2016 National Year in Review
We have a lot of ground to cover this year! Everyone was talking about the election, with the most spirited discussions ranging from our love of Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders, or third parties) and our chagrin at the rise of Donald Trump. He owned the year: good or bad, everyone had something to say about him. Then, in November, he was elected president, a development that was shocking to say the least. Even with Trump on our minds, 2016 was a promising year for LGBT people. All 50 states now allow gay adoption, more and more municipalities enacted non-discrimination ordinances, and LGBT people are “out and proud” in unprecedented numbers.
Here is a sampling of noteworthy events that occurred this year involving LGBT people, LGBT allies, and the LGBT rights movement.
January 1 – New York City expands its human rights ordinance to ensure that all single-occupancy bathrooms be labeled “all gender restrooms.”
January 6 – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore tells probate judges not to marry same-sex couples, nearly a year after gay marriage was legalized in the state. A higher court orders judges to marry couples who ask for licenses.
January 10 – Openly bisexual singer David Bowie, long known for his flamboyance, dies of cancer at the age of 69. Singer Lady Gaga would pay tribute to him at the Grammy Awards on February 15.
January 12 – President Barack Obama gives his final State of the State Address to Congress. An unlikely attendee: Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who went to jail for a short time last year for refusing a marriage license to a gay couple.
January 19 – The Human Rights Campaign endorses Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
January 22 – New York City Councilman James Vacca comes out publicly at age 60 in a Tweet announcing his sexuality and his love for the ’80s sitcom The Golden Girls.
January 30 – A theatergoer requires medical attention after he faints due to actor Russell Tovey taking off his shirt in the Broadway production of A View from the Bridge. The attendee was released later that night and attended the show again the next day without incident.
February 7 – Conservative websites decry the Super Bowl Halftime Show, featuring Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, with many complaining that the show “promoted homosexuality” (mainly due to a pro-love message at the end of the show).
February 8 – Kathryn Knott, who was found guilty of assaulting a gay couple in Philadelphia in 2014, is sentenced to 5-10 months in prison.
February 13 – Anti-gay Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, on the dissenting ends of both U.S. v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, dies in Texas at the age of 79, leaving a vacancy on the country’s top court.
February 16 – In an interview with The 700 Club, presidential candidate Donald Trump said last June’s marriage equality court ruling was “a shocking decision for you and for me and for a lot of other people,” and that he would work to overturn that ruling if elected.
February 22 – The Charlotte, North Carolina City Council votes to approve an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance after rejecting a similar proposal last year.
February 25 – Scientists announce that, for the first time, a gay man has contracted a multi-drug-resistant strain of HIV despite taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), commonly known as Truvada.
March 1 – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission files lawsuits seeking to define sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination.
March 3 – Caitlyn Jenner announces that she will gladly be a “trans ambassador” for Senator Ted Cruz as he is running for the presidency. Cruz did not respond to Jenner’s endorsement.
March 10 – The Human Rights Campaign announces that 60 major corporations, such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Twitter, IBM, and Facebook, have jointly endorsed The Equality Act.
March 16 – President Barack Obama announces moderate judge Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s spot on the Supreme Court. Republicans immediately announce that they will not consider any nominee recommended by Obama, starting a lengthy standoff.
March 23 – A hastily-organized special session of the North Carolina Legislature passes House Bill 2, a far-reaching anti-LGBT law that would ban cities from enacting their own human rights ordinances that protect LGBT people and would ban transgender people from using the bathroom they feel matches their gender identity. Governor Pat McCrory signs the bill immediately upon receiving it.
March 28 – Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who was given a bill by the state legislature that would have discriminated against LGBT people, announces that he will veto the legislation.
March 28 – The American Civil Liberties Union reveals the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit filed against the state of North Carolina as a result of the governor passing House Bill 2.
April 1 – The ban on gay adoption is struck down in Mississippi, making it legal in all 50 U.S. states for the first time.
April 5 – Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signs House Bill 1523, a “license to discriminate” bill similar in scope to North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which will allow business owners to refuse service to LGBT people based on “religious objections.”
April 12 – North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signs an executive order protecting LGBT state employees, but fails to repeal House Bill 2.
