The topic of gay rights has been a controversial one for decades. It has spanned politics, religion, and of course, Hollywood. Though acceptance for same-sex love continues to expand, and more legislation is set in place to provide equal rights for the LGBTQ community, there are still those strongly in opposition. In 74 countries, in fact, being gay or transgender is illegal and in many of those, punishable by death. Organizations such as Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAAD), have started to create a safe space for those who want to have the freedom to be themselves.
These celebrities have proven themselves to be influential advocates for the LGBTQ community. Their work through various foundations, advocacy for the creation of legislation and all-around support for equal rights show just how committed these celebrities are to creating a world where someone is not discriminated against or bullied for their sexual preferences. In other words, these stars are pretty damn cool…
20. Kerry Washington
The 2015 GLAAD Media Awards Vanguard Winner received a standing ovation after delivering her acceptance speech.
“Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people — we have been pitted against each other and made to feel there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of ‘other.’ As a result, we have become afraid of one another,” said Washington. She compared the plight of the LGBTQ community to that of the fight for racial equality, a long struggle that she says has yet to be overcome. With her voice, we’re one step closer.
19. Stephen Amell
The Arrow star has been an avid supporter of marriage equality. When his co-star, Colton Hayes came out as gay, Amell said he couldn’t have been happier for Hayes living his truth. He was criticized for attending Vancouver’s Gay Pride parade, but paid absolutely no mind to the haters. The CW actor once wrote on his Facebook page, “Marriage — and all the benefits that come with it — should be available to everybody. Some of the most loving, powerful relationships I’ve witnessed have been same-sex couples.”
18. A$AP Rocky
Never one to bite his tongue, the rap sensation has given his support and admiration to people in the public eye who are able to come out, particularly men. Following Frank Ocean‘s coming out, A$AP said he respected him for living in his truth, and that there are a lot of people in this world who could take notes.
“It makes me upset that this topic even matters when it comes to hip-hop, because it makes it seem like everybody in hip-hop is small-minded or stupid, and that’s not the case… I treat everybody equal, and so I want to be sure that my listeners and my followers do the same if they’re gonna represent me.” That’s awesome.
17. Rosario Dawson
This HRC member has also gotten involved with an organization called Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to become an advocate for her LGBTQ family members. She frequents events such as Pride parades and has called on lawmakers to create fair policies for everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual preference.
She says the reason she’d become so involved with social issues recently is that, “I’m trying to make the world a better place for my baby.” Commendable!
16. Snoop Dogg/Lion
Years ago, the rapper was criticized by the queer community after he expressed that he wasn’t sure if homosexuality would be fully accepted in hip-hop. However, he changed his view years later, saying that as the world evolves, he hopes that the music industry does as well. “I’m in favor of life in general,” the “Drop It Like It’s Hot” hitmaker said. “I have no control over what people think or feel, you know? Do what makes you happy.”
15. Anne Hathaway
The 2008 HRC Ally Award winner distanced herself from her church after realizing that it did not support LGBTQ rights. Unlike any actress before her, Hathaway sold her wedding photos so that she could give a portion of the profits to Freedom To Marry, an organization that supports same-sex marriage. Now that’s awesome!
14. Daniel Radcliffe
Our favorite childhood actor shut down LGBTQ critics after a 2012 interview with the magazine, Attitude in which he said, “The ultimate reason gay marriage should be legalized everywhere is because, as a kid, you look to your mum and dad and they’re married, then you look at the gay couple who’ve been together for the same amount of time, but because they can’t get married their relationship doesn’t seem the same.” He also said, “Gay people should have equality in law everywhere. If you grow up as a young gay man knowing you don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else, you’re going to feel victimized and massive prejudice towards you.”
13. Dolly Parton
Growing up in an era, and a city, that was not accepting of gay rights, Dolly has not shied away from defending the rights of the LGBTQ community. Most notably, she’s been a huge critic of Christians who consider themselves being against gay and trans equality, saying “I think everybody should be allowed to be who they are, and to love who they love. I don’t think we should be judgmental. Lord, I’ve got enough problems of my own to pass judgment on somebody else.”
