Vaclav Havel, Jack Layton, and the year that was in LGBTQ rights.

Over at BuzzFeed this morning, you’ll find a very heartwarming post: 40 Reasons Why 2011 Was the Best Year for Gays Ever, including such very cool items as:

  1. On February 1, the State Department began issuing passport applications that asks applicants for Mother or parent one and Father or parent two instead of for Father and Mother – “in recognition of different types of families.” (I didn’t even know this was a thing!)
  2. On February 23, the Justice Department announced that it will no longer defend the constitutionality the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
  3. In May, for the first time, a Gallup poll found that most Americans support legalizing same sex marriage.
  4. On September 20, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was officially repealed.
  5. On December 6, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum directing US agencies abroad to use foreign aid to assist LGBT people  facing human rights violations, and to protect LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. In a related speech to the UN in Geneva, Secretary of State Clinton declared that LGBT rights are universal human rights.

I often joke that the only reliable source for good news these days is the LGBTQ community, and it’s the ding-dang truth — but the deeper truth is that all of these advances also serve to show how far we’ve had to come, and still have to go, in recognizing the essential humanity of millions of our fellow Americans. Furthermore, it’s very important to note that while it was the best year ever for gays in the US and a few other places, it wasn’t particularly rosy elsewhere — such as those countries where a person can quite literally be put to death for being gay.

Yet these facts do not detract from the good news for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and I cannot help but think that as things improve in the west, they will also begin to improve elsewhere.

And this brings me to Vaclav Havel and Jack Layton.

Vaclav Havel (who I was lucky enough to meet and briefly interview when I was a baby-journalist and blustered my way into a press event in Jerusalem in 1990) once said to those with whom he would dare to overthrow Communist rule: “Truth and love will overcome lies and hatred.” As he lay dying, Canadian politician Jack Layton (of whom I only learned after his death) wrote a letter to his fellow Canadians, ending with: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic, and we’ll change the world.”

I often despair of the essential power of truth, love, hope and optimism. Forgive me — I am an Israeli peace activist.

But if anything shows how those things can change the world and save us from lies and hatred, it is the advancements made by the LGBTQ community in recent years.

We have so, so far to go — yet we have already come so far. Unsurprisingly, both Havel and Layton were staunch supporters of gay rights. They knew the way, and they, hand in hand with millions of brave LGBTQ people, helped show us the way.

Truth, love, hope and optimism. Maybe we really can change the world.



  1. corkingiron

     /  December 19, 2011

    Pretty sure Jack would have been flattered to be included in such illustrious company. Both men were also reputed to have a wicked sense of humor.

  2. corkingiron

     /  December 19, 2011

    “optimism in tact!”

    Am I now officially tact less?