With a landmark court decision to two professional athletes coming out, the gay rights movement had a game-changing year in 2013.
From California to Utah, nine states legalized gay marriage this year, making a total of 18 states where same sex marriage is now legal. Support for same-sex marriage also reached an all-time high, with 58 percent of Americans showing support in an ABC News/Washington Post poll. And from the armed services to professional athletes, prominent figures raised their voices for gay rights.
The shift toward greater acceptance of gays and lesbians came as the U.S. Supreme Court made its historic ruling in the case brought by Edie Windsor, one of 2013′s “This Week” game changers. Windsor and her partner of 42 years were married in Canada in 2007, and Windsor sued to have their marriage recognized in the U.S.
“When I first saw it, I was terrified,” Windsor said of the name of the case, United States v. Windsor, in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer this summer after the court’s landmark rulings. “I thought what have I done? And then I gradually … understood that the government wasn’t going to be personally mad at me.”
Although her partner Thea Spyer did not live to see the ruling, Windsor said she knows she would be proud of their role in helping to gain broader support for same sex marriage.
“I know what she would say. She would say, ‘You did it, honey,’” Windsor said.
Another game changer in the gay rights movement this year has been soccer star Robbie Rogers, midfielder for the L.A. Galaxy. Earlier this year after retiring from his British soccer team, Rodgers posted a personal note to his blog telling his fans he was gay. He soon became the first gay athlete to join a U.S. Major League Soccer team when he signed with the Galaxy.
“I was really, really nervous. And then instantly after I sent it, I was — I felt, like, so much lighter,” Rogers told ABC’s David Wright for “This Week.”
It’s been nearly unheard of for a professional athlete to come out in the prime of their career, but Rogers noted that the momentum of 2013 made it easier. And from soccer fans to his own family, Rogers says he has felt a great deal of support.
“I have had like, thousands and thousands of emails, and letters, and everything from people from everywhere, from everywhere around the country or the world,” Rogers said.
While Rogers says there have been a few derogatory remarks from the sidelines, he jokes that the locker room has not been awkward.
“In our locker room, the guys are very respectful. And, you know, we make jokes,” Rogers said. “I’m the first person they come to for, like, fashion advice.”
Veteran NBA center Jason Collins also came out in 2013, becoming the first U.S. professional athlete in a team sport to do so. In an interview this spring, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that his advice to a young athlete who may be gay would be, “It doesn’t matter that you’re gay, but the key thing is that it’s about basketball.”
“Hopefully, going forward, I can be someone else’s role model,” Collins added.
But while Collins and Rogers hope to be role models, Rogers says he has yet to hear from any other gay athletes who have yet to come out publicly.
“Not one has reached out to me. You know, Jason and I are friends. We talk all the time. But besides that, I haven’t spoken to any other athletes that are closeted … No one,” Rogers said.
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