June 26 (Reuters) - Illinois joined a growing list of U.S. states on Wednesday to allow same-sex couples to wed when Governor Pat Quinn signed a law making it the 16th to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

The Illinois law, which takes effect June 1, is the latest in a series of recent victories for gay rights, coming after Hawaii's governor signed gay marriage into law last week and after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped his legal opposition to the unions in October.

Here is a look at the 16 states and Washington, D.C., where gay marriage has been approved.


COURT ORDERS

* MASSACHUSETTS - In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay marriage after its highest court ruled the state's ban violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples.

* CONNECTICUT - In 2008, the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling and found that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. Soon after, the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

* IOWA - A unanimous ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2009 legalized same-sex marriage. The next year, a recall campaign by opponents of same-sex marriage forced three judges from the bench. A 2012 effort to oust a fourth judge was unsuccessful.

* CALIFORNIA - In California, the most populous state, same-sex marriage was briefly legal in 2008 following a court ruling permitting it. Later that year, voters approved Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2013 that a lower-court ruling that struck down Proposition 8 will remain intact, and same-sex marriage was again legal.

* NEW JERSEY - Shortly after a New Jersey judge ordered state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry in October, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie withdrew his legal opposition to gay marriage. Christie had vetoed a gay marriage bill in 2012 after it was approved by both houses of the state legislature.

LEGISLATIVE ACTION

* VERMONT - Vermont in 2000 had become the first state to allow civil unions for gay couples. In 2009, Vermont became the first state to legalize gay marriage by legislative means.

* NEW HAMPSHIRE - Two years after New Hampshire began allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, the state approved gay marriage in 2009.

* WASHINGTON, D.C. - In 2009, lawmakers in the U.S. capital voted to legalize gay marriage. Because the District of Columbia is not a state, the legislation required congressional approval. In early 2010, efforts to block the law were unsuccessful and it took effect that March.

* NEW YORK - After a gay marriage bill failed in New York's Senate by a margin of 38 to 24 in 2009, advocates retooled their strategy and applied pressure to lawmakers who had voted "no." In 2011, the Republican-controlled state Senate joined the Democratic-led state Assembly and passed the bill by four votes.


* RHODE ISLAND - In 2013, after the state legislature and governor approved a gay marriage bill, Rhode Island became the last of the New England states to legalize same-sex marriage. The law took effect on Aug. 1.

* DELAWARE - In 2013, the Delaware state legislature approved same-sex marriage and the bill was signed into law by the governor. The law took effect on July 1.

* MINNESOTA - After Minnesota voters became the first to reject a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman in 2012, the state legislature proposed a same-sex marriage legalization bill in 2013. The law took effect on Aug. 1.

* HAWAII - Hawaii's governor signed into law on Nov. 13 a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, capping 20 years of legal and political rancor in a state regarded as a pioneer in advancing the cause of gay matrimony. The law will take effect on Dec. 2.

* ILLINOIS - The state Senate approved gay marriage on Valentine's Day in 2013, and the state House passed it with just one vote more than needed on Nov. 5. The law will take effect in June 2014.

REFERENDUMS

* MAINE - When supporters of same-sex marriage put the issue on the ballot in Maine, it marked the first attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in a popular referendum. It was approved by voters in the November 2012 elections.

* MARYLAND, WASHINGTON STATE - After the state legislatures in Washington and Maryland voted in favor of same-sex marriage, the laws were blocked from taking effect until state voters were given an opportunity to decide the matter in ballot initiatives. The issue went to voters in November 2012 and in both states voters sided with legalizing same-sex marriage. (Reporting by Edith Honan)

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  • Anderson Cooper, 2012

    Anderson Cooper's sexuality had been <a href="http://www.out.com/entertainment/2008/09/22/glass-closet">scrutinized for years</a> but it wasn't until July 2012 that he finally addressed the issue when he <a href="http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/07/anderson-cooper-the-fact-is-im-gay.html">came out in an email </a> to his friend and fellow journalist, Andrew Sullivan, this summer. In Cooper's message, which was posted on Sullivan's blog, "The Dish," on <em>The Daily Beast</em>, the CNN anchor states, "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."

  • Matt Bomer, 2012

    The 34-year-old "White Collar" hunk <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/13/matt-bomer-comes-out-gay-thanks-partner_n_1272997.html" target="_hplink">thanked his partner</a> Simon Halls and his three children during Saturday's Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, where he received the New Generation Arts and Activism Award for his work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. "I'd really especially like to thank my beautiful family: Simon, Kit, Walker, Henry," he told the crowd. "Thank you for teaching me what unconditional love is. You will always be my proudest accomplishment."

  • Orlando Cruz, 2012

    History was made in October when active professional featherweight boxer <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/04/orlando-cruz-comes-out-gay_n_1939204.html">Orlando Cruz of Puerto Rico came out</a>. He said in a USA Today article, "I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career." He continued, "I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man."

  • Lana Wachowski, 2012

    Award-winning filmmaker <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0905154/">Lana Wachowski</a>, who's best known for co-writing and -directing the "Matrix" trilogy with her brother, Andy Wachowski, is the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender in July 2012. The Chicago native recently released "Cloud Atlas" and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/lana-wachowski-transgender-cloud-atlas-director-reveals-pain-suicide-attempt_n_2009112.html">received the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award</a> in October 2012, where she delivered a revealing and heartfelt speech (VIDEO).

  • Jim Parsons, 2012

    <em>New York Times </em>scribe Patrick Healy confirmed "The Big Bang Theory" star's sexuality<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/27/theater/jim-parsons-prepares-for-his-lead-role-in-harvey.html?_r=1" target="_hplink"> as part of a profile</a>. The revelation came late in the article, when Healy describes the 39-year-old actor's role in the 2011 revival of Larry Kramer's HIV/AIDS crisis drama, "The Normal Heart." Wrote Healy: '"The Normal Heart" resonated with him on a few levels: Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship, and working with an ensemble again onstage was like nourishment, he said." Though the <em>Times </em>didn't identify Parsons' partner, he has been romantically liked with art director Todd Spiewak (pictured).

  • Anne Burrell, 2012

    "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" host Anne Burrell confirmed she's a lesbian and in a committed relationship with a woman, just days after "Chopped" host Ted Allen made a reference to her sexuality in a radio interview. "Anne doesn't feel she was outed," Burrell's rep told Page Six. "She has made no secret of her relationship." The rep went on to note, "Her significant other is a very private woman. They have been together for a couple of years and spend a lot of time together."

  • Gillian Anderson, 2012

    The "X-Files" actress <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/gillian-anderson-lesbian-relationships-out-magazine_n_1342801.html" target="_hplink">revealed she's had numerous relationships</a> with women in a 2012 interview with <em>Out</em> magazine. The 43-year-old mother of three, who's long enjoyed a sizable lesbian fanbase, told <em>Out</em> that she first had a relationship with a woman while still in high school, after moving from her native England to suburban Michigan. "If I had thought I was 100 percent gay, would it have been a different experience for me?" Anderson, who was voted "Most Bizarre" and "Most Likely to Be Arrested" in high school, ponders. "Would it have been a bigger deal if shame had been attached to it and all those things that become huge life-altering issues for youngsters in that situation? It's possible that my attitude around it came, on some level, from knowing that I still liked boys."

  • Frank Ocean, 2012

    No mainstream black male hip-hop artist had ever come out until <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/arts/music/frank-ocean-draws-praise-for-declaring-his-homosexuality.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0">Frank Ocean did in July 2012</a>, just before he debuted his first solo album, "Channel Orange." The singer-songwriter posted a Tumblr post which read, in part, "4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.” After that, Ocean received support from fellow hip-hop artists Jay-Z (and wife, Beyoncé), 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and more. Daryl Hannah, director of media and community partnerships for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said, "[The support for Frank is] an extension of the overall kind of support we’re seeing across the country for LGBT people, and not just in a broad sense, but specifically from iconic members of the black community.”

  • Laura Jane Grace, 2012

    Against Me! singer, Tom Gabel, made headlines and shook the music world in May with his announcement that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/tom-gabel-transgender-against-me_n_1501731.html">he is transgender and will be living as Laura Jane Grace</a>. The punk rocker, who shared her story in <em>Rolling Stone</em>, said "For me, the most terrifying thing about this was how she [my wife, Heather] would accept the news. But she's been super-amazing and understanding." The couple has a 2-year-old daughter.

  • Sam Champion, 2012

    ABC's "Good Morning America" weatherman, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/fashion/weddings/patrick-abner-and-thomas-roberts-vows.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1&ref=weddings">Sam Champion,</a>, not only came out of the closet in October 2012, he also announced his engagement to longtime boyfriend, Rubem Robierb, at the same time. <em>The New York Times</em> subtly mentioned the news in an article about MSNBC personality <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/thomas-roberts-married-msnbc-host-weds-longtime-boyfriend_n_1928841.html">Thomas Roberts' recent wedding</a>, where Champion and Robierb were guests. After his revelation, Champion, 51, discussed about his plans on "GMA" and thanked everyone for their support (see video clip).

  • Mika, 2012

    The flamboyant singer-songwriter played coy about his sexuality for many years before finally coming out as gay in the September 2012 issue of Instinct magazine. Mika <a href="http://instinctmagazine.com/blogs/blog/exclusive-sneak-peek-mika-tells-instinct-%E2%80%9Cyeah-i%E2%80%99m-gay-%E2%80%9D?directory=100011">told the magazine</a>: <blockquote>"If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah... Are these songs about my relationship with a man? I say yeah. And it’s only through my music that I’ve found the strength to come to terms with my sexuality beyond the context of just my lyrics. This is my real life."</blockquote>

  • Kristy McNichol, 2012

    People magazine reported In January 2012 that Kristy McNichol, who was beloved for playing Buddy Lawrence in the '70s show "Family," for which she won an Emmy, and later Barbara Weston on the "Golden Girls" spin-off "Empty Nest," revealed she is a lesbian because she is "approaching 50" and wants to "be open about who I am." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/07/kristy-mcnichol-comes-out-as-lesbian_n_1191204.html">McNichol</a> also cited the wave of antigay bullying stories for coming out, hoping to help bullied LGBT youth who need support.

  • Benji Schwimmer, 2012

    After Benji Schwimmer won the second season of Fox's long-running hit series "So You Think You Can Dance," the 28-year-old dancer-choreographer became somewhat of a Mormon rockstar. But in a tell-all, five-hour interview for "Mormon Stories," Schwimmer came out and discussed at length his homosexuality and the church's views on the issue. He <a href="http://www.out.com/news-commentary/2012/06/18/benji-schwimmer-naked-truth-sytycd-gay-mormon-sexuality">spoke with Out magazine in June</a> and said: "I get at least 10 emails a day from kids that say, I was going to kill myself, and I heard something in the podcast that rang true to me, and I’m holding on. For that validation alone—it’s nice that Perez Hilton and Out are covering this, but just that personal touch is what it’s about. For the last year, I didn’t hide it. I held hands with a boyfriend in the streets. I kissed him in bars—in straight bars. I don’t give a fuck." (h/t <a href="http://www.towleroad.com/2012/12/2012_gay_coming_out.html">Towleroad</a>)

  • Ezra Miller, 2012

    Breakout, up-and-coming actor Ezra Miller, who stars in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," <a href="http://www.out.com/entertainment/movies/2012/08/15/ezra-miller-im-queer">came out as queer in an interview with Out magazine</a> in August. The 20-year-old actor, who's also known for his big screen roles on "City Island" and "We Need To Talk About Kevin," told Out: "I have a lot of really wonderful friends who are of very different sexes and genders. I am very much in love with no one in particular."

