The advancement of gay civil rights is the best thing that happened this year, I argue in the Scripps Howard column.
The best event of 2011? The gains made for gay civil rights.Ben's favorite development? The emergence of Occupy Wall Street. Yes, he's being cynical.
Other good things happened -- most notably, the Iraq war came to a close for the United States, ending a disastrously dumb conflict that never should have happened. But the end of a huge negative isn't really a positive. So instead, it was in the arena of gay rights where two big events took place that could wonderfully alter the landscape for future generations.
First was repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The law itself passed late last year as Congress was closing out its session, but the law was implemented this year. Despite the hysterical cries of opposition from anti-gay forces, the military seems to have weathered the transition pretty well.
Second was the legalization, in New York State, of gay marriage. This was important for two reasons: New York is one of the most populated states, and the law was passed by an act of the state legislature. There were no "judicial activists" imposing a "gay agenda" on the state; the representatives of the people did the people's business.
Simply put: In 2011, gay Americans took a huge step toward attaining full citizenship in this country.
There is much work to be done, and some of it may be done in 2012: There are court challenges both to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing those legal marriages in New York, and to California's Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal there. And outside the courtroom, support for gay rights continues to spread among the citizenry.
There will always be opponents to gay equality. Time, however, is on the side of those who favor civil rights. In 2011, we found out we might not have to wait much longer.