The Top 10 of 2012: The Agenda Looks Back (Part 2)

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From the celebrities who came out in the past year to the advancements made in the name of equality, this is the conclusion of our two part article looking back at the year that was 2012.

(Click HERE for part one.)

Number 5: Frank VanderSloot Attempts to Censor The Internet

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To be fair, the Melaleuca CEO and National Finance Co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign didn’t try to censure the whole internet , just the parts he disagreed with.

What started as a simple but well documented post, recapping past political activities of  the Eastern Idaho Republican, his company and his wife turned into a national story, thanks to independent journalist Jody May-Chang, Slate.com’s Glenn Greenwald, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and just about every other blogger and  news organization that cared about the freedom of speech on the internet.

VanderSloot would go on to publicly respond to the Greenwald article and eventually use his new found fame to not only target the White House, but to attempt to raise money for his favorite Presidential campaign as well.

Unfortunately for Frank, not only did he spend a lot of money backing a loosing candidate, he also spent a lot of money backing Idaho School Chief  Tom Luna’s ill-fated “educational reform” package, which was also rejected by voters.

Number 4: The President Finally Announces his Support for Marriage Equality

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After spending the last four or so years more or less ducking a straight answer to the marriage equality question, the President went public with his support in May during an interview with ABC News.

“I’ve…concluded that for me personally,  it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” said the President.

Those of us paying attention knew that it wasn’t a matter of “if” but more of a matter of “when.” This was, after all, the same president that lobbied for an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell”, same sex adoption and a whole host of other equality measures.

The President appears to be starting to use his influence to gain support for the issue as well. As The Advocate reports, last week the President, “expressed his support for marriage equality legislation pending in Illinois, marking the first time he has backed a legislative campaign at the state level.”

If the past four years of his administration are any indication, it’s a pretty safe bet the Obama administration will go down in history as the most LGBTQIA friendly White House to date, making his first term campaign promise of,” hope and change” more than just an empty slogan for millions of Americans.

Number 3: Millions of LGBT Americans say,”I do.”

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With the sound of wedding bells ringing from Washington to Maine , 2012 will forever be remembered as the year that settled the marriage debate once and for all.

Election night proved to be the pivotal turning point with voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington, for the first time in U.S. history, approving same-sex marriage by referendum.

For those keeping count, that brings the total number of states that support marriage equality to nine, not including Washington D.C.

With the the issue on the docket for the upcoming session of the Supreme Court, at play in states like Illinois and polls showing the majority of Americans now supporting some sort of equal rights, one can only assume that in just a few short years we will be looking back and wondering what the hullabaloo was all about. Of course, we could also soon be making a lot of divorce lawyers very wealthy people, but at least we’ll all be doing it equally.

Number 2: Idaho Lawmakers refuse to “Add the Words.”

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As the majority of the country expressed its support for equality, the Republican dominated Idaho Legislature proved once again in just how out of step it really is when it comes to the advancement of basic human rights.

For the past six years, citizen supporters of a bill that would add the words,”sexual orientation gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act have asked that it be given a full public hearing. For whatever reason, state lawmakers have refused, despite the  measure receiving bipartisan support of hundreds across the state.

The bill would make it illegal in Idaho to discriminate against someone solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in cases of employment, housing or in other public amenities. Twenty-one states already have laws banning discrimination. Sixteen of those states also ban discrimination based on gender identity.

Organizers for the Add the Words sticky note campaign had strong hopes of the bill’s passage this year based on surveys and strong visible support for the measure. But when it came down to it,  in February, the Senate State Affairs committee shamefully voted 7 to 2 not to give the bill a full hearing once again, leaving many wondering if  the majority of state lawmakers don’t relish Idaho’s reputation as being one of the most intolerant states in the nation.

Look for the Add the Words campaign to be back in full force during the upcoming legislative session with a major education effort.

Number 1: Idaho towns pass their own “Add the Words” ordinances. 

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State lawmakers may enjoy Idaho’s reputation for being one of the most bigoted states in the union but the leaders in at least two cities realize that the label may not be the best when it comes to economic growth and the general well being of our great state.

Earlier this month, in a historic move, the Boise City Council unanimously voted to approve an ordinance prohibiting LGBT discrimination when it comes to housing, employment and public accommodation. It takes affect at midnight. Sandpoint passed its own anti discrimination ordinance last December.

Several other Idaho towns, including Pocatello and Ketchum, are considering similar measures.

Former Sandpoint City council member John Reuter, who introduced the issue for council discussion, tells The Coeur d’ Alene Press that their ordinance was a labor of love on the part of several city officials and residents,”I think the biggest issue was a silent fear people lived in,” Reuter said. “People were concerned about losing their jobs, their homes or their lives.”

Boise Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan, who was instrumental in writing her city’s ordinance tells KBOI-TV,“If this ordinance can serve to have children in our community to feel valued in our community in a way they may not have before,” said Jordan. “To go away to school and to come home to a place that they love and know that they can thrive here as adults then I think we have done our civic responsibility.”

As heart breaking as the last legislative session was to Idaho’s LGBTQIA community, the city ordinances offer the hope that one day, Idaho will truly become a state that is “too great for hate.”

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