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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The L Wire's Review of 2013: December

Although ‘tis the season to be reading or watching A Christmas Carol, the opening line to another Dickens classic seems more appropriate.

In terms of LGBT+ rights and visibility, December really has been the best of times and the worst of times.

Have a look at our final review of 2013 to find out why…

Desperate times for LGBT+ rights in India and Uganda

There were protests in India as the country’s Supreme Court overturned a 2009 decision that decriminalised gay sex. This meant that consensual acts between two people of the same sex would once again be punishable by a period of imprisonment.

Campaigners and politicians alike aired their grievances with this step backwards and the India government has now filed a petition to have the decision overturned once again.

As we enter 2014, this story is one that I’m sure many LGBT+ campaigners in India and elsewhere will be keeping a close eye on.

Protester in India (

And going from bad to worse, the grave situation for LGBT+ in Uganda was compounded as the country’s anti-gay law was passed this month.

Not only does the Anti-Homosexuality Bill make being gay a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment, it also legislates that it is a crime to not report those known to be homosexual. That means that parents are expected to report their children, friends are to report their loved ones and doctors to report their patients.

In essence, the Bill calls for the complete isolation of LGBT+ people. It withdraws any legal way for them to look after their sexual health. It’s a violation of countless human rights and has been described by Barak Obama as “odious”.

As leading Uganda gay-rights activist Frank Mugisha put it: “I am officially illegal”.

Activist Frank Mugisha (

The Bill has yet to be signed into law by the President but is widely popular in the country and expected to be signed in the near future.

I’m certain that this will be another story that dominates LGBT+ news in 2014. In the meantime, I’d recommend everyone to watch “Call Me Kuchu”; a documentary that gives a heart-breaking insight into what it’s like to be a gay Ugandan.

A tale of two (more) coming out stories

Our review of January included two of 2013’s most noteworthy coming out stories and December saw two of its own.

The stories of Tom Daley and Maria Bello are not only significant because they are well known, but also because of how they chose to do it.

Tom Daley promoting his TV show, Splash! (

Each did it in their own words; Tom in a YouTube video and Maria in a New York Times column. What seemed to strike a chord with many in the LGBT+ community is that they did actually come out as anything other than two people in love with people of the same gender.

Whilst that didn’t stop a number of reports designating labels to them, it reignited the debate on whether such labels are always going to be necessary. I think that the experience of falling in love with someone quite unexpectedly or over an extended period of time—as Tom and Maria described—are closer to many people’s realities than the “waking up gay” epiphany that many people out-with the community expect us all to have had.

Maria Bello (

I’m sure that both Tom and Maria’s stories will have helped others to understand their own feelings a little better and to realise that it’s fine to choose labels for yourself, but that you shouldn’t let anyone else place them on you.

You can read a blog I wrote about Tom Daley coming out here.

December: The month of equal marriage

The “month of equal marriage” award could pretty much have gone any way this year. Not a month went by without a significant piece on legislation being either introduced or passed somewhere in the world.

It seems that December crept in at the last minute to claim the crown.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news. It started off so well in Australia, with 27 same-sex couples marrying in the first few days that the Australian Capital Territory passed a law at local level. This was short-lived, however, as the High Court in Canberra ruled the law to be incompatible at a Federal level, and therefore invalid.

And with that, the rights gained by those 27 married couples became invalid too.

Thankfully, there was better news elsewhere. The UK Government announced that March 29th 2014 would be the first date for same-sex marriages in England and Wales. Some couples have already bookedceremonies at a minute past midnight in the hope of being the first couple with equal marriage rights in the UK. 

The UK Government's "save the date" announcement (

And in the last week, all eyes interested in marriage equality have been looking at the United States.

On December 19th, equal marriage was legalised State-wide in New Mexico. Although this was celebrated, it didn’t come as much of a surprise as some counties within the State were already conducting same-sex marriages.

A day later in Utah, things were quite different. When Judge Robert Shelby ruled on Friday 20th December that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional on the basis that it would have no adverse effect on heterosexual unions, he caught many couples off guard.

As the word began to spread, couples met at government buildings across the State in scenes that the New York Times described as “joyful chaos”.

Queues of couples circled floors of Government buildings (

Seth Anderson and his partner Adam Ferguson became the first same-sex couple legally wed in Utah. Using the power of social media, Seth invited the whole world to his wedding by live-tweeting the story as it unfolded.

Seth and Adam; the first same-sex couple married in Utah (

On Monday morning, Judge Shelby made a second ruling. This time he denied a stay which would have seen marriages halted until a full appeal could be heard by the court. This meant that, until that appeal happens, same-sex couples can continue to get married in Utah.

The question of what the legal status of these marriages would be if the appeal should be accepted has been raised. I am by no means an expert in American law, but I do know that when same-sex marriages were legal in California and then banned again, those who got married during that six-month window maintained their legal rights as a married couple in the State.

At least one bride got her "white wedding" (

Perhaps this is why so many couples are currently queuing outside official buildings across Utah as I write. For many people, the dream wedding involves tuxedos and puffy white dresses, five course meals and a fortnight in the sun.

But for many gay and lesbian couples, the idea of getting married is a dream in itself.

And that’s why seeing these couples getting married in their work clothes or in shorts and t-shirts is just as beautiful, if not more, than the fairy-tale weddings we see on TV.

The smiles say it all (

Check out Buzzfeed’s "45 Moving Moments From The First Days Of Marriage EqualityIn Utah" for more brilliant photos from the events unfolding in Utah.

Students stand up (and sit down) for equality in Seattle

Our review of the year ends with a bitter-sweet story from Seattle.

The bitter part is that Mark Zmuda, a gay high-school teacher, lost his job after the school’s management learned he had married his partner. In doing so, he had contravened his contractual obligation to “uphold church teachings”.

The sweet part is how the student at his school, Eastside Catholic High School, responded.

Hundreds of students staged a sit-in in the school’s cafeteria and assembly halls, refusing to go to class and calling for “Mr Z” to be reinstated.

Students stage a sit in (

Word soon spread and students from a neighbouring Catholic school began their own protest in support.

The school’s position on the matter was that their hands were tied as they are governed by the Archdiocese of Seattle. A spokesperson for both the Archdiocese and the school said, “This has nothing to do with gay people. The fact that he was gay has nothing to do with this issue. It’s the fact that he entered into a same-sex marriage.”

Statement from the school (

One of the schools pupils was quick to point out the contradiction of the Catholic Church not recognising same-sex marriages, but recognising them just enough to force a man from his job.

Clever kid.

Banners of support for Mr Z. (

This story epitomises one of my favourite things to emerge from so many of the LGBT+ stories that have happened this year, and that is the fact that young people are turning out to be some of our best and most outspoken allies.

Long may that continue in 2014 and beyond...

That's a wrap for our LGBT+ review of 2013! I hope that everyone who celebrates it has a very merry Christmas and and happy 2014! I wonder what it has in store for us all...

What were your favourite LGBT+ moments of 2013? And what were your personal highlights? Did you come out? Get married? Do something life-changing? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow Julie Price on Twitter, @JuliePee

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