April 13 – Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signs an executive order protecting LGBT state employees, and also rescinds a former discriminatory order enacted by his predecessor Bobby Jindal.
April 20 – Target announces that they support the right of transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity in their stores.
April 21 – Singer and songwriter Prince dies at his Chanhassen, Minnesota home at the age of 57, resulting in a worldwide outpouring of grief and remembrance.
April 24 – Former Senator Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, age 90 and previously married for 48 years to a woman, announces that he will be marrying his 40-year-old boyfriend.
April 28 – The NCAA drafts a new non-discrimination policy, ensuring states like North Carolina and Mississippi will not be awarded future tournament games as long as anti-LGBT laws are on the books in those states.
May 3 – A Catholic high school in Des Moines, Iowa, changes official policies so a gay student, Liam Jameson, would be ineligible to win the Eychaner Foundation’s Matthew Shepard Scholarship.
May 4 – Donald Trump is the last Republican nominee standing, meaning he will be uncontested when the Republican National Convention is held in Cleveland in July.
May 5 – Actor Colton Haynes comes out as gay in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. In the interview, he discusses his crippling anxiety (which we would later learn was due to his father’s suicide).
May 7 – Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended from the bench over his role in attempting to stop gay marriage shortly after it became legal there in 2015.
May 9 – Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, sues the federal government over the future of the discriminatory House Bill 2. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch responds with a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina.
May 9 – The American Civil Liberties Union sues the state of Mississippi over their anti-LGBT legislation, House Bill 1523.
May 13 – President Obama issues a “final ruling” barring discrimination against transgender patients who are signed up for the Affordable Care Act.
May 17 – Eric Fanning is confirmed to become the next Secretary of the Army, and the first-ever openly gay Armed Forces branch secretary.
May 25 – Eleven states, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, file a lawsuit against the federal government over the Obama administration’s guidance on bathrooms and other accommodations for transgender students.
June 1 – Massachusetts lawmakers approve House Bill 4343, which bans anti-transgender discrimination in areas of public accommodation. Governor Charlie Baker signs it into law.
June 5 – President Obama makes a statement calling for the end of AIDS on the 35th anniversary of its first diagnoses in the United States.
June 10 – U.S. District Judge Callie Granade issues a ruling making it crystal-clear that Alabama officials cannot turn away gay couples who wish to be married for any reason.
June 12 – 49 people die and 53 people are injured after a lone shooter, Omar Mateen, storms Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and spends hours inside the bar, shooting anyone who crosses his path. Mateen is killed by police officers three hours after entering Pulse. Politicians and celebrities from around the world express their sadness. James Corden opens up the evening’s Tony Awards celebration with a tribute to the victims of the massacre. (For more Pulse-related stories as they relate to Floridians, please read our Florida Year in Review.)
June 12 – In an unrelated incident, a man with assault rifles and ammunition, James Wesley Howell, is arrested before arriving at the Los Angeles LGBT Pride Parade.
June 14 – An Oregon judge allows veteran Jamie Shupe to officially change genders to “nonbinary.”
June 14 – Donald Trump announces via Twitter that he would be a better president for the LGBT community than Hillary Clinton could. His hashtag #AskTheGays fails to drum up LGBT support for the presidential candidate.
June 16 – Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican, tearfully apologizes to any LGBT people he has wronged in his life after witnessing the LGBT community come together in the wake of the shooting in Orlando.
June 22 – Actor Nico Tortorella, currently on TV Land’s Younger, comes out as “sexually fluid” in a press interview. Later in the year he announces his comfort with the label “bisexual.”
June 23 – Miss Missouri, Erin O’Flaherty, is crowned, becoming the first-ever openly lesbian beauty queen competing for the title of Miss America.
June 24 – Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma is confirmed to lead this year’s New York City’s LGBT Pride Parade. Also on this day, President Obama declares The Stonewall Inn a national monument.
June 24 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s school district approves a non-discrimination policy for transgender students.
June 25 – The Secretary of the Navy asks all servicemembers who were given dishonorable discharges during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to have their cases reconsidered and relabeled “honorable discharges.”
June 30 – New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan issues an executive order banning anti-transgender discrimination in state government decisions.
June 30 – U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves blocks House Bill 1523 from becoming law mere hours before it was set to take effect in Mississippi.
July 4 – After a long legal battle, the website ChristianMingle.com loses its case and must accept applications from LGBT people, even after creating a special LGBT-specific dating website just for them.
July 6 – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power hosts a Global LGBT Rights Forum at the White House.
July 7 – It is revealed that in the film Star Trek Beyond, Hikaru Sulu, now played by John Cho, is gay. Role originator George Takei originally has misgivings about the plot twist, later expressing his “excitement” at the concept of the portrayal.
July 12 – Senator Bernie Sanders officially endorses Hillary Clinton for President of the United States ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
July 14 – Reports indicate that Donald Trump will pick Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate in the November presidential elections.
July 15 – Hillary Clinton’s campaign releases a video attacking Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s anti-LGBT history in a quick response to Donald Trump’s selection of Pence as his running mate.
July 17 – The United Methodist Church elects its first openly gay bishop, Karen Oliveto, at its quadrennial meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.
July 18-21 – The Republican National Convention is held in Cleveland, Ohio. Donald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
July 20 – Caitlyn Jenner, speaking at a Republican Party event in Cleveland, comments that it was “harder to come out as Republican than as transgender.”
July 23 – Looking: The Movie airs on HBO, wrapping up storylines from the television series, which was canceled in 2015.
July 25-28 – The Democratic National Convention is held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton accepts the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
July 28 – The Out Hotel in New York City announces it is closing its doors, after a sustained boycott resulting from owners Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass hosting a fundraiser for anti-gay former presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
July 28 – The U.S. Navy announces that it will name one of its newest ships after gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
August 2 – Seattle, Washington becomes the ninth U.S. jurisdiction to ban gay conversion therapy for minors.
August 3 – The U.S. Supreme Court announces that a transgender student from Virginia will not be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity while the case is being appealed.
August 10 – Tallywackers, the gay answer to Hooters, closes up shop in Dallas as owners find a new location for the budding restaurant.
August 11 – Nico Hines, a journalist for The Daily Beast, is castigated on the Internet after writing an article that in essence outed Olympians, even ones from countries where homosexuality receives strong punishments such as death. The Daily Beast apologized for the story and eventually removed it, while there was no apology from Hines himself.
August 22 – Gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos is criticized for raising over $100,000 for a “poor white men” scholarship and giving none of it to college hopefuls.
August 23 – Vandals detonate an explosive device in a vending box in Salem, Massachusetts. The box was a distribution point for the LGBT newspaper The Rainbow Times.
August 26 – The second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars premieres on Logo, featuring Florida queens such as Roxxxy Andrews and Ginger Minj.
September 1 – California’s legislature passes a law requiring state schools to have “comprehensive suicide prevention plans” for LGBT students in grades 7-12.
September 6 – U.S. officials explore the idea of Russian hackers who hope to disrupt the upcoming presidential election after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton specifically calls Russia out at an Illinois campaign rally. Russia denies involvement in this matter.
September 12 – The NCAA announces that it will pull all future championship title game events from the state of North Carolina after Governor Pat McCrory decided to do nothing about House Bill 2, despite public outcry against the discriminatory bill.
September 24 – Virginia, well-known as a state “for lovers”, launches its first-ever LGBT tourism and marketing plan.
September 28 – Multimedia Platforms, which includes such publications as Frontiers, Next, Florida Agenda and others, stops printing magazines and newspapers across the country.
September 30 – Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announces his intention to take his state Attorney General Jeff Landry to court over a disagreement involving LGBT protections for state workers.
September 30 – The United Nations Human Rights Council announces its first-ever promotion of an “LGBT expert” investigator to promote LGBT rights around the world. The appointment would survive a vote in the general assembly even after African and Middle Eastern nations voted as a bloc against it.
September 30 – California Governor Jerry Brown signs Senate Bill 1146, which requires private universities which take public funds to publicly disclose whether they discriminate against students or faculty based on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
October 4 – Vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine meet for the first and only vice-presidential debate. Despite Pence’s long history as an opponent of LGBT rights, the topic is not discussed during the televised meeting.