  • Andrew Rannells, 2012

    Andrew Rannells has had a stellar year. Since nabbing a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for the Broadway blockbuster "The Book of Mormon," Rannells went on to star in HBO's "Girls" and ABC's "The New Normal." In November, the 34 year old was named to Out magazine's prestigious <a href="http://www.out.com/out-exclusives/out100-2012/2012/11/15/out100-andrew-rannells">"OUT100" list</a>. “I feel very proud to be a part of The New Normal,” Rannells told Out. “I hope that it’s considered to be a part of the evolution of gay relationships on television. Coming from Nebraska, it’s exciting to me that people I went to grade school with, people that I grew up going to church with, are watching the show.” (h/t <a href="http://www.towleroad.com/2012/12/2012_gay_coming_out.html">Towleroad</a>)

  • Joanna Johnson, 2012

    "Bold and the Beautiful" star Joanna Johnson became daytime soap opera's only active "out" actor when she said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/14/joanna-johnson-lesbian-bold-and-the-beautiful_n_1515489.html">she was a lesbian in May</a>. Johnson said she feared coming out would prohibit her from getting acting roles. Johnson told <em>TV Guide</em> in an exclusive interview that she's married to L.A. club promoter Michelle Agnew, with whom she has two children, five-year-old Julian and Harlow, who is two. (h/t <a href="http://www.towleroad.com/2012/12/2012_gay_coming_out.html">Towleroad</a>)

  • Todd Glass, 2012

    Comedian Todd Glass <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/16/todd-glass-comes-out-as-gay-on-wtf-with-marc-maron_n_1209291.html">came out in January</a> in an episode of the "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast. Glass cited the slew of LGBT teen suicides as his impetus for coming out. He told Maron: "I cannot listen to stories about kids killing themselves any longer without thinking [to myself], 'When are you going to have a little blood on your shirt for not being honest about who you are?'"

  • Denise Ho, 2012

    Hong Kong's fourth annual LGBT Pride Parade in November saw beloved Cantonese pop star <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/denise-ho-singer-gay-coming-out-hong-kong_n_2122773.html">Denise Ho come out as a lesbian</a>. This announcement made her the first mainstream female singer in Hong Kong to say she's gay, according to several Hong Kong media outlets. "As a celebrity, I think I have an obligation, a duty to stand forward for the sake of love and equality," the 35-year-old singer told the crowd.

  • Rosie Pierri, 2012

    Everyone loves Rosie. In a June episode of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," Rosie Pierri candidly came out to her sister, Kathy Wakile, a main cast member, proclaiming, "God made me this way. That's it." Pierri <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/30/rosie-real-housewives-nj_n_1555421.html">spoke with <em>The Huffington Post</em> in May</a> before the episode aired and shared that she was a "late bloomer," who didn't come to the realization until her 30s.

  • Jonathan Knight, 2011

    The New Kids On The Block singer was out-ed by fellow '80s teen pop star Tiffany in January 2011 when she revealed she dated Knight before "he became gay later." In response, Knight posted a message on his website <a href="http://www.towleroad.com/2011/01/jonathan-knight.html#ixzz1azmexp8H" target="_hplink">stating in part</a>: <blockquote>"I have never been outed by anyone but myself! I did so almost twenty years ago. I never know that I would have to do it all over again publicly just because I reunited with NKOTB! I have lived my life very openly and have never hidden the fact that I am gay!"</blockquote>

  • Zachary Quinto, 2011

    Long rumored to be gay, the actor, most famous for his roles on "Heroes" and in the recent "Star Trek" film, came out in a October 2011 <em>New York</em> magazine profile, saying: <blockquote>"In light of Jamey's [Rodemeyer] death -- it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it -- is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality. Our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay lesbian bisexual and transgendered citizen of this country."</blockquote>

  • Don Lemon, 2011

    The CNN news anchor came out to the <em>New York Times</em> in May 2011. Lemon <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/business/media/16anchor.html?_r=3" target="_hplink">told the paper</a>, "It's quite different for an African-American male... It's about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You're taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away."

  • Sean Maher, 2011

    Sean Maher, known for his roles on "Firefly" and "Playboy Club," confirmed his sexuality in an <a href="http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/09/26/firefly-playboy-club-actor-sean-maher-comes-out-ga/"><em>Entertainment Weekly</em> interview</a>, saying, "This is my coming out ball. I’ve been dying to do this.”

  • Ricky Martin, March 2010

    In March 2009 pop star Ricky Martin <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/29/ricky-martin-comes-out-im_n_517625.html" target="_hplink">posted a message on his website</a> telling the world, "I am a fortunate homosexual man."

