Some signs of changing attitudes since the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was instituted 17 years ago:
—President Barack Obama's signing last year of hate crimes legislation marked the first time that gays and lesbians were given comprehensive legal status as a protected class. Many states have passed laws against hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
—Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and the District of Columbia have adopted laws permitting marriage of gay couples. Nine other states — New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, Hawaii and Wisconsin — have granted similar rights to gay domestic partners in varying degrees.
—A Pew poll taken last year found that 59 percent of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, up from 52 percent in 1994.
—Internationally, the list of countries that allow openly gay people to serve in the military has grown to 28, including Canada, Israel, Australia and most of Europe.
—The U.S. census has for the first time begun tabulating information about gay couples who live together.
—Supporters of gay rights have formed a House caucus, which has 83 members. There are three openly gay members of Congress: Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of Colorado, all Democrats.
—Overall, there were about 50 openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender elected officials in the United States in 1993, according to the Victory Fund, which recruits and promotes gay candidates. Today, there are 460. The nation's fourth-largest city, Houston, installed openly gay Annise Parker as mayor last month.
—A 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court said that anti-sodomy statutes are unconstitutional and that states can't criminalize intimate relations between same-sex partners.
© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.