It was the interview heard around the world.
On May 9, President Barack Obama granted an interview with ABC News anchor Robin Roberts to announce he had “evolved” on the issue of marriage equality and now supported same-sex marriage.
“I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” the president said.
The pronouncement marked the first time in the nation’s history that a sitting president openly supported marriage equality.
Obama’s support came days after Vice President Joe Biden hinted in a media interview that he supported same-sex marriage.
While LGBT opponents and critics of the president denounced the move as a political ploy, it was met with widespread celebration by marriage-equality supporters, most of whom hailed the move, regardless of its motivation, for its historic nature.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said Obama’s “words today will be celebrated by generations to come.”
When Obama was re-elected in November, it marked the first time the nation elected a pro-marriage-equality president.
Movement on DOMA, Prop. 8
This past year saw a wave of developments in the fight against the federal ban on same-sex marriage and the long-embattled Proposition 8 case in California.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced in December that it will consider both cases in the coming months. A decision is expected on Prop. 8, and on Philadelphia native Edie Windsor’s challenge to DOMA, by June.
In February, a three-judge panel of California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s 2010 finding that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional. The court later declined an en-banc hearing of the case, paving the way for Prop. 8 proponents to appeal the case to the nation’s top court.
Also in February, a California district judge ruled DOMA unconstitutional. That trend was followed by a three-judge panel of a Massachusetts appellate court in May, marking the first time a federal appellate court had found the law unconstitutional. In June, a New York district judge also ruled it unconstitutional in Windsor’s case, a finding echoed by a district judge in Connecticut in July. This fall, a federal appellate court in New York became the first ever to rule that gays and lesbians deserve intermediate scrutiny — a stricter form of constitutional review — as it upheld the lower-court’s ruling in Windsor’s case.
At-home HIV test hits shelves
The field of HIV testing saw a major change this year with the introduction of the first-ever at-home test kit.
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter, self-administered HIV test, OraQuick In-Home HIV Test.
The product, manufactured by OraSure Technologies, Inc., in Bethlehem, allows people to take an oral-fluid swab from their mouths and get results within 40 minutes.
While some advocates cautioned that consumers needed to be aware of the next steps should they receive a positive result, the development was welcomed by most as a new means to fight the epidemic.
OraQuick was released in October. The manufacturer set up an around-the-clock hotline for consumers who have questions about how to use the kit or about results.
An election to cheer about
President Barack Obama beat out Republican challenger Mitt Romney Nov. 6 — a night that also made LGBT history.
For the first time ever, the issue of marriage equality passed a voter referendum — in not just one, but four, states. In Maryland, Washington and Maine, voters approved their states’ pending marriage-equality laws, bringing the total number of states that will soon sanction same-sex marriage to nine, plus Washington, D.C. Voters in Minnesota also successfully beat back a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Equality Maryland executive director Carrie Evans said the day after the election that it marked a major turning point for marriage equality.
“It was really affirming that we truly are a social-change movement, and that came together for all of us last night,” she said.
Previously, each time an amendment to limit marriage had been placed on the ballot — more than 30 times — it succeeded, and each time a pro-marriage-equality law made it to voters, it failed.
It was estimated that 90 percent of LGBTs who voted in the election went for Obama. The president’s victory was clear-cut in Philadelphia, where he captured 85 percent of the vote, and closer, yet still successful, statewide, with Obama ultimately receiving 52 percent of Pennsylvania’s vote, over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
EEOC issues landmark trans ruling
In a breakthrough decision in the spring, the federal agency that oversees employment-discrimination complaints determined that transgender workers are protected under a national law.
The Equality Employment Opportunity Commission found in April that discrimination on the basis of sex in Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to issues involving trans discrimination.
The ruling is binding for all federal agencies and must be followed by all local EEOC chapters.
The commission noted that sex discrimination should be interpreted widely, as “the term ‘gender’ encompasses not only a person’s biological sex but also the cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.”
The decision came in the legal dispute between Mia Macy, a transgender woman, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which denied her an offer of employment after she disclosed her transgender status.