It was a tough year at the end of a rough decade but there were some under-appreciated progressive victories that should inspire hope for 2010. Here’s a small sampling.

More legislatures than ever discussed the need to end the exclusion of gay couples from marriage, and three new states, including the first from the nation’s heartland (Iowa), won the freedom to marry for gay couples. The District of Columbia also enacted its own marriage equality law, which now awaits 30 legislative days of Congressional review. Though legislation was turned back in Maine and New York, the national conversation continues as more people from all walks of life spoke out in support of the freedom to marry.

In California, activists pushed hard for the LGBT Domestic Violence Programs Expansion Bill, which goes into effect tomorrow. The bill expands access for LGBT service providers to a state fund within the California Emergency Management Agency, which supports LGBT-specific domestic violence programs across the state. The fund is subsidized by a $23 fee on domestic partner registrations. The new bill would also allow for more than four organizations to apply for programmatic funding each fiscal cycle and eliminates the requirement for providers to offer shelter – impediments to many smaller LGBT organizations that inadvertently keep several California communities from providing any services at all to LGBT survivors of domestic violence.

Earlier this year, activists celebrated a hard-fought victory as New York State voted to repeal the notoriously draconian Rockefeller drug laws after years of advocacy on the part of families, formerly incarcerated individuals, and community organizations. This legislative reform mirrors the Obama administration’s end to the term "War on Drugs" and embrace of more practical policies like decriminalizing medical marijuana and lifting the ban on needle exchanges.

Two coal-burning energy companies, the American Electric Power (AEP) and Allegheny Power, withdrew plans to build a multi-billion dollar transmission line from Appalachia to East Coast cities – the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH line — after an insistent activist campaign. The announcement came with a concession that the new line is not needed to address electricity demand in the foreseeable future.

In Mississippi, as my colleague Habiba Alcindor recounted, African-American farmer’s markets made significant strides in the struggle against poor nutrition and poverty being fought in the black community’s own backyard.

The value of smaller lending institutions caught on in the wake of the bank bailouts and community banks may see their day in 2010. This video from the Move Your Money Project illustrates the idea.

Thanks for reading in 2009 and have a healthy, happy and socially just new year.

 


 

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