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Biggest national & international LGBT news stories of 2011

Gay couples line up to get married in New York. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

qPDX likes to keep the focus local but we are also queers in this big bad world with national and international news that affects us all. These are my picks for the most important ones of 2011.

5 – Immigration and foreign policy stands

Things got a little bit better for American and foreign relations both at home and abroad this year when President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made encouraging statements and took a stand on international LGBT matters. Obama announced this summer that some of the undocumented would be considered low-priority for deportation, including those who are in long-term same-sex partnerships prompted, in part, by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas came out as undocumented. More recently Obama released a memo directing all federal foreign policy and aid agencies to “promote and protect the rights of LGBT persons” and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was giving a historic speech to a U.N. audience in Geneva in which she fervently talked about LGBT rights as human rights.

4 – Europe gains a gay Prime Minister and the US loses a Congressman

Across the pond this year we saw the first openly gay man elected Prime Minister (the first lesbian Prime Minister was elected 2 years ago in Iceland). The French-speaking Elio Di Rupo took the office in Belgium while at home the out and proud, and outspoken, Representative Barney Frank announced his retirement. Outspoken and able to get our agendas through, even staunch opponents of our only left-handed, gay, Jewish rep admit that he makes you think through your positions critically. He was also full of great quotes, including my favorite. In response to whether gay and straight service members should shower together he not only called it a non-issue and discrimination far beyond the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but made it funny by saying, “We don’t get ourselves dry cleaned.”

Speaking of…

3 – Finally, the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

That iconic yet ridiculous tribute to disavowal and secrecy is finally gone for good. Once the cat’s out of the closet there’s really no going back in. And this happy ending was only solidified by the picture of a female couple kissing as part of the Navy’s first kiss tradition. There wasn’t a huge amount of homophobic backlash, perhaps because they were attractive or eloquent, and both the photo and video have gone viral in the weeks since its release.

2 – New York says “I do”

This year New York became the 6th state to allow gay marriage. Not only it is the most populous so far, but its pivotal as the home of America’s largest city and a major player in all American politics. Plus it all went down during Pride season, which saw is all glued to our news outlets, cheering in the streets, and texting and tweeting each other like nobody’s business.

1 – Gay and lesbian heroes

Gays and lesbians both got major kudos for acts of heroism. When a white supremicist gunman open fired on a youth summer camp in Norway, married lesbian couple Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen saved 40 children. The couple returned to the island on their small boat repeatedly risking their own lives, making what one would think would be a compelling news story. Because coverage was late and scarce, many have suggested the lack of coverage has an undertone of homophobia.

Here at home we had our own gay hero in University of Arizona Junior Daniel Hernandez. When Senator Gabrielle Gifford was shot at a speech in Tucson the 20-year-old, who had some triage experience, held her head up and helped stem the flow of blood, which helped save her life.

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