How Have Politicians of the 21st Century Impacted Gay Rights?

January 1, 2001, marked the first day of the 21st century. Since that date, over 20 years ago, politicians in the United States have had a significant impact on gay rights.

That said the greatest force behind all rights for those who identify as LGBTQ was the community.  Grassroots efforts, lobbying, and an incredibly vocal force encouraged politicians to support legislation that positively impacted the LGBTQ population.

Over the past twenty-plus years, we have seen significant progress.  Consider what has happened.

To begin, a host of states (including, but not limited to Rhode Island, Maryland, New York, Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, Indiana and Louisiana, Maine, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, California, Delaware, Oregon, and Vermont) have passed and enacted a broad range of anti-discrimination legislation. And notably, in 2009, the US Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

During this same time, many states repealed their sodomy laws and still others passed and enacted civil union/registered partnership and limited partnership laws. In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed local city halls to offer same-sex couples marriage licenses.  Eventually, states began to adopt same-sex marriage laws. In June of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that opportunity for those of the same sex to marry was guaranteed under the 14th amendment of the Constitution.

Also,  some states passed laws to end bans on same-sex couple adoption, providing members of the community with the opportunity to adopt and provide warm and loving homes to countless children.

On a national level, members of the LGBTQ community won elections to office. Some of these individuals include Kim Coco Iwamoto (who is transgender), Tammy Baldwin, Annise Parker, and Patricia Todd. Having these individuals (and others) in positions of leadership helped bring awareness to important issues.

Other changes that we have seen that have been impacted by politicians over the years include laws regarding serving in the military, laws protecting people who are transgender, and more.

As members of the LGBTQ community it is important to realize that although we have made great strides over the years, we still have so much to do. We must continue to be vocal to end hate, improve rights and protect ourselves, our families, and those we love.  Voting for individuals who will actively support our rights is critical, our voices matter.  

Politicians have definitely had an impact on gay rights, but our impact- as a group - is one we will continue to celebrate and leverage.