Top Ten Lesbian Newsmakers of 2012

It's been a big year for out women in the news, from the election of the first out U.S. Senator — who just happens to be a lesbian from Wisconsin — to the House of Representatives' first bisexual member, or Oregon's first out lesbian Speaker of the House.
By: Sunnivie Brydum
December 31 2012 7:09 AM

It's been a big year for out women in the news, from the election of the first out U.S. Senator — who just happens to be a lesbian from Wisconsin — to the House of Representatives' first bisexual member, or Oregon's first out lesbian Speaker of the House. Legal junkies (like yours truly) are anxiously awaiting a June ruling on a landmark case heading to the Supreme Court regarding the unconstitutionally high estate taxes lesbian widow Edie Windsor had to pay because she was married to a woman, while out, proud teenagers are taking on the Motion Picture Association of America to make sure a film about bullying gets seen by those who need it most. The year also saw the post-humous coming-out of one of America's space heroes, and, oh yeah, a bunch of loving, deserving ladies get legally married — including several who were kicked out of the military for being gay. Speaking of the military, in a post-Don't Ask, Don't Tell world, an organization for LGBT people in uniform named as its new Executive Director an Army veteran who is not only a married lesbian mother, but who also happens to be a transgender woman. 

Read on to relive the best and the brightest moments of lady-centric news in 2012, and get ready for even bigger, better, and more queer newsmakers in 2013. Happy New Year, SheWired readers! 

 

Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Senator, Wisconsin's Second District

With her electoral victory securely in hand, Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin is on her way to somewhere no gay person has ever been before: A seat in the U.S. Senate. That would be quite the accomplishment for your standard affluent gay male politician, but the fact that the first LGBT Senator happens to be a lesbian? Well, that's just the cherry on top of an already historic election night. Baldwin soundly defeated Republican opponent and former governor Tommy Thompson, despite the campaign's attacks based on her sexuality and a viscous screed in the Washington Times that alleged Baldwin was a "radical lesbian" whose election would bring about "increased child abuse, higher rates of drug addiction and alcoholism, soaring violence and rampant teenage promiscuity." That certainly ought to keep her busy. Of course, when she's not busy bringing about the End of Days, Baldwin is likely to focus on standing up to corporate special interests and fighting for the middle class, like she's been doing since she was first elected to Congress in 1998, the first woman ever sent to Washington to represent Wisconsin. More on next page…

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Krysten Sinema, U.S. Representative, Arizona's Ninth District

Krysten Sinema, elected to represent Arizona's ninth district, is the first bisexual person to be elected to Congress. Her race against Republican Vernon Parker was one of the longest-lasting, meaning Sinema's name appeared in headlines for nearly a week after the election. But on November 12, the Associated Press announced that Sinema had amassed a lead of more than 6,000 votes — a lead too large for her opponent to overcome. And with that, the bisexual nontheist who was raised Mormon and attended Brigham Young University, made history. Sinema wants to return "common sense" to Washington, and built her political career fighting for LGBT equality in a deeply conservative state, so she might be just the person to do it. 

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Rosie O'Donnell, Actor, Comic

We considered putting Rosie in the running for our "Woman of the Year," but ultimately decided that while she's had a busy year, it  might not be one the out comic is eager to relive. But O'Donnell's trials and tribulations certainly grabbed headlines. O'Donnell and her partner, Michelle Rounds, got married in a small, private ceremony in New York in June, but on August 3, O'Donnell announced that she Rounds were postponing their wedding celebration because Rounds was diagnosed with a rare, non-cancerous but aggressive fibromatoses, known as Desmoid tumors. On August 14, O'Donnell suffered a heart attack and had a stent placed in her heart to open her coronary artery, which doctors said was 99% blocked. In November, O'Donnell's Hudson River home was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and tweeted photos of the damage. Luckily, the damage was minimal and, as O'Donnell tweeted, "all fixable." Here's hoping 2013 treats you a little kinder, Rosie O.

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Katy Butler, Student, Activist

In less than a month, 17-year-old Katy Butler went from being an antibullying activist in her home state of Michigan to becoming a prominent figure in the national conversation about bullying, complete with celebrity backing and recognition from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). An out lesbian who endured antigay bullying in middle school, Butler launched a Change.org petition late in February, calling for a rating change from R to PG-13 for the Weinstein Company’s documentary Bully, so that the film’s target audience of middle- and high school-aged students would be able to see the film and so that it could eventually be shown in schools. The push for a rating change came when the Motion Picture Association of America slapped an R rating on the film for its six swear words, whereas, if the film had only four swears, it would have qualified for a PG-13 rating. Ultimately, Butler's campaign was successful — just like the film — and she was honored with a special recognition award at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Awards in New York City. 

