13 of 2013’s biggest moments in LGBT history

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1. Edie Windsor took on the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, and successfully brought down the legislation that prevented same-sex couples from accessing the same legal benefits afforded their opposite-sex counterparts, kicking off a year that would see ten states grant equal marriage rights to the LGBT community.

2. Chelsea Manning, the infamous whistleblower who shared classified information on Wikileaks in order to bring to light abuses happening on the military forefront in Afghanistan, came out as transgender after her sentencing, announcing her intention to fight for medical support for her transition while serving her time the United States military prison system. Her heavily covered story forced many in the media to learn how to properly report on transgender identities.

3. “Same Love,” the rap-pop single by the straight rapper Macklemore and lesbian vocalist Mary Lambert, wins the MTV Video Music Award for “Best Video with a Social Message.” Recorded during the campaign for marriage equality in Washington state, the song celebrates queer romance and imparts a strong message of support for the LGBT community: we all enjoy the same love.

4. California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1266 into law, granting transgender students in the California public school system the right to use and access the facilities on campus in a manner that conforms with their respective gender identity. The bill is expected to take effect January 2014.

5. In response to a question about gay priests in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis asked “Who am I to judge,” sparking a year long love affair between social media and the pontiff. Highlights include Francis’Gospel of Joy blaming capitalism, not homosexuals, for the deterioration of interpersonal relationships, and his open criticism of church officials’ “obsession” with gay marriage and abortion. 

6. The Employee Non Discrimination Act is passed by the Senate after receiving support from four Republicans and all of the Democratic Senators; the victory was 20 years in the making. ENDA will add protections for gays, lesbians, intersex, and transgender employees in the workplace, if it passes the House floor.

7. Russia passed an “anti-propaganda” law, making it illegal to inform minors that homosexuals exist. The legislation’s wording is vague, and its application so broad, that it has been used to silence protestors seeking protection for the LGBT community, and forced athletes to remove rainbow nail polish. International uproar has challenged many states and corporations to reconsider their relationship with the Russian state, in order to show support for the LGBT community. 

8. Ten states passed same-sex marriage in 2013, either by court decision, state legislature, or popular vote, bringing the total states within the union granting equal marriage rights to 18. The states are: California (June 28, 2013), New Jersey (Oct. 21, 2013), New Mexico (Dec. 19, 2013), Utah (Dec. 20, 2013, Delaware (July 1, 2013), Hawaii (Dec. 2, 2013), Illinois (law will take effect June 1, 2014), Minnesota (Aug. 1, 2013), Rhode Island (Aug. 1, 2013), and Maryland (Jan. 1, 2013). 

9. 2013 also saw five countries grant same-sex marriage rights, including France (Feb. 2, 2013), England and Wales (Feb. 5, 2013),Brazil (May 14, 2013), Uruguay (Aug. 5, 2013), New Zealand (Aug. 19, 2013), bringing the total number of nations with same-sex marriage rights to 16.

10. Jason Collins becomes the first athlete in the NBA to come out, forever changing the culture around sports in the US, as well as joining professional athletes around the world who are helping create LGBT visibility in the sports community, including Tom Daley, Anastasia Bucsis, and Garbielle Ludwig.

11. Opponents of LGBT rights floundered this year as cultural attitudes in the Western world shifted towards acceptance and celebration of queer issues. Just to name a few: the National Organization for Marriage went $2 million in debt trying to fight the wave of marriage equality sweeping the nation; Liz Cheney, Senate candidate for the state of Wyoming, was openly criticized by her sister for her anti-gay political stance; and Exodus International, the largest “ex-gay” group, shut its doors June 2013. 

12. 2013 saw the rise of queer hip hop stars, with reigning New Orleans diva Big Freedia gaining national attention and a television show for her quick wit and sharp dance moves, Le1f hitting media headlines with his critique of Macklemore’s role in LGBT politics, and Angel Haze poised to release a much anticipated album Dec. 30, 2014, following hype from her remake series #30GOLD which included a cover of Macklemore’s “Same Love” in which she talked about her own queerness. 

13. In August, the Department of Defense announced that federal benefits would be extended to same-sex spouses of military service members. Specifically, benefits that were already provided to heterosexual couples, including spousal identification cards, healthcare, housing, and family separation allowance. The announcement from the Pentagon read, “The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs.”

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