  • Sean Hayes, 2010

    Long dogged by rumors about his sexuality, the "Will and Grace" actor <a href="http://www.advocate.com/Arts_and_Entertainment/People/Sean_Hayes_I_Am_Who_I_Am/" target="_hplink">finally came out</a> in <em>The Advocate</em> in April 2010: "I am who I am. I was never in, as they say. Never," he said.

  • Lady Sovereign, 2010

    In May 2010 the British rapper came out in <em>Diva</em> magazine. <a href="http://perezhilton.com/2010-05-12-lady-sov-comes-out#.Tpt-2WVPkqU" target="_hplink">Sovereign said</a>: <blockquote>"Magazines would always ask about it but [questions about my sexuality] would get stopped by my publicists. It was my choice, too, because I was a bit worried about it but now I don't really give a shit. You can't hide away forever. It's just stupid and now I've come out I feel a lot more comfortable with myself. But it was a bit scary back then because some people do have horrible opinions."</blockquote>

  • Chely Wright, 2010

    Country singer Chely Wright <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20365936,00.html" target="_hplink">came out in May 2010</a>. She told <em>People</em> magazine, "There had never, ever been a country music artist who had acknowledged his or her homosexuality... I wasn't going to be the first." But she changed her mind and said of her decision, "Nothing in my life has been more magical than the moment I decided to come out."

  • Sara Gilbert, 2010

    Sara Gilbert, who's best known for her role on "Roseanne," <a href="http://popwatch.ew.com/2010/07/28/sara-gilbert-lesbian-the-tal/">officially came out in 2010</a>. At that time, she was getting ready to launch "The Talk," a daytime talk show which focuses on parenthood and families, so Gilbert felt compelled to acknowledge her sexuality. “I don’t ever really think of things as out or in,” Gilbert said. “I just think I am who I am, and when topics come up that are appropriate, I’ll talk about them and share when it seems right.”

  • Amber Heard, 2010

    "I personally think that if you deny something or if you hide something you're inadvertently admitting it's wrong. I don't feel like I'm wrong," said actress Amber Heard, 26, who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/06/amber-heard-lesbian_n_792419.html">came out while attending GLAAD's 25th anniversary party</a>. Heard has starred in movies like as "Pineapple Express" and "Zombieland."

  • Adam Lambert, 2009

    The singer's sexuality was always a topic of discussion for viewers when he was performing on "American Idol," but Lambert didn't come out until after the competition had wrapped. In a June 2009 <em>Rolling Stone</em> cover story, Lambert said, "Right after the finale [of "AI"], I almost started talking about it to the reporters, but I thought, 'I'm going to wait for <em>Rolling Stone</em>, that will be cooler,'.. I didn't want the Clay Aiken thing and the celebrity-magazine bullshit. I need to be able to explain myself in context."

  • Chris Colfer, 2009

    The "Glee" actor came out on the "Chelsea Lately Show" in December 2009: Chelsea Handler: "Your character on the show's gay. We know that you're gay. That's good for you. Congratulations. Don't be shy about that. Seriously. You shouldn't be shy about that because every time...an actor like you is helping a zillion other people that are scared to talk about their sexuality so good for you." Chris Colfer: "Thank you. You know what my answer to that question was prior to coming out -- was that I was straight as every other actor in Hollywood."

  • Kelly McGillis, 2009

    Kelly McGillis, known as who starred opposite Tom Cruise in "Top Gun," <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1175410/Im-lesbian-declares-Top-Gun-siren-Kelly-McGillis.html">revealed she's gay</a> on lesbian website SheWired.com. McGillis, who was married twice to men and has two daughters, said, "It's a part of being true to yourself. That's been a challenge for me personally."

