The 11 most viral marriage moments of 2013

2013 was an unprecedented year for the freedom to marry - and for the visibility of same-sex couples overall. From news outlets to television programs to social media and other online sources, same-sex couples and their families shared their stories like never before. And Americans from across the country read them, watched them, and passed them around - the heartbreaking, the heartwarming, and the inspiring, with amazing intensity. 

The movement has made dramatic leaps forward this year, winning marriage in seven states and celebrating the Supreme Court's denunciation of federal marriage discrimination. We've celebrated those incredible wins again and again this year; here, we reflect on the stories and faces who helped carry those messages: the most "viral" marriage moments and photos of 2013. 

Edie Windsor: Marriage is a "Magic Word"

On March 27, 2013, the 84-year-old Edith Windsor emerged from the United States Supreme Court, walked down the steps, and spoke to the thousands of people gathered in the nation's capital to support her and stand against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that Edie challenged in her Supreme Court case Windsor v. United States.

"It's a magic word. For anybody who doesn't understand why we want it and why we need it: It is magic." - Edie Windsor

"Hi, I'm Edie Windsor, and somebody wrote me a large speech which I'm not going to make," Edie said. "I am today an out lesbian who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me."

Every sentence that has come out of Edie Windsor's mouth this year - and for the past several years of her legal challenge to DOMA - has been remarkable. They become instant soundbites. They are charming, and uplifting, and heartbreaking, and poignant, all at the same time. Edie Windsor's courage in standing up for the freedom to marry was infectious - she was the perfect plaintiff, and the perfect person to represent why DOMA was so harmful to so many for so long. 

And she won. She won as a tribute to her late wife Thea Spyer. But she also won for the millions of Americans who support the freedom to marry for all. 

The Joys - and Heartbreaks - of Real Couples Put a Face to the Movement

This was the year that same-sex couples and their families gained more visibility than ever by standing up and sharing their story. Those stories contributed hugely to the work to move marriage forward across the country, putting a face on why these laws are necessary.

Two of the most powerful stories came from Freedom to Marry partnerships with The Devotion Project. The first, "Foremost in my Mind," focused on Gail and Audrey, married women who unexpectedly fell in love - and who love using the word "wife." They have been together for 14 years. 

The other, "More than Ever," centers on Bill and John, who live in New York City and have been together for 54 years. The video captures the love that Bill and John have shared for so long, leading us through the moment they met, the months where Bill wrote letters to John during John's military deployment, and the ways that John has helped Bill through the early stages of Parkinson's disease. 

A Majority of U.S. Senators Support the Freedom to Marry

On April 4, 2013, Sen. Bill Nelson announced his support for marriage, making him the 51st Senator in today's Congress to do so. In the days that followed, several others joined him, capping off an intense three weeks where over a dozen U.S. Senators - 12 Democrats and 2 Republicans, ignited by Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio - announced their support for marriage in various ways. Read all of the Senators' statements of support HERE. As each Senator added their support for the freedom to marry, the statements were passed around social media like never before, becoming one of the biggest stories of the month. 54 Senators now say they support marriage for all couples.

Athletes, Actors, and Elected Officials Come Out as LGBT

Dozens of celebrities and elected officials came out of the closet as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or otherwise non-straight in 2013, bringing to the forefront of the national conversation the reality that LGBT people - many who are in same-sex partnerships - live in every sector of the country and lead successful, happy lives.

"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation." - Jason Collins

From Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport and British Olympic diver Tom Daley explaining that he is in a relationship with a man to legendary actress Jodie Foster saying her piece at the Golden Globe Awards and Raven Symoné tweeting her "coming out," celebrities offered declarations that they are a part of this community. In doing so, they revealed that the anti-gay laws that still discriminate in the country are personally harmful, an important reveal for some Americans with limited exposure to LGBT people.

Read an exhaustive and impressive list of LGBT people who came out in 2013 at Towleroad.

Marriage Campaigns Dominate Statewide Political News

From coast to coast, states voted this year to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. And in each of these states, the successful passage - and the journey it took to get there - became stories of the year at the local level. Activists ramped up support with smart, tactical campaigns that kept the pressure on legislators and ensured that the conversation was always continuing at rapid paces. Freedom to Marry is proud to have co-founded or served as leading partner in all of the marriage campaigns, including Equality Delaware, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, Minnesotans United for Marriage, New Jersey United for Marriage, Illinois Unites for Marriage, Hawaii United for Marriage, and New Mexico Unites for Marriage. We also made a splash in Ohio, Arizona, and most recently, Pennsylvania, with public education programs called Why Marriage Matters. 

