1. Marriage equality prevails at the ballot
With the odds –and history—against them, LGBT organizations in four states, fueled by millions of dollars from celebrities like Bill Gates, put forth one of the biggest gay rights campaigns to date and try to convince citizens to support equal rights. Their efforts paid off. Voters in three states, Maine, Maryland and Washington said “yes” to same-sex marriage last November. While Minnesotans voted against an amendment that would have defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.
2. Obama supports gay marriage
During his first term, the president was hesitant about throwing his full support behind gay marriage, however, that all changed on May 9, when he took to Twitter to announce the big news.
“Same-sex couples should be able to get married.”—President Obama. That’s all it took. After that, Obama went on television and reaffirmed what he has said in less than 140 characters. His pledge was enough to gain the support of LGBTs nationwide, with heavyweight publications like the Advocate endorsing the president months before the final stretch of the race.
In Florida, it is estimated the the gay vote played a key role in the President winning the state.
3. Supreme Court to hear gay marriage cases
After many false starts, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a private meeting in December to take on California’s Proposition 8, and one challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.
Whatever the court decides on both cases this year, could affects millions of LGBTs nationwide. Passed in 2008, Proposition 8 took away the right to marry from gays and lesbians in California. The law was challenged by two gay couples, who got a historic decision on On Feb. 7, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The proponents of the anti-gay law then took that decision to the Supreme Court.
DOMA is a 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus depriving gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples, like filing tax returns together and maintaining estate rights after widowing.
4. Trans employees get workplace protections
In a landmark case, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled last April that employers who discriminate against an employee or potential employee based on their gender identity are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex.
The decision came after Mia Macy, a California transgender woman was denied a job. She had applied for a position as a ballistics technician at a laboratory of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Macy, a veteran and former police detective, initially applied for the position as male and was told that she virtually was guaranteed the job. After disclosing her gender transition mid-way through the hiring process, she was told that funding for that position had been suddenly cut. Another person was then hired.
5. Tammy Baldwin gets elected
Baldwin became the first openly lesbian U.S. Senator in the last elections. Before that, she was a U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district since 1999.
“Our president has made historic progress toward equality. He repealed "Don't ask, Don't tell" so that no American ever again has to lie about who they are in order to serve the country we love. Republicans want to write discrimination into our Constitution. But the Wisconsin I know believes that with each passing year and each generation, our country must become more equal, not less,” she said during last year at the Democratic National Convention.
The politician counted with the support of several LGBT organizations and Democratic PACs to make the jump into the U.S. Senate.
6. Florida elects first gay legislators
It may seems small compared to the national LGBT victories, but in a state where gay marriage is illegal, it’s a big stride forward that could help shift things in the right direction for gay Floridians. Last November, Joe Saunders and David Richardson became the first openly gay politicians to be elected to Florida’s state legislature. Saunders represents District 49 in Central Florida, while Richardson was elected to represent 113th district, which includes Miami Beach.
The politicians were sworn in on Nov. 20. A late December survey of 1,261 registered voters found that 45 percent oppose gay marriage in Florida while 43 percent support it. That’s a change from last May when 50 percent opposed same-sex marriage.
7. R&B Singer Frank Ocean Comes Out
If there were any stereotypes left to be broken, they are gone now. Frank Ocean shook the hip-hop community when he revealed his first love had been a man in a blog post last July. Ocean’s coming out in the often-homophobic business of rap and hip-hop music is living proof that things are getting better for the LGBT community.
While many thought the news would be a turnoff for many fans, people appreciated his bravery. The media attention he received, coupled with his talent, put him at the top of the music charts this year. He was the best-selling artist for U.K. music retailer HMV, was named MTV person of the year, and received six Grammy nominations.
8. Anderson Cooper comes out
CNN news anchor and war correspondent Anderson Cooper publicly announced he’s gay in a letter to long-time friend writer Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast last July.
Sullivan wrote that, knowing that Cooper was gay, he asked him for his outlook on how the visibility of gay people was paramount for the LGBT community to gain full equal rights.
Cooper responded by coming out of the closet and explaining why he didn’t publicly talk about his sexual orientation before.
“The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud,” Cooper wrote.
It wasn’t so much the millions of dollars that Chick-fil-A donated to religious, anti-gay hate groups that sparked the controversy, it was just three words—and perhaps the way they were uttered—by company head Dan Cathy confirming that Chick-fil-A was “guilty as charged” for supporting what he considers traditional family values.
In the weeks following Dan Cathy’s interview with the Baptist Press asserting the company had donated millions of dollars to anti-gay religious organizations through its charitable arm, people from all walks of life, from politicians to celebrities, weighed in on the issue.
The controversy has cooled down since the summer.
10. Anti-gay religious rants gone viral
Rev. Charles L. Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C. said gays should be put in an electrified pen and then killed off. Pastor Sean Harris of the Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C. advocated parents should "punch" their male children if they seem effeminate. Curtis Knapp of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kan. called for government to do the dirty job and send homosexuals seven feet under. All in the name of God.
These are just some of the hate-filled messages pastors and preachers (many from North Carolina) delivered to their parishioners last May; caught on phone cameras for the whole world to watch on YouTube. Some have backed down due to mounting pressure and backlash, others stand their ground on what they said.