A lot has changed since the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was instituted 17 years ago. HATE CRIMES. President Barack Obama's signing last year of hate crimes legislation marked the first time gays and lesbians were given comprehensive legal status as a protected class.
GAY MARRIAGE. Five states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws permitting marriage of gay couples. Another nine states have granted various degrees of similar rights to gay domestic partners. PUBLIC SUPPORT. A Pew poll taken last year showed 59 percent of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, up from 52 percent in 1994.
CENSUS. The U.S. Census has for the first time begun tabulating information about gay couples who live together.
PUBLIC OFFICE. Supporters of gay rights have formed a House caucus, which has 83 members. There are three openly gay members of Congress. Overall, there are 460 openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender elected officials in the United States.
COURT RULINGS. A 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court said anti-sodomy statutes are unconstitutional, and that states can't criminalize intimate relations between same-sex partners.
SOURCE: The Associated Press