12. Jessica Alba
The supermom, actress, and entrepreneur revealed that like Anne Hathaway, homophobia was the deciding factor in her distancing herself from the church. She’s the recipient of not one, but two GLAAD Media Awards. In 2014, told The Daily Beast, “I fell in love when I was 16 and had this major crush on… I guess he was a drag queen? He was bisexual and a ballerina, and this was while I was at the Atlantic Theater Company in Vermont. We used to go to this gay club and I’d dance with him all night, four nights a week.”
11. George Clooney
In an article with The Huffington Post, the Ocean’s Eleven actor said, “It is astonishing that gay and lesbian Americans are still treated as second-class citizens. I am confident that, very soon, the laws of this nation will reflect the basic truth that gay and lesbian people — like all human beings — are born equal in dignity and rights.” He, too, has been recognized by The Advocate and continues to be a strong voice in favor for the LGBTQ community.
10. Shonda Rhimes
As if being one of the most influential women in television wasn’t enough, Shonda has made it her duty to bring gay marriage to the forefront of mainstream conversation. She has also expressed that television is lacking adequate LGBTQ representation and tries to reverse that on her shows How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, and — of course — Grey’s Anatomy. Sounds like the type of diversity we need!
9. Jennifer Lopez
Jenny from the Block, like many others on this list, is also a GLAAD Vanguard winner. She was a producer on the show, The Fosters on Freeform, which featured an interracial lesbian couple at the family leaders. This is only one of the many efforts she’s made to promote marriage equality. This summer, she made a touching tribute during Pride to her gay aunt who struggled with her sexuality.
8. Nick Jonas
The former teen heartthrob is no stranger to the public eye. He’s used his platform to advocate for the rights of all people and has worked to raise awareness through his acting roles playing gay men. His sexuality has been questioned by the media several times, yet Jonas doesn’t let it get to him. Instead, he works to eliminate the stigma that often surrounds the LGBTQ community. He’s participated in The Trevor Project and the It Gets Better campaign, both of which work to decrease the high rates of suicide among gay teens.
Just when America thought we couldn’t love the pint-sized, reality star any more, she served as the officiant for a gay wedding. The Jersey Shore star has said (somewhat controversially) that she prays for a gay son, and believes that she gets along better with gay men than with straight women.
6. Lady Gaga
The Born This Way Foundation founder has been a hands-on advocate for those who may be bullied or ostracized for their sexual orientation. She has openly spoken about being bisexual and is often highlighted by publications such as The Advocate, and organizations such as GLAAD. Many have said that Gaga is one of the best advocates the gay community has ever had as she’s become something of a gay icon.
5 & 4. Barack and Michelle Obama
The former president and first lady have been staunch supporters of equal rights, and the 44th administration passed historic legislation to improve the lives of LGBTQ people in America. Both have spoken against bullying, and believe all people should have equal health benefits. During a 2016 Town Hall, the 44th president expressed that his views on same-sex marriage we’re always so open. “People I loved who were in monogamous same-sex relationships explained to me what I should have understood earlier, which is it was not simply about legal rights but about a sense of stigma, that if you’re calling it something different it means that somehow it means less in the eyes of society.” He also said his daughters, Sasha and Malia, helped him see more clearly about this issue.
3. Miley Cyrus
The Hollywood wild-child has been a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community. She dons an equality tattoo on her middle finger, has been spotted wearing a “Homophobia is a social disease” pin, has spoken out publically about the current presidential administration and what she believes are their unjust views, and expressed that she has had relationships with both men and women. In fact, she identifies as pansexual, which means that she doesn’t see gender as a factor when it comes to picking a romantic or sexual partner. I think it’s safe to say that in her world, love always wins!
In 2016, this free-spirited goddess made headlines after helping one of her fans come out of the closet. Her encouraging Twitter DM’s led to the young man to muster up the courage to be his true self to his friends and family. These kind words from the pop star were greatly appreciated and Rihanna continued to periodically check up on her fan’s well-being.
The music superstar was no fan of President Trump’s withdrawal of protection rights for trans youth. She took to her Facebook in support of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), encouraging fans to donate to the organization that supports LGBTQ students K-12. “LGBTQ students need to know we support them,” she wrote. “Share your support to protect trans youth.” Then, while on tour in North Carolina, she expressed her disdain with the state’s lawmakers who created the “Bathroom Bill.” Considering her wide reach of fans and followers, she could really make a difference!