As 2011 draws to a close, PinkNews.co.uk takes a look back at the most important stories of the last twelve months.

We’ve already brought you the weirdest and most unexpected stories of 2011 as well as the most important UK stories of 2011, now we bring you the most important stories from the USA.

2012 will see a presidential election that is sure to focus heavily on the question of marriage equality, as the 50 states continued this year to define marriage one way or another, with constitutional amendments, ballot measures and strong rhetoric driving opinion back and forth.

While we cannot claim a thoroughly scientific approach to the rankings, the stories are ordered through a combination of how widely read they were, how much debate they provoked and our own editorial judgement as to the effect they will have on LGBT life.

10 – High profile figures come out as gay

In October, the Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto came out as gay. On his blog, Quinto wrote that the recent suicide of gay 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer had spurred him to be open.

Don Lemon, the CNN anchorman who appears in 100 million US homes also came out at the age of 45, and spoke to PinkNews.co.uk’s Laurence Watts about the experience. Lemon’s biography was dedicated to Tyler Clementi, who killed himself in 2010 after a video of him having sex with another man was allegedly broadcast by his university room mate.

9 – New York actor says the way the state treats him means he cannot serve on a jury

Actor and model Jonathan D Lovitz, was waiting to be called in with other jurors when they were all asked whether they could be impartial. On the spur of the moment, Lovitz said, he told the court: “Since I can’t get married or adopt a child in the state of New York, I can’t possibly be an impartial judge of a citizen when I am considered a second class one in the eyes of this justice system.”

8 – Justin Bieber shares his views on homosexuality

The Canadian teen pop sensation was 16 when he was interviewed by Rolling Stone in what was to become one of the most discussed stories of the year. While Bieber expressed some liberal sentiment in his approach to gays, he also referred to being gay as a “decision”. He also told the magazine he believed abortions, including those following a pregnancy caused by rape, were always wrong.

7 – Sally Kern reminds America gays are “more dangerous than terrorists”

Speaking just before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Republican member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Sally Kern renewed her claim that homosexuality has killed more people in the United States than terrorism.

Kern’s views almost formed a self-fulfilling prophecy when she said she feared for her life after the response she had received from gay rights supporters.

6 – The death of Jamey Rodemeyer

In September, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself after suffering homophobic bullying. He had blogged regularly about being taunted at school and messages were left on his Formspring account calling him “gay and ugly” and encouraging him to kill himself.

In November, local police said no charges would be faced by those who had allegedly bullied the teenager.

Lady Gaga called for a “law for Jamey” to ban bullying, saying: “I am meeting with our president. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it.”.

She later announced the launch of the Born This Way Foundation.

5 – Obama supports the Respect for Marriage Act

While individual states can introduce their own marriage legislation, the Defense of Marriage Act means the federal government only recognises marriages as being between a man and a woman. President Barack Obama had announced as far back as February that he wanted the state to stop defending the law, and in July voiced his support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which would see it struck down.

4 – The state of New York introduces gay marriage

After long negotiations in the New York this summer, the state senate voted 33-29 in favour of becoming the sixth US state to legalise gay marriage. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg officiated at the marriage of two of his aides at the Gracie Mansion on the shores of the East River. In August, officials estimated that gay couples were making up a quarter of all marriage applications.

3 – The debate over Proposition 8 continues in California

The battle for gay marriage in California took more turns this year as challenge followed challenge in the courts. In September, the state’s supreme court ruled that anti-gay marriage group ProtectMarriage may defend the ban on gay marriage in court.

The same sponsors recently attempted to disqualify the decision of a federal judge, Vaughn Walker, because he did not declare that he was gay when he overturned the state’s gay marriage ban last year.

2 – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell officially repealed

The ban known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military if they kept their sexual orientation a secret, came to an end in September.

It was passed in 1993 during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and was seen as a compromise on the issue.

A statement to troops said: “The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

1 – Obama administration announces the US will take gay rights into account in matters of foreign policy

In December, instructions issued by the Obama administration called for the first time on US government agencies to consider gay rights when deciding aid and asylum cases.

Hillary Clinton delivered a groundbreaking speech to a United Nations summit in Geneva following the US’ declaration that its agencies will challenge the criminalisation of gay acts and LGBT identity overseas.

She said: “Some seem to believe it is a western phenomenon and therefore people outside the west have grounds to reject it.

“Well, in reality gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world.

“They are all ages, all races, all faiths, they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes.

“Whether we know it, whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends and our neighbours.

“Being gay is not a western invention, it is a human reality.”