2000: Vermont recognizes same-sex unions
A 1997 lawsuit led to Vermont passing a bill guaranteeing same-sex partners the same legal rights as married people. The Vermont Supreme Court held that the state was unconstitutionally discriminating against gay and lesbian couples. In 2009, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
2000: Netherlands recognizes same-sex marriage
After changing one sentence in their legislation, gay and lesbian couples in the Netherlands were given the right to marry, divorce, and adopt. The Dutch country was the first in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
2002: New York City passes LGBTQ+ rights law
When New York City passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), it became illegal to discriminate in work, housing, school, or public services based on someone's sexual orientation.
2003: U.S. legalizes consensual same-sex acts
The Supreme Court legalized all consensual sex acts between same-sex adults after the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. “Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government, “ wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
2004: Massachusetts performs first same-sex marriage
On May 17, 2004, Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey became the first same-sex couple to get married in the U.S. A year earlier, the Massachusetts Supreme Court had ruled that the ban on marriage for gay and lesbian couples was illegal. It took until 2008 for another state—Connecticut—to follow.
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2009: Hate Crimes Prevention Act
President Barack Obama enacted the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to give the U.S. Department of Justice additional funding to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. This includes crimes committed based on a victim's race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Some activists, however, feel the law did not do enough to increase prosecution of crimes against LGBTQ+ people.
2010: Same-sex marriage legal in Iceland
After same-sex marriage became legal in Iceland, the country's openly lesbian prime minister wed her long-time partner. Johanna Sigurdardottir and Jonina Leosdottir were previously in a civil union. That same year, same-sex marriage became legal in Portugal and Argentina.
2011: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repealed
At 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2011, “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” was no longer in effect. President Barack Obama signed a law repealing the policy in December of 2010. The decision allowed gay and lesbian troops to serve openly in the military.
2012: First openly LGBTQ+ senator
Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay or lesbian senator in 2012. Before heading to the Senate, Baldwin served as one of only four openly gay members of the House.
2013: Supreme Court recognizes same-sex marriage
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court held that the Defense of Marriage Act—which stated that marriage could only be between a man and a woman—was unconstitutional. They also decided not to hear a case about Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. This paved the way for nationwide marriage equality, which would come two years later.
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