What a year. Same-sex relationship recognition saw huge gains in 2013, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, eight new states legalizing gay marriage and, in Montana, finally the removal of the state's deviate sexual conduct law.
The good news began here in Montana during the legislative session, when the state's "deviate sexual conduct" law, which declared gay sex illegal, was finally taken off the books. The ACLU of Montana and other LGBT rights organizations have been working on this since 1997 when the Montana Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional. But session after session the legislature refused to take the law off the books. This year the tide finally turned.
Then in May, three states -- Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota -- legalized gay marriage. In all three, the state legislatures passed the law.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA in the ACLU case Windsor v. United States. What a fantastic day! Now gay marriage is recognized by the federal government and married same-sex couples are eligible for the same benefits as opposite-sex married couples.
In September New Jersey's courts ruled same-sex marriages must be legal. Then in the last two months of the year, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico and Utah all legalized same-sex marriage (either through the courts or legislature), bringing the total number of states where gay and lesbian couples can wed to 18.
And just today an Ohio judge ruled that gay marriages must be recognized on death certificates -- an important step toward legalization in that state.
In addition, the U.S. Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act last week. Included within the act is a repeal of the military’s discriminatory ban on private, consensual intimate conduct – defined in Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) as "unnatural carnal copulation." While the move protects the intimate relationships of all service members, it is especially significant for gay and lesbian service members.
As we move into 2014, three Montana cities -- Butte, Bozeman and Billings -- are working on nondiscrimination ordinances to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. Here's hoping that 2014 has as much good news as 2013.