Freedom to Marry has helped empower on-the-ground activists in these states to pass marriage for same-sex couples and their families. By providing guidance on messaging, public education strategies, digital strategies, and cutting-edge new media tools, Freedom to Marry has worked to elevate these campaigns this year, and we're thrilled to have worked with our partners to bring about such success. 

Couples Get Creative in Sharing Their Love

As more couples than ever were finally able to share in the freedom to marry this year, more of them took to the Internet to share their stories in moving ways. Wedding proposal videos - from flash mobs to on-the-street impromptu engagements to sweet song dedications - were passed around social media again and again.

Perhaps the most famous of the viral wedding proposal videos came from Spencer Stout-Reeser, who proposed to his partner Dustin at Home Depot. Their engagement video has been seen by over 11 million people. They shared the backstory behind the video with Freedom to Marry HERE. 

Hip-Hop Mints an Anthem for the Freedom to Marry

In the past year, pop-rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have stormed onto the national music scene, making headlines with their hit songs "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us."

"A certificate on paper isn't gonna solve it all. But it's a damn good place to start. - "Same Love"

But their most moving, sweeping triumph was the release and slow-burn success of "Same Love," which unequivocally calls for the freedom to marry nationwide.

The song became one of the most popular songs of the year, climbing the charts in June as the national conversation on marriage became the No. 1 story, becoming certified platinum, receiving a prime performance spot at the Video Music Awards, and getting nominated for a Grammy, music's highest honor. It also helped launch the career of Mary Lambert, the singer-songwriter who cowrote the song and released her own coda to the track, "She Keeps Me Warm," this year.

The U.S. Military Finally Recognizes Married Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers

On September 3, the same-sex spouses of U.S. service members finally became eligible for the legal respect and protections that marriage extends to the spouses of all other members of the military. It was the latest implementation of the repeal of the central part of DOMA, coming about as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel declared, "It is now the department's policy to treat all married military personnel equally."

The American Military Partner Association celebrated Day of Recognition by encouraging their members to send photos of military spouses getting their ID cards. 

International Activists Lock Lips and Stand Up for Love

It was a huge year for the freedom to marry abroad, too. In France, England, Wales, New Zealand, and Uruguay, legislators passed bills in favor of the freedom to marry. 

In France, opponents of the freedom to marry spoke out against the marriage bill - but activists in favor of marriage for same-sex couples effectively mobilized against the opposition. One of the most notable demonstrations of peaceful opposition was this photo of two activists kissing in front of group of people protesting the marriage bill. 

Equality Supporters Paint Facebook Red

In late March 2013, as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry and Windsor v. United States, it was impossible to escape a sea of red equality signs. Millions of people across the country and around the world turned their profile picture red - a variation of the equals sign logo from the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization working toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

From Beyoncé to Bud Light to True Blood to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, celebrities, brands, businesses shared the equality logo the week of March 26. An estimated 10 million people changed their profile picture on Facebook to some variation of the image. And those 10 million profile pictures opened up thousands of conversations for people's family members and friends to start talking about why marriage matters - and why the Supreme Court cases being argued that day were so incredibly historic.

Same-Sex Couples Celebrate the Supreme Court's DOMA Ruling

June 26, 2013 will go down in history books as a historic day - the day that the United States Supreme Court struck down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and returned the federal government to its rightful position by no longer discriminating against the legal marriages of same-sex couples and their families.

"In the blink of an eye, thousands of married gay and lesbian couples like Michael and me went from legal strangers in the eyes of the United States of America to legal spouses." - John Becker

The day of the announcement, thousands of marriage supporters gathered at the steps of the Supreme Court anxiously awaiting the news. Some great photos from that day highlight the importance of the day - but perhaps no photo was as iconic as the one featuring a couple captured at the exact moment that they learned that the Court had ruled against DOMA. 

The couple in the photo - which was published in hundreds of state newspapers, national periodicals, and websites that pronounced DOMA nearly dead - is John Becker and Michael Knaapen, originally from Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, respectively but who now live in Washington, D.C.

Later, John wrote about the big day in a blog post for The Bilerico Project. "There are quite simply no words for what that feels like. It's something that only hearts can know."