The past year has been a great one for LGBT rights in the United States.While it is always difficult to create a list of our favorites, here are some of the highlights from 2013 that Care2 readers have particularly engaged with. It’s only a short list, but at the very least it’s chock full of glad tidings and things to be grateful for as we go through the festive season.
1. Fighting off Tennessee’s Odious “Don’t Say Gay” Bill
In January of 2013, Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield and his cohorts in the state House introduced a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that was even worse than before. The legislation mandated that any school official must “out” an LGBT child to their parents, and left room for ex-gay referrals in schools.
Fortunately, Campfield’s bill once again failed to gain traction, as did another bill from the same group of lawmakers that would have created a religious right not to counsel gay people. The very fact these bills didn’t get through the legislature is a win in our book.
2. ENDA Passes Out of the U.S. Senate for the First Time in Years
Obviously our work on the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) is not finished, and it faces stiff opposition in the United States House. But the fact that ENDA passed out of the Senate with a bipartisan majority for the first time in more than a decade is something to be celebrated. The debate around the bill also had a new tone of urgency this year, and while religious conservatives used vicious anti-trans talking points to try to rally against the bill, America knew better. Majority support for the bill is unwavering and its passing from the Senate is a symbol that ENDA’s time is near.
3. Marriage Equality Returns to California
This summer the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the groundbreaking California Proposition 8 case, saying that Proposition 8′s supporters didn’t have standing to appeal to the court.
This had the effect of legalizing marriage equality in California. Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage recognition in 2008. Returning the freedom to marry to California wasn’t just big for the state of California, but for many states in the United States who have seen California’s constitutional amendment battle as the start of a massive campaign to overturn codified same-sex marriage bans throughout the land.
4. A Gay Soccer Player Takes to the Field
In June of this year, soccer player Robbie Rogers made a quiet bit of history as the world’s only openly gay top flight soccer player, taking to the pitch for LA Galaxy to a standing ovation from the crowd. Rogers had previously played for UK team Leeds, but left his contract when he came out. There are still only a handful of openly gay soccer players in any division, making his being open about his sexuality meaningful and a 2013 highlight.
5. Marriage Equality Comes to Hawaii
This year saw a number of massive marriage equality wins, with Illinois, and even Utah (however briefly) seeing marriage equality dawn. One that during this blockbuster year perhaps didn’t quite get the press it deserved is Hawaii’s gay marriage success. Legalized in November, Hawaii’s marriage equality efforts have a greater significance because, though it wasn’t quite the start of the marriage equality fight in the United States, Hawaii’s gay marriage court case in in the early 1990s ignited the national debate and is largely credited as being the driving force behind the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Seeing the end of Hawaii state’s gay marriage ban is therefore a nice way to end more than a decade of discrimination.
6. California Passes Landmark Trans Student Rights Bill
This year California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a groundbreaking bill that standardizes how California schools treat transgender students. Thanks to Assembly Bill 1266, trans students are guaranteed access to interscholastic sports, gym classes, locker rooms and bathrooms that accord with their gender identity, irrespective of their biological sex. Though there is an ongoing effort to repeal the law, LGBT rights groups and wider human rights groups have praised the bill for the care it extends to trans children and teens. Hopefully, it sets a precedent that other states will soon follow.
7. World’s Biggest Ex-Gay Group Closes its Doors
Ex-gay group Exodus International, a world leader in peddling the “ex-gay” meme, closed its doors this year with an apology from its leader Alan Chambers, who said he was sorry for peddling aggressive sexual orientation change efforts, stigmatizing gay parents and more. While the group didn’t dissolve completely, the change in direction and the recognition that many ex-gay groups embrace overtly anti-gay sentiments was an edifying one. Around the same time, New Jersey also passed a ban on ex-gay therapy, while California’s ban on ex-gay therapy was upheld by the courts.
8. Edith Windsor Wins Big at the Supreme Court
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning 83-year-old Edith Windsor, who this summer took the federal Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court of the United States and saw Section 3 of the law struck down. The overturning of this ban opened up federal recognition of same-sex marriages and therefore granted same-sex married couples access to more than 1,000 rights. What’s more, overturning DOMA Section 3 has been recognized as a massive boost to state level marriage equality battles, setting us up for an amazing 2014.
So that’s our list, but what’s yours? Please add your favorite LGBT rights victories in the comments below!
Photo credit: Thinkstock.
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