This past year was a historic one when it came to great strives made in the battle for equality. On June 26th we saw the Supreme Court rule that the denial of federal benefits of marriage to married same-sex couples unconstitutional, as well as the overturning of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act.) By August 19th, 15 countries allowed gay marriage, 11 years after Netherlands became the very first to give same sex marriages the green light.
As we move into 2014, the evolution continues. On December 20th, Utah became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage, and with DOMA being a thing of the past, the remaining states aren’t far behind.
With all this positive change in the fight for marriage equality, there were some major key players who loudly and fearlessly sounded off, stood their ground and didn't waiver in their belief that marriage is indeed a human right, and not one that should only be afforded to straight couples. These people, just as those before them and those who will come after them, who have fought for equally, will forever be associated with one of the most important rights: the right to love and have that love be recognized.
1. Edith Windsor
No one will ever forget the five-decade long love story of Edith Windsor and her late partner, Thea Spyer. When Spyer died in 2007, after the couple had been legally married in Canada in 2007, she had left her entire estate to Windsor. However, DOMA, declaring a "spouse" to only be as such in a marriage between a woman and a man, prevented Windsor from claiming the estate under the same tax-exempt laws allowed to straight couples.
In United States vs. Windsor, all that changed when it was found unconstitutional for the words "marriage" and "spouse" to only apply to straight marriages. It was not just a win for Windsor, but a win for all of us.
2. Chad Griffin
President of the Human Rights Campaign, Griffin has been challenging California's Proposition 8 since the beginning in 2008. His efforts finally saw the light of day when, the same day DOMA was overturned, Proposition 8 was also deemed unconstitutional. Griffin is listed at #16 in Out Magazine’s list of the most powerful LGBT activists in the U.S. He’s been on the list since 2010, with each year finding him closer and closer to #1.
3. Pope Francis
In March, after eight years of Pope Benedict XVI's reign that wasn't winning the Catholic Church any points, Pope Francis, a living-breathing saint, took his place in the Vatican. In addition to being probably the most progressive pope in recent history, Pope Francis' comments on homosexuality have put him on the "right" side of history, as they say.
Along with refusing to judge someone strictly because they're gay, the Pope told Jesuit Catholic journals, "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person."
Although the likelihood of finding Pope Francis officially endorsing gay marriage may still be a ways off, being the first pope in history to not condemn homosexuality opened the closed minds and hearts of millions of Catholics everywhere.
4. Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo
They may not have been officially looking to be part of something bigger than themselves, but when Katami and Zarrillo made a video entitled "Weathering the Storm," as their "cathartic" way of dealing with the National Organization for Marriage's "Gathering the Storm" ad that disgustingly was meant to "protect" marriage, people took notice. Before long, their video, one that showed that love comes in many forms, was discovered by the Human Rights Campaign, and the couple became plaintiffs in the fight to get Proposition 8 shutdown for good. The two men became one of the many faces of love and the importance of marriage equality not just in California, but for the whole country.
5. Rob Portman
When his son, Will, came out in 2011, the Republican junior U.S. Senator from Ohio was forced to re-examine his thoughts on gay marriage. On March 14th, Portman became the first sitting Republican to support the legalization of same sex marriage, proving that love for one's child will forever outweigh obligations to constituents. Keep Reading ...
More juicy stories from YourTango: