A Reason to Revel – LGBT Victories in 2011

In 2011, LGBT people made some real gains in the struggle towards equality. We’ll recap just some of these victories, while acknowledging that the fight is far from over, and that along with the positive leaps forward, there is still fierce resistance and backlash against LGBT people and their allies.

The United States, led by the Obama administration, made several changes in the law that will impact LGBT people positively.


  • •  In February, the Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court, with a statement by Attorney General Eric Holder saying that Obama has concluded DOMA is “unconstitutional.”
  • •  The United States Department of State begins issuing passport applications that ask applicants for “Mother or parent one” and “Father or parent two” instead of for “Father” and “Mother.
  • •  On April 29, the US Department of Labor updated its internal equal employment opportunity policy to bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
  • •  In August, Obama signed a proclamation ordering the State Department to bar from entry into the United States anyone who has engaged in oppression against various groups, including those defined by “sexual orientation or gender identity.”
  • •  The July 6, 2011 ruling from a federal appeals court barred further enforcement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay service members.
  • •  In October, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued a memo allowing patients to choose who visits them during inpatient stays, including same-sex partners.
  • •  Earlier this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, Obama introduced the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
  • •  The Obama Administration this year issued a memo directing U.S. agencies overseas to use foreign aid to assist LGBT people who are facing human rights violations and to protect LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.
  • •  In her groundbreaking speech to the UN, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton declares that LGBT rights are human rights, and urged all nations to be “on the right side of history.”

The United States saw more state, church and tribe initiatives towards equality for LGBT people.

  • •  On June 24th, a 36-26 vote legalized same-sex marriage in New York State.
  • •  Civil unions go into effect or are approved in Illinois, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
  • •  Hawaii, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Nevada passed transgender anti-discrimination laws.
  • •  In August, the Suquamish tribe in the Pacific Northwest, voted unanimously to legalize same-sex marriage.
  • •  New Jersey passed “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights,” the strictest law of its kind in the country.
  • •  California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Gender Nondiscrimination Act and the Vital Statistics Modernization Act. AB 443 makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, education, housing, and other public settings based on gender identity or expression and AB 887 allows transgender people to obtain a court order to protect their gender.
  • •  The Presbyterian Church approved a constitutional amendment allowing for the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships.
  • •  The Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network issued the first resource that provides schools with solutions to creating trans-inclusive policies.

Around the world, LGBT people saw major steps towards equal and fair treatment.



  • •  The United Nations Human Rights Council passed the first-ever resolution calling for global rights for LGBT people.
  • •  Elio Di Rupo is named Prime Minister of Belgium, becoming the first openly gay man to lead a country.
  • •  In 2011, four countries vow to decriminalize homosexuality: São Tomé and Príncipe, Nauru, The Seychelles and Northern Cyprus. In South America, Chile and Colombia pass anti-discrimination laws.
  • •  Nepal takes a national census and officially recognizes a third gender in addition to male and female.
  • •  Brazil ruled in a unanimous 10-0 decision to legalize same-sex civil unions. Ireland and Liechtenstein also legalize civil unions.
  • •  In October, one of the world’s most progressive transgender equality laws was passed in Argentina’s parliament.
  • •  In the United Kingdom, a plan for comprehensive changes to ensure equality for trans people was announced.
  • •  Chile passed an anti-discrimination based on gender identity law.
  • •  Poland swore in its first gay and transgender Members of Parliament in 2011.
  • •  The blood donation ban was lifted in Scotland, England and Wales, allowing gay men to donate blood.

In other news,

•  Zach Wahls’ February 2011 testimony before the Iowa state legislature defending marriage equality stands now at almost 20 million views on YouTube, making it the most-watched political video of 2011.

•  Chaz Bono, the transgender son of Cher, was a contestant on Dancing With the Stars, bringing trans visibility to new heights in the United States.

•  Lady Gaga released Born This Way, a gay anthem for the ages, and started the Born This Way Foundation. She also pulled out of a deal with Target because of the company’s corporate policies on political donations and how they negatively impact the LGBT community.

•   Openly gay Neil Patrick Harris (who is also a new father) hosted the Tony Awards and openly gay Jane Lynch hosted the Emmy Awards.

•  It was a good year to publicly come out for actress Amber Heard, actor Zachary Quinto, news anchor Don Lemon, NKOTB’s Jonathan Knight, tv host Mo Rocca, NBA exec Rick Welts, actor Sean Maher, cricket star Steven Davies, and Judge Vaughn Walker – to name a few.