LGBT Parent Newsmakers of the Year

Who were the LGBT parents who made headlines this year in mainstream or LGBT news? Here are my top individuals or couples, in alphabetic (not rank) order. (This started as a top-ten list, but outgrew that appellation by a bit. Consider it a holiday bonus.)

Clay Aiken came out in September after becoming a dad in August. He told People magazine, “It was the first decision I made as a father. I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn’t raised that way, and I’m not going to raise a child to do that.”

Thomas Beatie, a transgender man, caused a stir across the country when he announced his pregnancy. He was not the first transgender man to give birth, but the publicity he generated, including an appearance on Oprah, made him the first trans parent many Americans had seen. Despite the tabloid headlines, he may have opened some eyes about what it means both to be a parent and to be trans. He gave birth to a girl in July and confirmed his second pregnancy in November.

Melissa Etheridge’s performance at the Democratic National Convention in August and her announcement that she was refusing to pay taxes until she could legally marry would have been enough to put her on this list. Her more recent outreach to Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren has brought her both praise and criticism, but kept her in the spotlight.

Frank Martin Gill and his partner’s struggle for Gill to adopt the two boys they have been fostering for four years led to a Florida court ruling that the state ban on adoption by lesbian and gay people was unconstitutional. The state is appealing the ruling, but some, including LGBT family law expert Nancy Polikoff, think the impressive array of experts who testified to the suitability of LGBT parents will help the case to stand.

Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO of the San Diego LGBT Center, and Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights: While not partners, these moms teamed up as two of the four members of the No On 8 Executive Committee. Yes, we lost the Prop 8 battle. Even those who blame the No On 8 leadership, however, should recognize that these women worked tremendously hard despite the failure.

Janet Jenkins and her former partner Lisa Miller made headlines in Newsweek for their interstate custody battle, just days before the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling that Virginia must enforce a Vermont court order awarding visitation rights to Jenkins. Miller, who claims she is no longer a lesbian, remains in contempt of court for refusing visitation to Jenkins, who has not seen their six-year-old daughter since the spring.

Beth Kerrigan and Jodie Mock were the lead plaintiffs in the case that won marriage equality in Connecticut. They got their marriage license with much fanfare on November 12, the first day they could, but are planning an “intimate, private occasion” for the ceremony that will include their seven-year-old twin sons.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, pioneers and icons of the LGBT movement, were the first same-sex couple to marry in San Francisco when California legalized marriage equality in June. They had waited over 50 years for that moment. Martin passed away in August.

Shannon Price Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, was lead counsel in the case that in June won marriage equality in California.

Cynthia Nixon has been an outspoken opponent of Prop 8.  Back in April, however, she also came out about her struggle with breast cancer and became an Ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Among her actions there, she recorded a special “Message for Gay Women” about the disease.

Rosie and Kelli O’Donnell: Rosie was criticized for her lack of contributions to fight Prop 8, but she and Kelli still did our community some good by hosting 2,300 of us and our allies on the R Family Vacations cruise in July and getting positive coverage of it in the New York Times, among other places. I’ll overlook her dismal variety show in November; most others have, too.

E. Denise Simmons, the mother of four and grandmother of three, took office last January as mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, making her the nation’s first openly lesbian, African-American mayor. In addition to her work for all citizens of Cambridge, she remains active in support of LGBT rights, hosting the city’s annual Pride Brunch, the annual Black Pride Sistah Summit, and an anti-Prop 8 rally, among other events.

These aren’t the only LGBT parents who had an impact, of course, just the ones who got the most coverage for their actions. Is that meaningful? Considering they are the public face of LGBT parenting to most Americans, for better or worse, I’d say yes. Anyone else you’d add?