The year 2013 is indeed a year full of milestones, especially in terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. A lot of events happened during the year, from the two Supreme Court rulings, President Barack Obama making special mention to the “gay brothers and sisters” in his inaugural address, National Basketball Association (NBA) player Jason Collins coming out in the pages of Sports Illustrated, to the enactment of the ENDA.
Clearly, the year 2013 has been dubbed “the banner year” for gay rights, and it is largely due to the epic change in public opinion over certain issues pertaining to the LGBT community, particularly with regard to same-sex marriage. Years before 2013, a large majority of Americans were strictly against gay marriage, according to various polls. About 10 years ago, all states do not permit such unions.
Since then, a lot of states have already enacted laws that legalize same-sex marriage. This year alone, a total of eight (8) states allowed gay marriage, which doubled the total count in nation, which stands at 15, including Washington, D.C. By next year, the total will become 16, in which the State of Illinois’ same-sex marriage law will take effect June 1, 2014.
The gay rights movement’s momentum took an unprecedented boost after a 5-4 vote by the Supreme Court deemed the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) unconstitutional. The landmark decision, which was made June 26 amidst the rejoicing throng of the LGBT community and supporters, was then followed by a ruling towards Proposition 8. The said initiative, which would effectively ban same-sex marriage in California, was ruled by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional as well.
Victories among the LGBTs continue to pile up after the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate. The said bill, which is now waiting in the U.S. House of Representatives, will prevent businesses with 15 or more employees from discriminating against LGBT workers. Interestingly, seven senators under the Republican slate joined in on voting in favor of the bill, which has been resurrected time and again since it was introduced in 1994.
The year 2014 for the gay rights movement is still unknown, but the LGBT community, as well as its supporters and activists, are hopeful that the momentum gained throughout the course of 2013 will rub off the next year. They are hoping that more states will enact laws allowing same-sex marriage as such unions are still illegal in 33 states. They’re also eager to fight for the workers’ rights in various states wherein employers can fire workers based on their sexual orientation.
Incidentally, a lot of state laws, including California employment laws, have been protecting individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), in particular, is California’s premier anti-discrimination law, making it illegal to discriminate, harass, and retaliate against employees and applicants on the basis of gender.