A Good Year For Gay And Lesbian Rights

Same-sex couple Joseph and Jim pose for a photo as they wait to be officially married at the Manhattan City Clerk's Office on July 24, 2011, the first day gay couples were allowed to legally marry in New York. i i

Same-sex couple Joseph and Jim pose for a photo as they wait to be officially married at the Manhattan City Clerk's Office on July 24, 2011, the first day gay couples were allowed to legally marry in New York. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images
Same-sex couple Joseph and Jim pose for a photo as they wait to be officially married at the Manhattan City Clerk's Office on July 24, 2011, the first day gay couples were allowed to legally marry in New York.

Same-sex couple Joseph and Jim pose for a photo as they wait to be officially married at the Manhattan City Clerk's Office on July 24, 2011, the first day gay couples were allowed to legally marry in New York.

Getty Images

In 2011, gays and lesbians made two important gains: the military's policy barring gays from serving was repealed and gay marriage was legalized in New York state.

"It's a huge, huge deal," says journalist Kai Wright of the vote by the New York state legislature, even though same-sex marriage is legal in several states. "Legally, big states are bullies, and it's going to be hard to move forward without squaring that with federal law and other state laws."

Wright sees the New York marriages coming into conflict with the military's new policy. He expects courts will have to decide whether or not spouses of service members are entitled to federal benefits.

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