Defining a Decade: HRC Celebrates Progress Toward LGBTQ Equality

by HRC Staff

We are taking a look back at significant political moments for LGBTQ equality this decade and celebrating the achievements we have made together as a community.

This post was submitted by Hayley Miller, Associate Director of Digital and Social Media, and Emily Simeral Roberts, Associate Director of Digital Media and Marketing.

Throughout the past 10 years, we have made tremendous strides in the LGBTQ equality movement. Over the past three years, however, the Trump-Pence administration has launched an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, and HRC recognizes the work that lies ahead to achieve full equality.

As we approach the end of 2019, we are taking a look back at significant political moments for LGBTQ equality this decade and celebrating the achievements we have made together as a community.

Here are 10 of the standout moments in equality throughout the past 10 years, in no particular order:

Love Wins
In 2012, President Barack Obama came out in support of marriage equality, and later that year at the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic party became the first major political party in the country to support marriage equality on a national platform.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 in United States v. Windsor the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred same-sex couples from being officially recognized as spouses, was unconstitutional. This paved the way for the groundbreaking decision in the SCOTUS case Obergefell v. Hodges, when marriage equality became law of the land on June 26, 2015.


Out Officials Elected to Office
Throughout the decade, we saw several openly LGBTQ officials elected to public office across the country. In 2012, Sen. Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay U.S. Senator. She previously made history in 1998 when she became the first openly gay non-incumbent elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Also in 2012, then-Rep. Kyrsten Sinema made history when she became the first openly bisexual member of the House. In 2018, Sinema made history again when she became the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Senate. 

In 2015, bisexual Gov. Kate Brown was elected to office in Oregon and became the nation’s first openly LGBTQ governor. In 2017, Virginia Del. Danica Roem's electoral victory made her the first out transgender person elected and seated in a state legislature and Councilmember Andrea Jenkins became the first openly transgender Black woman to win public office in America. In 2018, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis became the nation's first openly gay man elected as governor. 

House Passes the Equality Act
In May 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, the first time a chamber of Congress approved a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill. The crucially important, bipartisan legislation will finally provide clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country in employment, housing, public spaces, education, jury servies, credit and federal funding.

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 was signed by President Obama, repealing the discriminatory ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual people serving in all branches of the military. For 17 years, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prohibited qualified Americans from serving in the armed forces.

Rainbow Wave in 2018 Midterms
During the 2018 midterm elections, HRC celebrated historic victories for LGBTQ candidates and pro-equality allies in key races across the nation. A record number of LGBTQ lawmakers were elected and reelected at all levels, including Angie Craig and Rep. Sharice Davids, who became the first gay Native American lawmaker in Congress. From coast-to-coast, voters showed up to the polls to reject the politics of hate and fear and support pro-equality lawmakers up and down the ballot.


Takedown of Anti-LGBTQ Politicians
Throughout the decade, several anti-LGBTQ politicans were defeated across the nation. Pat McCrory (eventually) accepted defeat in the North Carolina governor’s race in the fall of 2016. In 2017, pro-equality champion Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. 

Stonewall Cements Place in History Books
In June 2016, President Barack Obama designated the park at Stonewall as the first-ever national LGBTQ monument, paying tribute to the brave individuals who fought oppression and helped ignite a fire in a movement to end unfair and unjust discrimination against LGBTQ people. 

Three years later, millions gathered in New York City for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and World Pride. According to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, approximately 5 million people attended the events. 


Obama Administration Regulatory Victories 
President Barack Obama implemented rules that require all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs -- virtually every hospital in the country -- to permit patients to designate visitors of their choosing and prohibit discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity. President Obama also signed a crucial executive order to protect LGBTQ workers who work for a federal contractor from job discrimination along with a number of other significant policy or regulatory changes. In 2010, the Obama administration also reversed a 22-year ban on travel to the U.S. by people who tested positive for HIV. Prior to the policy change, the U.S. was one of only about a dozen countries with similar travel bans. 

Advancements in the U.S. Military 
In 2016, the Senate confirmed Eric Fanning to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Army. Sec. Fanning became the first openly gay leader of any U.S. military service, as well as the highest-ranking, Senate-confirmed openly LGBTQ appointed official.

That same year, the Pentagon announced an end to the discriminatory ban on transgender people serving openly in our military. One year later, however, the Trump-Pence administration announced a plan to reinstate the ban in a series of tweets. HRC continues to fight and is currently represented by Lambda Legal and the Modern Military Association of America in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Trump-Pence administration’s ban.

First Explicit Non-Discrimination Statute Passes
In 2013, the U.S. House passed the Senate-approved version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that included important protections for LGBTQ people. It marked the first time any federal non-discrimination provisions included “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” President Obama signed the bill into law in March 2013, in effect ensuring explicit protections for LGBTQ victims of domestic violence.