The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals seeking to preserve bans on marriage for same-sex couples. President Obama finally signed a long-sought executive order protecting LGBT people who work for federal contractors. And an openly gay college football player kissed his boyfriend in front of a television camera after becoming the first openly gay player to be hired by a professional team.
Oh, yes, and the Republican Party won a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Those are likely to be the most remembered events for LGBT people for 2014 — a year packed with many important events, both symbolic and significant, but a year that nonetheless played second fiddle to 2013. Many of the LGBT headlines in 2014 centered on marriage because, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. That prompted court after court to echo that decision, in U.S. v. Windsor, while striking down state bans on such marriages around the country.
Polls indicated that public opinion about same-sex relationships improved more dramatically this year than on any other controversial issue, with 58 percent telling Gallup that “gay and lesbian relations” are “morally acceptable.”
And a federal district court judge appointed by Republican President George W. Bush declared a marriage ban in Pennsylvania unconstitutional, adding, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard [such bans] into the ash heap of history.”
By this time next year, there’s a good chance that bans on same-sex marriage will be on the ash heap of history, and the Supreme Court could make that happen in the coming months.
But, first, here’s a look back on what the LGBT history books will likely record as the political and legal events of 2014 which had the greatest impact on LGBT lives:
1. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an Orders List October 6, the first day of its 2014-15 session, denying petitions from five states seeking to preserve bans on same-sex marriage.
The refusal to take up the appeals meant that at least six justices did not feel the appeals merited consideration (it takes four justices to agree to hear an appeal before it can be taken up by the full court). And, given that the refusal to hear the appeals meant that same-sex couples could suddenly get married in a whole host of new states, it signaled that those six justices will almost certainly vote to overturn state bans on same-sex marriage once the court does take a case.
Just one month after the Supreme Court denied to hear the appeals, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals became the only federal appeals court to have upheld the constitutionality of such bans. In doing so, it prompted a new round of appeals, ones seeking to strike down the state bans, and ones the high court will now almost certainly review or reverse without argument.
Meanwhile, by year’s end, same-sex couples could obtain marriage licenses in 35 states (though appeals were still alive in eight of those states). By January 5, couples can obtain marriage licenses in Florida, while that state’s appeal continues.
By comparison, at the end of 2013, same-sex couples could marry in only 17 states.