The 10 Most Important Legal Changes to LGBT Rights in 2013
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 16 states. The first male professional athlete in major sports came out last May. The Supreme Court rejected part of the Defense of Marriage Act, clearing the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California—and all this happened against a backdrop of more than half of Americans saying they would support a law legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states.
That's not to say that these milestones mark the end of anti-gay discrimination—29 states have yet to legalize same-sex marriage—but the changes have been a long time coming.
Here, we look back at the top 10 moments that made this the "gayest year in gay history."
1. State by State, Equality Grows
States took the lead on marriage equality rights this year. Maryland started handing out marriage licenses in January, when the state's same-sex marriage law went into effect. Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Illinois also legalized gay marriage in 2013.
2. June Weddings
In June the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of DOMA, paving the path to resume gay marriages in California. The nation’s highest court said it couldn’t rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 because California officials failed to defend the law after it was overturned in an appeals court.
3. Retirement With Dignity
When the Supreme Court justices took on DOMA, they also granted the president the power to recognize same-sex unions for federal benefits. Until then, Social Security, pension, and other federal provisions didn’t apply to legally married same-sex couples.
4. Death and Taxes
The U.S. Treasury Department ruled that married gay couples would be treated the same as married straight couples for tax purposes—even if the state they lived in didn't recognize their marriage.
5. Destined for Love
A June Pew Research Center poll found that more than 70 percent of Americans saw legal recognition of same-sex marriage as "inevitable," despite their feelings on the matter.
6. Baby Steps Away From Hate
Colorado’s Democrat-heavy legislature legalized civil unions in March, following years of vitriol and debate over the issue. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law that same month, bringing a change to what was once known as “the hate state.”
7. Civil Disobedience for Love
Marriage is still defined as a union between a man and a woman in North Carolina, but a state official accepted 12 marriage applications from same-sex couples anyway in hopes of sparking a challenge to the wedding ban.
8. The Leader of the Free World Approves of Equal Rights
President Obama became the first sitting president to announce his support of same-sex marriage.
"At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," he told "ABC News."
9. America's Top Military Brass Approves Too
Nine states have used their gay-marriage bans as a reason to refuse military IDs and federal benefits to same-sex spouses of military members since September. That month Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel let out a stream of rare invective, deeming the states' actions a violation of federal law.
The Pentagon leader called on them to resolve the issue, asking National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass to meet with the administrators from the noncompliant states: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
10. And American Legislators Approve, Except for the House...
The U.S. Senate approved the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in November, prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The House of Representatives has yet to pass ENDA, and some advocacy groups have called on President Obama to issue an executive order to end such workplace discrimination.