National Coming Out Day 2009 (October 11th) found itself preceded by a speech by President Obama and commemorated by a solidarity march on Capitol Hill involving tens of thousands of gay rights supporters---making it a big weekend to come out, be out, and demand to be equal. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger followed suit by passing legislation recognizing rights of same-sex couples legally married in other states. The hot-button issue of gay rights has been headlining the news of late. Here's a rundown of recent legislation passed or discussed and events that have taken place to support the equal rights movement:
President (and Nobel Laureate) Barack Obama pledged to end "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on Saturday night at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gala. The policy adopted by the U.S. military in 1993 doesn't allow openly homosexual individuals to serve in the armed forces. The event was organized by the HRC which is the country's largest gay rights group. President Obama did not say when the policy would be repealed.
The National Equality March took place on Sunday in Washington D.C. Marchers called on the President to make good on his promises for equal rights for gays. Similar marches have taken place in 1979, 1987, 1993, and 2000 and have attracted large crowds through performance and celebrity appearances.
California passed a bill making May 22 Harvey Milk Day in California. It was passed to recognize the San Francisco Supervisor who was slain in 1978. Milk was one of the first openly gay people to be elected to office and passed landmark gay rights legislation in the city.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that will retain the "married" status of those same-sex couples who wed before the passage of Proposition 8 and will retain all rights associated with marriage, except the name, for those who wed after the passage of Prop 8. He additionally signed into a law a bill that expanded funding for domestic violence programs targeted to lesbian and gay communities.
Wherever you stand on the issue of equality and gay rights, the issue has taken on a new urgency in states and in the nation's capital.