police as a suspect in the death. And in Provincetown, the body of David Walton was found in a camping ground on April 3. His partner James Costello is the suspect. And in August, the death of Casey Taylor of Winthrop was declared a domestic homicide victim.

APRIL

— On April 7, beloved Provincetown entertainment icon Ellie Castillo passed away at 79 years young.

JUNE

Barbara A. Lenk was sworn in as the first out Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

— Former executive director of the Boston Living Center Valerie Tebbets is indicted for larceny, accused of stealing more than $126,000 from the organization.

JULY

— Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee signed the civil union bill into law. The move was a huge disappointment for many in the LGBT community who favored marriage rights. R.I. House Speaker Gordon Fox was among them. “I am the Speaker of the House and I am an openly gay man. This is very emotional for me. But as speaker, I understand counting votes and what I can deliver for all of us. And I believe I am delivering rights to us today,” Fox said. Illustrating how unpopular the law is, as of November, only 39 couples had registered civil unions.

— In July, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts clearly acknowledged to the Boston Globe that he now officially supports marriage equality. During his presidential campaign in 2004, he was criticized by some for not supporting marriage equality. In admitting his change of opinion, he told the Globe, “We cannot afford to be imprisoned by politics that say your views are not allowed to grow as you gain knowledge and experience.”

— The Red Sox release an “It Gets Better” video after twelve-year-old Sam Maden of Nashua, New Hampshire, collected over 9,000 signatures in a petition urging the team to create one. The young activist became inspired by the untimely death of his Uncle Chris, who was a passionate advocate for ending the bullying of gay kids. The Red Sox apparently had no defense against Sam’s unbridled enthusiasm. Unfortunately the final product was met with dismay by some in the gay community. Bennett Klein, a senior attorney for LGBT legal organization GLAD, expressed it this way in a Boston.com column: “As a gay man and lifelong Red Sox fan, I was extremely disappointed … What is so striking about the video is that the three Red Sox players who participate — Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek and Terry Francona — actually never say the words ‘lesbian,’ ‘gay,’ ‘bisexual’ or ‘transgender.’ … In my view, the video does more harm than good.”

— With the notable exception of Senator Scott Brown, the U.S. congressional delegation of Massachusetts released an “It Gets Better Video.” A spokesperson from Brown’s office explained that his “main focus right now is on creating jobs and getting the economy back on track.”

Connecticut became the 15th state in the U.S. to pass legislation for protections based on gender identity or expression.

Cambridge began offering employees who are in civil marriages with same-sex partners compensation to make health benefits equal to those in civil marriage with opposite-sex partners. Because the federal government does not recognize marriages between same-sex partners, any health benefits offered to spouses are taxed. Cambridge has joined other corporations in making up the difference to their employees.

— Tanglewood unveiled the first permanent sculpture on its grounds. The subject? Aaron Copland, one of America’s greatest composers, who was not known to hide his relationships with other men, including those with artists Alvin Ross and Victor Kraft.

SEPTEMBER

— Don’t Ask Don’t Tell officially ended on September 20. At the stroke of 12:01 a.m. that day Navy Lt. Gary Ross and civilian partner Dan Swezy exchanged marriage vows at the Moose Meadow Lodge in Duxbury, Vermont.

NOVEMBER

Congressman Barney Frank announced in late November that he will retire from office in 2012. The popular representative from Massachusetts was the second openly gay member of Congress and has been a champion of LGBT rights for the thirty years he has been in office. Though he will be missed in his elected capacity, the firebrand politician is likely to use his retirement to further his causes, including advocating for LGBT issues.

— Holyoke native and 22-year-old Alex Morse became the youngest mayor in the city’s history in November, after running as an openly gay candidate against incumbent Elaine Pluta. Morse recently graduated from Brown University.

— The Transgender Equal Rights Bill was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick on November 23, and will take effect on July 1, 2012. The bill grants protections for transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, credit, and adds additional civil rights and protections from hate crimes. Massachusetts will be become sixteenth state, along with Washington D.C., to legalize protections for transgender individuals.

[James A. Lopata]

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author: Boston Spirit Magazine’s daily blog brings you all of the information you need on New England’s LGBT community. In addition to highlighting local and national LGBT news, we will also highlight local leaders from the worlds of business, politics, fashion and entertainment and keep you up-to-date on all the latest events and parties, hot spots for travel, shopping, dining, and more!
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