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Queer Issue 2006

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Pride 2006 Events Calendar

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Ban Heterosexual Complacency

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100,000 BC-1968

Gay Bars

Young

What I know About...

The Delicate Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Having My Cake and Eating It Too

Envy

Amend It to End It

Lesbian Bathhouse

1969

Public Sex

In a 'Star Trek' Outfit

Learning the Ropes

Anger

The Fag-Hag Emancipation Act of 2006

2008

You Go, Gays

1970

Diva Worship

On a Deadline

This year is only half-over and already 2007 has taught us a profound lesson in the difference an election can make. We've been thirsting in the desert for far too long when it comes to our civil rights, but this year the climate finally seems to be shifting in our favor.

At the state level, for example, more pro-LGBT-rights laws were passed this year than any year in our movement's history. As a result, for the first time more than half the U.S. population will live in jurisdictions that outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and nearly 40 percent will live in jurisdictions that protect transgender people from discrimination. Seven years ago, the fight for civil unions in Vermont nearly caused a civil war. In the last seven months, however, three states—New Jersey, Oregon, and New Hampshire—enacted civil-union laws with barely a ripple. As a result, one-fifth of the population will now live in a state that offers broad protections to same-sex couples.

At the federal level, we're finally expecting to see both houses of Congress vote on the hate-crimes bill (it's already passed the House) and on the trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Congress hasn't passed a bill that includes the words "sexual orientation" (let alone gender identity) in a positive way since 1991.

And on June 14 in Massachusetts, three-quarters of the state legislature voted to block a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage from going to the ballot in 2008. The consequences are enormous, even beyond preserving the freedom to marry in the one state where we have it. Slugging this issue out in Massachusetts through 2008 would have been divisive, difficult, and an enormous drain on national resources that are desperately needed elsewhere.

What explains this momentum? Recent elections, to be sure, but also years of grassroots organizing. Through dogged work, local activists built broad support for our issues. Democrats taking control of state legislatures in November allowed this pent-up support to push bills out. In Massachusetts, it was unprecedented grassroots constituent pressure and the willingness of the state's new governor, Deval Patrick, to really work for us that delivered the required votes.

Likewise, a change in power in Congress coupled with years (even decades) of lobbying explains the movement on hate crimes and ENDA.

Given the lack of significant legislative progress in so many places for so many years, as well as the drubbing we've taken through the state anti-gay-marriage constitutional-amendment struggles, all of this is a welcome change indeed.

But it's no time to rest on our laurels; we're nowhere close to winning complete equality under the law. We can never forget that nondiscrimination and hate-crimes laws are the floor of our civil rights, not the walls, and certainly not the ceiling.

Yes, we're moving forward again, at long last, but we've got to keep our sights on the ceiling and not settle for anything less.

Matt Foreman is executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.