That got us thinking of other everyday people who helped advance equality over the past year, either through advocacy work or by using their platforms to raise awareness.
This is an anecdotal sampling. Of course, there are many more than listed here, so please add more in the comments section below.
Scroll down to see 13 Heroes of 2013…
16-year-old Jack Andraka made international headlines when he discovered a near-100 percent accurate test for pancreatic cancer, creating the possibility of early cures and treatments. The gay whiz kid has been honored by everyone from President Obama to the Vatican, but insists he’s just a regular guy.
“I’m not the creepy guy that wears big glasses and hides out in the corner,” he said in an interview with MetroWeekly in August.
Ohio teacher Carla Hale was fired in April after school officials learned she was a lesbian via her mother’s obituary. Hale had been a gym teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, a Catholic school, for 19 years. Though students protested her termination, Hale was not offered her job back. She did, however, recieve a settlement from the Diocese of Columbus. By standing up, and not shrinking away, she brought awareness to the discrimination that still happens to LGBT people inside the Catholic school system.
Sen. Scott Dibble
Openly-gay State Senator Scott Dibble was a key figure in fight for marriage equality in Minnesota. Not only did he co-author the same-sex marriage bill, but he fought tirelessly for passage. He was also on hand when Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law on May 14, 2013, making Minnesota the second state in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage.
Lesbian activist Genora Dancel was denied a marriage license in Hawaii on December 17, 1990. In 1993 the Hawaii Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling saying Dancel’s equal protection rights had been violated. 23 years later, with same-sex marriage finally legal in the Aloha state, Dancel wed her partner of 15 years on December 17, 2013. The same clerk who denied her marriage license in 1990 approved it this time. Dancel told one news outlet that being legally married outweighed all the bad feelings she experienced during her struggle.
Stephen Ira, the transgender son of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, used his platform to speak on behalf of trans people in New York. Partnering with GLAAD and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Ira appeared in a PSA for the “Healthcare For All” campaign which fights against a New York state medicaid regulation that denies coverage for transgender people.
Pat “P.J.” Newton
Earlier this year, Lesbian entrepreneur Pat “P.J.” Newton stood up to city council members in the town of Shannon, Mississippi (pop. 1,753) after she was denied a license to open a gay bar there. She is currently suing the town for violations of civil rights, free speech, and equal protection.
17-year-old GLBT activist Justin Barr grabbed the nation’s attention over the summer when he met with city council members in his hometown of Greenville, Michigan (pop. 8,460) to request they adopt a non-discrimination ordinance in their city. In September, Queerty spoke to the young activist about his work and his experience being gay in a small town.
Susan Belyea and Karen Kubinsky
Lesbian couple Susan Belyea and Karen Kubinsky made headlines in July when they received multiple threats of violence mailed to their home in Ontario, Canada. After going public, they received an outpouring of support. Their story is a reminder that, while bigotry still exists, homophobes are now outnumbered.
Rep. Brian Sims
Last fall, Brian Sims became the first openly gay person elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He took office on January 1, 2013. In June, he was blocked from speaking about DOMA by House Republicans. Since then, Sims has become a prominent voice, working with to promote both non-discrimination laws and marriage equality.
Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo
Finally, we have to give a shout out to the two couples that led the charge to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo played a large role in the advancement of equality not only in the Golden State, but in the country as a whole. Their victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in June helped set a precedent for other state’s the follow.