Marriage equality made huge waves in 2014, with a number of states legalizing same-sex marriage and courts overturning same-sex marriage bans. In the past year, a number of notable celebrities and activists advocated for the rights of same-sex couples, including a high-profile CEO who came out to the public a week ago.
As The Advocate will unveil its Person of the Year tonight on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell at 10 p.m. ET, below are some individuals who have championed for LGBT equality in courtrooms, places of worship, playing fields, workplaces and beyond.
After a string of court-led victories, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to reconsider the appeals in the Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin cases, clearing the way for same-sex couples to wed there.
Another Supreme Court battle could be on the way. Late Thursday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee by a two-to-one vote. Federal judge Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote that these "social" issues should be decided by the political process, not the judicial process.
In September, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience at the University of Minnesota's Law School that "there will be some urgency" from the Supreme Court should the Sixth Circuit panel rule against same-sex marriage.
United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ, along with a coalition of clergy members and same-sex couples, filed a federal lawsuit in April seeking to overturn North Carolina's ban on same-sex nuptials. In October, District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. gave the green light to issue same-same marriage licenses.
A proponent of marriage equality since 2005, the United Church of Christ also became the first major Protestant church to ordain an openly gay minister.
Lennie & Pearl
Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin, frequent guests of The Last Word, joined the fight for their home state of North Carolina to legally recognize same-sex marriage and became plaintiffs in the same federal lawsuit as The United Church of Christ.
After 47 years, the couple finally wed in Maine.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by the National Football League, came out in February after he finished his college football career and headed into the NFL draft. "I’m Michael Sam, I’m a football player, and I’m gay," said the 24-year-old in an interview with the New York Times.
On the final day of the 2014 draft, Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. He immediately celebrated with a now famous kiss with his boyfriend during a national television broadcast.
After years of speculation, Tim Cook revealed in an op-ed that he is gay, becoming the first and only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
"So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me," Cook said in Businessweek.
Cast your vote in our poll below and let us know who you think The Advocate should name its Person of the Year! The grand unveiling will happen tonight at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC!