lgbt flag pic2015 was a banner year for LGBT rights in America. Of course, legalization of same-sex marriage (now just known as Marriage) was the biggest victory. But Caitlyn Jenner was a hot topic. And there were some smaller victories in anti-discrimination laws. Here’s a rundown of the big events for LGBT rights in the US in 2015, according to Vox.com’s article The biggest moments in LGBTQ rights in 2015:

Marriage equality

The biggest news of the year for LGBT Americans was marriage equality. In June 2015, the US Supreme Court struck down all states’ bans against same-sex marriage because the laws violated Due Process and Equal Protection. Now, same-sex couples can marry anywhere in the country.

Read Marriage Equality – The Whole Enchilada

Read Rome Wasn’t Built in a day; neither will LGBT equality. But we have the cornerstones.

With same-sex marriage also came the right to dissolve those marriages – so all states now must allow same-sex couples to divorce. Before the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, couples who were married in states that acknowledged same-sex marriages could not seek a divorce if they moved and lived in a state that did not recognize those marriage. (Many couples who married elsewhere and moved to Texas were in this position, but now Texas has to allow same-sex couples to divorce too.) This left many couples in limbo without recognition. The new decision from the US Supreme Court changed all of that.

The fight over religious freedom

The shifting tide toward same-sex marriage brought on a backlash from many religious conservatives, resulting in many political and legal battles over religious freedom in 2015. Who can forget Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, even after multiple orders telling her to do so, relying on her religious principles to justify her actions. Davis’ defiance led to her arrest and eventually she was released under a compromise that allowed her to abstain from issuing licenses while her staff at the clerk’s office continues to do so.

Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender

Another big shift in LGBT rights came through the Kardashians – Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender. Her very public reveal brought an opportunity to educate American society about gender identity and trans issues. Although trans-Americans make up a very small portion of the US population – less than 1% — the first step in advancing trans rights in the US is educating the public on the basics and exposing Americans to trans people.

Utah passed an anti-discrimination for LGBTQ people

Most states laws do not prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in workplace, housing, and public accommodations. But, in 2015, Utah – an unlikely state to embrace the LGBT community – was added to the list of states to protect LGBTQ people.

A federal agency applied the Civil Rights Act of1964 to protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual people

Many believe that, although most states do not have laws protecting LGBT people, the federal Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act already provide some protections. Since 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which oversees federal employees’ discrimination complaints, has prohibited discrimination based on gender identity under federal law. In 2015, the EEOC ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited too. While these rulings are not law, they can influence courts in favor of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.