The equal rights movement gave up its training wheels this past year. Triumphs came in the form of celebrities coming out of the closet, even more states legalizing same-sex unions, and as recent as yesterday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoing SB1062, a bill, which would have allowed business owners to deny service to gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs. The LGBT community also won two major battles last year with the United States Supreme Court’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.
So much happened, we barely had time to put our rainbow flags back in the basement before it was time to mark another victory.
In the words sung by Kool and the Gang: Celebrate good times, come on!
Let’s take a look at the steps that have brought us closer to equality than ever before.
January 1, 2013
The beginning of the year marked the first day that gay and lesbian couples could get married in Maryland after same-sex marriage was legalized by popular vote in the November 6, 2012 election.
Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton came out in support of LGBT equality in a sincere, touching, and heartfelt video for the Human Rights Campaign, stating:
“LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship — that includes marriage.”
The Supreme Court justices began listening to arguments in the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases, on March 26 and 27 respectively, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared that the effects of DOMA “touch every aspect of life.”
Jason Collins, then a center for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, came out as gay in an interview with “Sports Illustrated.” His announcement was particularly important as he was the first publicly gay athlete playing in a major North American men’s team sport.
On May 2, Rhode Island legalized same-sex marriage, becoming the tenth state to do so. On May 7, less than a week later, Delaware became the eleventh, and exactly a week after that, Minnesota followed suit, bringing the number of states recognizing same-sex unions to a full dozen.
On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America also lifted a ban that had been in place for over 100 years against openly gay males joining the organization, though sadly the ban on gay adults serving the organization continued, an unfortunate smear left in place.
June 26, 2013
The Supreme Court ruled that DOMA, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples, was unconstitutional. The court also let stand a lower court decision that had overturned Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that defined marriage between a man and a woman in the state of California.
July 29, 2013
In a surprising move, Pope Francis, told reporters during a press conference:
“If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
The new pope’s tone was widely applauded, but debate continued as to whether anything had actually changed, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan among those who rushed onto the airwaves to say that Church doctrine regarding homosexuality remained unchanged.
August 1, 2013
LGBT couples came out en masse as both Minnesota and Rhode Island began processing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the first time in history. The IRS also issued an announcement declaring that, in line with the June DOMA ruling, the department would start recognizing all same-sex married couples for tax purposes, regardless of what state they lived in.
September 27, 2013
Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that the Garden State must issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples beginning that October.
October 21, 2013
The New Jersey Supreme Court denied Gov. Charlie Christie’s request that Judge Jacobson’s ruling be delayed pending the state’s appeal. Bowing to reality, Gov. Christie dropped his appeal hours later as same-sex couples began to tie the knot there.
On November 13, Hawaii joins the growing number of states recognizing the rights of same-sex couples. A week later, on November 20, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
On December 19 New Mexico followed suit, with Utah catching up the very next day, bringing the number of states granting same-sex couples marriage equality to eighteen –twice the number of states recognizing same-sex marriage in the beginning of 2013.
December 23, Judge Robert J. Shelby, the judge who struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, denied the state’s request to prevent marriage licenses from being issued while his earlier decision is appealed. Two weeks later, however, after more than 1,000 Utah couples married, the US Supreme Court halted the weddings while the state pursues its appeal. Utah officials are not currently recognizing the marriages that took place, even though the Obama administration is for federal purposes.
Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” came out as a lesbian on December 29, declaring in an end-of-the-year post on Facebook:
“I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together.”
The New Year has just gotten under way and we’re already making strides.
Virginia’s new governor, Terry McAuliffe, banned discrimination against LGBT state employees as his first executive order on January 11– the same day he was sworn in to office.
On January 14, Oklahoma’s Judge Terence Kern ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. As in Utah, the effect of the Oklahoma ruling has been stayed pending appeal. President Obama declared that his administration was working with “mayors, governors, and state legislators” on issues such as “marriage equality” during his State of the Union Address.
Maine’s Supreme Court also made history on January 30, when it ruled that administrators at a public school violated state anti-discrimination law by not allowing Nicole Maines, a transgender teenager who identifies as female, to use the girls’ bathroom.
On February 9, Michael Sam, a University of Missouri defensive end who was the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year this past season, came out as gay in an ESPN interview and a New York Times article. He is expected to be a top NFL draft pick for next season, which would make him the first out gay player in the league.
On February 12, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled that the state’s refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states was unconstitutional. Judge John G. Heyburn II wrote that the same analysis would apply if couples were to challenge the state’s refusal to let them marry there.
And most recently, on Feb. 26, 2014, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB1062, a bill, which would have allowed business owners to deny service to gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs.
It looks like 2014 is going be another very good year for the LGBT community. Maybe we should just keep our rainbow flags at the ready.
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