  • Chaz Bono, 2009

    Chaz Bono revealed his plan to transition in May 2009. TMZ.com broke the story <a href="http://www.tmz.com/2009/06/11/chastity-bono-becoming-a-man/#.TptSZ2VPkqU" target="_hplink">via a prepared statement</a> from Bono's publicist that read, in part: <blockquote>"Yes, it's true -- Chaz, after many years of consideration, has made the courageous decision to honor his true identity... He is proud of his decision and grateful for the support and respect that has already been shown by his loved ones. It is Chaz's hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his 'coming out' did nearly 20 years ago."</blockquote>

  • Meredith Baxter, 2009

    In December 2009 Baxter, most famous for playing Elyse Keaton on '80s sitcom "Family Ties," went on the "Today Show" and told Matt Lauer that she was a lesbian. Baxter said, "Some people would say, well, you're living a lie and, you know, the truth is -- not at all. This has only been for the past seven years."

  • Wanda Sykes, 2008

    The comedian and actress came out in November 2008 <a href="http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2008/11/wanda-sykes-lv-gay-rally-im-proud-to-be.html" target="_hplink">while speaking at an anti-Prop 8 rally</a> in Las Vegas. Sykes said in part: <blockquote>"I got married Oct. 25, I don't really talk about my sexual orientation, I felt like I was living my life, I wasn't in the closet, but I was just living my life. Everybody who knows me personally, they know I'm gay. And that's the way people should be able to live our lives, really. We shouldn't have to be standing out here demanding something we automatically should have as citizens of this country."</blockquote>

  • Clay Aiken, 2008

    After becoming a father in August of 2008, the "American Idol" runner up <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20228488,00.html" target="_hplink">came out on the cover</a> of <em>People</em> magazine in September 2008 saying, "[Coming out] was the first decision I made as a father... I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn't raised that way, and I'm not going to raise a child to do that."

  • Suze Orman, 2007

    Financial guru Suze Orman came out in a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/magazine/25wwlnq4.t.html">2007 <em>New York Times Magazine</em> article</a>. The 61-year-old Chicago native was asked if she was married in the interview, which prompted her to officially come out and set the record straight (so to speak).

  • David Hyde Pierce, 2007

    "Frasier" actor David Hyde Pierce kept a low profile and <a href="http://www.afterelton.com/blog/brianjuergens/exclusive-david-hyde-pierce-is-officially-out">subtly came out</a> in an article on <em>CNN</em> where he mentioned his longtime partner, TV writer and producer Brian Hargrove. Later, while on "The View", Pierce spoke about Hargrove and his sexuality and said,"What you choose to talk about yourself is a personal decision."

  • T.R. Knight, 2007

    <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20008737,00.html">T.R. Knight's coming out</a> wasn't necessarily ideal. The actor, who played George O'Malley on ABC's <em>Grey's Anatomy</em>, was called a "faggot" by co-star Isaiah Washington, prompting Knight to stand up for himself and others. He told Ellen DeGeneres, "I've never been called that to my face. So I think when that happened, something shifted, and it became bigger than myself."

  • Neil Patrick Harris, 2006

    The "Doogie Howser, MD" and "How I Met Your Mother Star" came out on the cover of <em>People</em> magazine in November of 2006. <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1554852,00.html" target="_hplink">Harris told the magazine</a>: <blockquote>"The public eye has always been kind to me, and until recently I have been able to live a pretty normal life. Now it seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships. So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love." </blockquote>

  • Lance Bass, 2006

    The 'N Sync pop star came out on the cover of <em>People</em> magazine in July 2006. When asked why he decided to come out then, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1219142,00.html" target="_hplink">Bass said</a>, "The main reason I wanted to speak my mind was that (the rumors) really were starting to affect my daily life. Now it feels like it's on my terms. I'm at peace with my family, my friends, myself and God so there's really nothing else that I worry about."

  • Darren Hayes, 2006

    The former Savage Garden front man came out by marrying Richard Cullen in June 2006. He announced the civil union on his website <a href="http://chartrigger.blogspot.com/2006/07/darren-hayes-comes-out.html" target="_hplink">saying in part</a>: "As so many of you have given me your heart and soul over the past 10 years I thought it only fitting that I too return the respect and inform you of the most significant event in my life... On June 19th 2006 I married my boyfriend of two years, Richard, in a Civil Partnership ceremony in London."