October 7 – Damaging audio surfaces of presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaking to television host Billy Bush in 2005, bragging about his sexual conquests, using such unflattering phrases as “I moved on her like a b-tch” or “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the p—y.”
October 8 – Sara Ramirez, Tony Award winner and star of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, comes out as bisexual while speaking at the True Colors Fund’s 40 to None Summit in Los Angeles.
October 11 – The National Park Service releases the very first study on preserving buildings and monuments of interest to LGBT Americans. They hope to preserve as many as 1,300 locations (bars, bathhouses, etc.) across the country.
October 18 – Sixty municipalities across the country score “perfect 100” marks in the latest edition of the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
October 22 – The Log Cabin Republicans decline to endorse Donald Trump in his quest to become President of the United States.
October 25 – Philadelphia LGBT community members come together for a meeting called by the Commission on Human Relations, discussing where to proceed after an owner of the popular bar iCandy called specific black patrons “n—ers”, all caught on tape.
October 25 – Real estate analytics company CoStar Group announces it will expand into the Richmond market and not Charlotte due to House Bill 2. The state of North Carolina loses out on 730 new jobs, its biggest loss yet due to the state’s defense of the unpopular bill.
October 27 – LifeWay Christian Stores, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, pulls books written by Christian self-help author Jen Hatmaker, after Hatmaker made comments affirming LGBT rights and relationships.
November 1 – The state of Mississippi appeals to the 5th Circuit Court with regard to House Bill 1523.
November 3 – GLAAD announces that 278 LGBT characters were seen on network television in the past year, the highest number since the organization started keeping track twenty years ago. Sixteen of those characters were transgender.
November 8 – Donald Trump is elected the next president of the United States, buoyed by wins in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, states that were carried by President Obama during his re-election battle in 2012. He wins the electoral college but not the popular vote.
November 8 – Kate Brown becomes the first openly LGBT person to be elected governor of a state as she wins her first full term as Governor of Oregon. 105 LGBT lawmakers are elected to new terms in state houses nationwide, a decline from 119 in 2014. Fourteen states have zero LGBT representation in state government.
November 13 – In his first post-election interview, Donald Trump speaks to 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl and outlines some of his plans for his first term. When asked about the uptick in hate crime claims, many of which were supposedly done in his name, President-elect Trump says those committing such acts should “stop it.”
November 15 – As vote totals are still being counted, Hillary Clinton surpasses the one million mark in the popular vote against Donald Trump, despite losing the electoral college. Eight days later, the vote total surpasses two million.
November 16 – President-elect Donald Trump angers many with his selection of Breitbart News editor Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist, who was criticized for his past pronouncements, described as anti-LGBT, sexist, anti-Semitic and racist.
November 24-25 – The homeless LGBT youth at the Ali Forney Center in New York City are surprised by Thanksgiving visits by pop stars Madonna and Lady Gaga, both donors and supporters of the Center.
November 29 – The Southern Poverty Law Center releases a report stating that nearly 900 hate crimes have been filed with police nationwide since the November 8 election, with 40% of those alleged attacks taking place with the attacker using President-elect Donald Trump’s name as justification. 95 of the alleged attacks were anti-LGBT in nature.
November 30 – The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hears a case which will eventually decide whether or not the 1964 Civil Rights Act also covers LGBT-specific discrimination in the workplace.
December 1 – As Vice President-elect Mike Pence makes plans to move to Washington, D.C., his new neighbors display rainbow flags as a subtle protest against Pence’s anti-LGBT viewpoints.
December 5 – After a month of recounts and legal disputes, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory concedes to Attorney General Roy Cooper and wishes him well as the next governor. Governor-elect Cooper, a Democrat, is now tasked with working to repeal House Bill 2 with a Republican legislature.
December 6 – Wal-Mart scores a perfect 100 on the Corporate Equality Index for the very first time and begins offering health insurance to transgender employees.
December 7 – TIME names Donald Trump its 2016 Person of the Year. Hillary Clinton is announced runner-up.
December 14 – In State District Court, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ executive order protecting LGBT state workers from discrimination is ruled unconstitutional, as it is seen as circumventing the traditional lawmaking process.