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Tina Kotek, Speaker of the Oregon House of Repesentatives

Rep. Tina Kotek of Oregon will become the first out lesbian to lead a state legislative chamber after being elected House Speaker by her Democratic colleagues on November 15. The Associated Press reported on the vote, which needs to be formally ratified in January. Kotek told the AP that she knows her success as an openly lesbian official has inspired other LGBT people. 

"We all look for people out there who look like us," she said. "I have had emails and text messages from people who are very excited."

Kotek, 46, represents the Portland area. She lives with her partner Aimee Wilson, according to her biography on the state legislature’s website.

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Sally Ride, American Astronaut

We all knew Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. And most of you fellow lady-geeks also probably knew that the legendary astronaut passed away in July at the age of 61, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. With one little sentence in her obituary, Sally Ride came out as a lesbian… Post-humously. Ride was already a hero to millions of women and girls, but now she enters our cultural lexicon as a whole other kind of hero — one who lived a quiet, honest, and admirable life, spending 27 years with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy. In December, NASA announced that it would be naming a site on the moon where it intentionally crashed two retired satellites after Ride — so now young lesbians aspiring to reach the stars can look up at the sky, and literally shoot for the moon. 

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Edie Windsor, Equality Advocate

Edie Windsor might just be the woman who brings down the Defense Of Marriage Act. Not only is the 83-year-old lesbian widow the second-runner-up for our SheWired Out Woman of the Year, but this year, Windsor also found out that she'll finally get her day in court. Windsor sued the federal government because its DOMA-based refusal to recognize her marriage to Thea Spyer meant she owed $363,000 in estate taxes after Spyer’s death in 2009—taxes she wouldn’t have owed if her spouse had been a man. In October a U.S. appeals court ruled that DOMA violated Windsor’s constitutional rights, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case next year, meaning it may decide the fate of DOMA, and same-sex marriage rights in general, once and for all. Windsor told CNN she was "elated" at the news that the high court would take her case, saying, "Did I ever think it could come to be, altogether?… Not a chance in hell." 

Depending on how the Supreme Court rules on her case, it seems likely that Windsor might end up on this list again in 2013. 

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Maj. Margaret Witt, Former Air Force Major

Former Air Force Major Margaret Witt marked the year anniversary of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in what might be the best way possible — by getting married to the love of her life. In December, Witt married her longtime partner, Laurie Johnson, in a small ceremony in Spokane, Wash., just days after the state's newly minted marriage equality law took effect. Witt and her wife were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license at the Spokane County Courthouse just before 8:30 a.m. on December 6, the first day such licenses were available. Washington state enacted marriage equality after voters approved Referendum 74 in the November election, which means Washington now joins Maryland, Maine, New York, Connecticut, New Hamshire, Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex couples to marry. Witt's attorney in her successful federal court challenge to her dismissal under DADT,  Jim Lobsenz, presided over Witt's ceremony. Talk about sweet justice. 

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Pussy Riot, Feminist Punk Rockers

OK, we know that these ladies aren't self-identified lesbians, but they've dominated lady-relevant news this year. The Russian feminist punk rockers stormed a Moscow cathedral earlier this year chanting slogans against President Vladmir Putin — an act of civil disobedience that got three members charged with "hooliganism," and two of them sentenced to two years in Soviet-era hard labor camps. Celebrities from the likes of Madonna to Bjork to Foo Fighters spoke out in support of the fierce feminists, who continue to go on fighting for "the right to sing, to think, to criticize." Even the U.S. Department of State condemned the women's imprisonment as "politically motivated prosecution of the Russian opposition and pressure on those who express dissenting views." Rock on, ladies. Keep disturbing the peace. Pussy Riot forever! 

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Allyson Robinson, Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN

When OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network announced in October that it would tap decorated Army veteran Allyson Robinson to lead the newly combined organization, the announcement was historic for an number of reasons. Not only is Robinson one of only a select few women to head a national military group, with this appointment, she also becomes the first transgender person to lead a national LGBT organization. OutServe-SLDN advocates and supports LGBT military personnel, and Robinson is adamant that even after the fall of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," there's still much work to be done to ensure that every American who serves their country is treated with the equal respect and dignity they deserve. 

"The repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' taught us that to be victorious, we must fight inequality on multiple fronts — in the court, on Capitol Hill, and in the public square," said Robinson, a married lesbian raising four children with her wife in their Maryland home. "It's time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, revise laws that prevent the military from honoring the service of all our nation's men and women in uniform, and end marriage discrimination for our servicemembers and their families once and for all."

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