  • George Takei, 2005

    The beloved George Takei, known as Sulu on "Star Trek," <a href="http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/9845944/ns/today-entertainment/t/george-takei-mr-sulu-says-hes-gay/#.UHWbJ0JAsu8">came out</a> in a 2005 article in Frontiers, a biweekly LGBT Los Angeles magazine. Takei, 75, cited the political landscape surrounding LGBT issues as one reason for coming out. Since then, Takei has been an outspoken (and humorous) advocate for LGBT rights.

  • Portia de Rossi, 2005

    The actress had been out to friends for quite some time, but she told the entire world in the fall of 2005 in interviews with <em>Details</em> magazine and <em>The Advocate</em>. "I've had my years of being not open, many years of it... It's an honor for me to do this; it's just nice to be asked," de Rossi said in her September 2005 <em>Advocate</em> <a href="http://crispie764.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=Urgent&action=display&thread=35" target="_hplink">cover story</a>, her first with the gay press.

  • Cynthia Nixon, 2004

    The "Sex And The City" star was out-ed in 2004 when the <em>NY Daily News</em> and the <em>New York Post</em> <a href="http://www.afterellen.com/People/92004/cynthianixon.html" target="_hplink">reported she was living</a> with another woman in September 2004. Nixon half-heartedly confirmed the rumors when she told the <em>Daily News</em>, "My private life is private... But at the same time, I have nothing to hide. So what I will say is that I am very happy."

  • Heather Matarazzo, 2004

    The actress, perhaps best known for her role as tormented teen Dawn Wiener in the film "Welcome To The Dollhouse," <a href="http://www.afterellen.com/archive/ellen/People/82004/heathermatarazzo.html" target="_hplink">came out in August 2004</a> by telling the <em>NY Daily News</em> about falling in love with Caroline Murphy: <blockquote>"I met the person I'm so madly crazy in love with...She's not famous yet. She will be. She wants to do musical theater and stage, which is not as demoralizing as the movie business is."</blockquote>

  • Rosie O'Donnell, 2002

    The comedian and talk show host <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/2002/2002-02-27-rosie.htm" target="_hplink">came out by revealing</a> "I'm a dyke!" during her stand up act at the Ovarian Cancer Research benefit at Carolines Comedy Club in February 2002.

  • Nathan Lane, 1999

    The hilarious Nathan Lane, who's well known for starring in films like "The Birdcage," officially came out in an <a href="http://www.eonline.com/news/37588/nathan-lane-comes-out-finally">interview with <em>The Advocate</em></a> in 1999. In the issue, the 56-year-old Emmy- and Tony-winner said, "It's never been something I kept a secret." But Matthew Shepard's murder led the actor to publicly coming out. "It was like somebody slapped me awake," Lane said. "At this point it's selfish not to do whatever you can."

  • George Michael, 1998

    After being caught performing a "lewd act" in a public restroom, Michael came out to CNN in April 1998. <a href="http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9804/11/george.michael/" target="_hplink">Michael said</a>, "This is as good of a time as any... I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I'm in a relationship with a man right now. I have not been in a relationship with a woman for almost 10 years." Later that year Michael spoofed the incident in the music video for his single "Outside."

  • Ellen DeGeneres, 1997

    DeGeneres came out in 1997, both in real life and on TV, on her sitcom "Ellen." "The Puppy Episode," which aired in April 1997, <a href="http://www.afterellen.com/column/2005/4/backintheday.html" target="_hplink">featured a who's who</a> of Hollywood, including Oprah Winfrey, Demi Moore, Billy Bob Thornton, and Laura Dern as Ellen's love interest. DeGeneres's character became the first openly gay prime time lead character on television.

  • Melissa Etheridge, 1993

    The rock star came out in January 1993 during the Triangle ball, the first ever ball thrown for the LGBT community during a president's inauguration, in this case Clinton's. <a href="http://www.afterellen.com/archive/ellen/column/2005/2/backintheday.html" target="_hplink">Etheridge recalls</a>: <blockquote>"I didn't even think, Oh, I'm going to come out here...It was, 'Gee, I'm really excited to be here, and I'm really proud to have been a lesbian all my life.' And a big cheer went up through the whole hall, and k.d. [lang] came out and hugged me. I remember walking back, and my friend said, 'I think you came out!'"</blockquote>